CONTROVERSY! (and confusion) – Parkin Part 2

Bonfire night Blackheath

Parkin, then. We’ve established that it’s eaten in the North, around the time of Bonfire Night, that there are cross-Pennine rivalries to deal with, and that it is a type of gingerbread, usually containing treacle, mostly containing oats, and that it is Serious Business. We also learnt that everybody should make parkin because it is easy, and it tastes good.

I have a lovely recipe to recommend to you today; it tastes good, it’s very easy to prepare and it has an honest Lancastrian pedigree from my own family. So why am I grinding my teeth like this? Read on.

Today we are back with Mary Bradley’s notebook. Here’s her recipe:


Yes. I know. We’ll talk about it later.

Reducing the amount by half and converting to metric gives us this recipe:


  • 225g oatmeal
  • 225g plain flour
  • 170g sugar
  • 225g golden syrup (you have my permission to pour out what looks like half a tin rather than trying the messy business of weighing syrup)
  • 115g butter
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp ginger*
  • 2 eggs
  • 70ml milk

*true halving of quantities should give half a tsp here.

You’ll also need a 24cm square baking tin, lined and greased.

Parkin 2 ingredients

Look as long as you like; it’s not there. Wrong, isn’t it?


Set your oven to 180C

If you’ve already seen the method for Parkin 1, this will look very familiar.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a large pan over a low-medium heat


Take the pan off the heat once all of the ingredients are mixed together and the sugar looks to have dissolved.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl


Then tip this dry mix into the pan with the syrup and stir really well.

Add the eggs, one by one:


Then finally stir in the milk, so that you end up with a very soft mix, which will look a bit like this, once you’ve poured it into your tin:


Bake for 30 minutes. You want this to be slightly undercooked, so while it shouldn’t be wobbly you don’t want a dry, firm cake. Let it cool in the tin, and when you’re ready cut into squares.


There you go. Lovely, moist oaty gingerbread parkin.

Before you start on all of the other stuff, is there one very important thing about parkin that you failed to mention in your last post?

Yes, there is. Parkin is better once it’s kept for a few days before you eat it – apparently this is supposed to be in a wooden box, but tupperware does for me. My parkin from the last post is at peak deliciousness right now.

What do you mean by calling this parkin, you fraudster? There’s no treacle in it.

Yes, and trust me, I’m as outraged as you are, but that’s what I found in Mary’s notebook. We know the recipes are from Oldham, and we think they’re from around 1900-1920. The more you look into this ‘Yorkshire be havin parkin like this, Lancashire be havin parkin like that’ thing, the more confusing the picture gets:

  • Our old friend the Wikipedia page says that Lancashire parkin uses golden syrup and additional sugar…which would seem to fit with our recipe here, but
  • This ‘Lancashire parkin’ recipe from Walk Like a Skint Vegan and this one from Things your mother would have told you both contain both treacle and oats.
  • And then if you look at this recipe book, put together by David Craven, a gentleman on a writing project in Huddersfield, things get really odd:
    • The ‘Lancashire Parkin’, said to come from the Fylde (which is where my family have lived since the 1930s) contains treacle, oats and dried peel. Makes as much sense as putting sausages in trifle to me, but there we are.
    • The parkin that is closest to my parkin is from Mr Craven’s mother. But it’s not clear whether he’s originally from Huddersfield…
    • The ‘Yorkshire Parkin’ allows you to substitute golden syrup for the treacle.

I begin to think that these definitions are not all that definitive after all; it’s possible that small areas are eating the parkin they’ve always eaten and calling it after the county they live in. I also think that given there are six varieties of parkin in Mary’s book that it’s possible that it used to work more as a generic name for gingerbready-thing-sold-around-October.

So now what?

Adopt a parkin! If you remember eating parkin as a child, you know what to do: get the recipe off the people that made it for you or find one of the many examples above that will be close to your recipe. Making Mary’s recipe is interesting for me, but I know the version I’ll make every year will be the version in the last post, because that’s what I ate as a child and that’s what I always make.

Otherwise, if you don’t have parkin as part of your past but feel like joining in, either of my recipes will get you a tasty result or you could always do worse than putting your faith in Delia Smith. A friend made parkin last weekend that was very tasty: oaty and sweeter than my parkin, but very good. I couldn’t absolutely swear this was the recipe used, but it was Delia.


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