Name: Jennifer Ransom (Baltzer)
Class Year: 1965
Country of Residence: England
Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory?
I never tire of visiting the plethora of historic Cathedrals, Churches and Chapels in the United Kingdom. Their spires and towers welcome you from afar, while their exterior and interior architecture, art, craft and furnishings provide a rich, text-book learning experience. Often, during summer months or on national holidays, worthy parishioners of these edifices, run a café within the main building or in a nearby Parish Hall, or in a sunny summer churchyard marquee. The cakes, buns, muffins, scones, cookies, bars, tray-bakes etc are delicious, often ‘regional’ and usually sourced from a proud local family’s treasured cook book.
On a trip ‘up north’ in autumn 2016, I sought out the magnificent Ripon Cathedral in Yorkshire for a long afternoon’s visit. Founded in 672 AD by Saint Wilfrid, it predates England itself by 255 years! From Anglo-Saxon beginnings, it has been added to over the centuries, so – like many cathedrals – boasts everything from the sombre oldest crypt in the UK, to magnificent medieval carved wooden angels in the high nave ceiling, to a 20thC pulpit with both Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau influences. (Too much to describe here, so please ‘google it’ for more.)
After several hours’ self-guided tour from crypt, to nave and side chapels, through cathedral library, treasury and museum, I was flagging and much in need of a cup of tea and a sweet treat. In the café, I fell upon the home-baked, locally-inspired “Parkin”, so delicious that I begged the recipe from the home-baker who kindly gave me her family version. She cautioned that, “Parkin should NOT be confused with a ginger cake nor gingerbread recipe. True Yorkshire Parkin contains oatmeal and treacle – any cake without it, is simply a charlatan bit of gingerbread!”
In Yorkshire (and Lancashire, but let’s not get into the Wars of the Roses!) Parkin is associated with, and eaten around Hallowe’en and “The 5th of November” or Bonfire Night, aka ‘Guy Fawkes’. (Google again for info) It would warm you on a cold night!
Old-Fashioned Yorkshire Parkin
Makes 16 squares or 25 cubes. Takes 20 minutes to prepare.
About 1 hour to bake + 2 days’ resting to increase yummy gooeyness
- 110 gm butter
- 110 gm dark soft brown sugar
- 55 gm black treacle (substitute molasses)
- 200 gm golden syrup (substitute corn syrup)
- 225 gm medium-cut oatmeal
- 110 gm self-raising flour (or plain flour + baking powder)
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs (well beaten) with 1 Tbsp whole milk
- Preheat the oven to 140ºC/275ºF/Gas Mark 1
- Grease a 20 cm square cake tin and line with grease-proof paper
- Melt the butter, dark soft brown sugar, treacle and golden syrup in a pan, but do not boil. When melted, remove from the heat and put to one side.
- Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the melted butter mixture and stir. Pour in the beaten eggs and milk and stir again.
- Pour into the prepared baking tin; bake for about 1 hour – test with toothpick
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then lift by lining paper or gently turn out and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store for 24-48 hours before serving. Cut into squares or cubes. Always eat the parkin a day or two after baking – it gets stickier with age!
Source: Notes taken from a lovely Yorkshire woman (see Backstory above)