Illegal Parkin

Illegal Parkin? Well, it’s sort of a play on words.  Parkin is a traditional moist Yorkshire ginger cake, perfect for those autumn evenings especially around bonfire night and Halloween.  Every Yorkshire family has their own recipe and, well, I lost mine so I had to come up with something from scratch.

Illegal Parkin, fresh out of the ovenThe 2 key distinctions for Parkin, over and above a ‘normal’ ginger cake is the extensive use of black treacle to provide a rich, dark, bitter-sweet effect, accompanied by the use of oatmeal to provide a wonderful hearty texture.  And that’s where I ran into my problem.  Could I find oatmeal at the supermarket? No.  No doubt it’s now considered a specialist ingredient, it’ll be hidden away somewhere with the organic bean husks and the extra virgin Brazil nut oil.

Anyway, I didn’t have the time or patience to hunt around, so I decided to make do.  I’ve got a cupboard full of rolled oats and porridge oats – they’re all oats, right?  Well, not exactly.  Rolled oats have been steamed, which will effect their properties somewhat.  But would they make a good Parkin?  I had to find out.

I took 300g of Porridge oats and blitzed them in a food processor, just for a few seconds, until I had a consistent texture.  I sieved the mixture and got about 70% coarse bran, which looked just right as an oatmeal substitute, and the rest was a fine flour.  I used all of the bran and made up the difference with the flour.

As for the rest of the recipe?  Well, I did my usual research for inspiration, and what better person to turn to but James Martin.  After all, if anyone’s going to know how to cook a classic Parkin, it’s that Pastry cheffing Yorkshireman.  Wrong again.  Mr M’s Parkin recipe was lacking in 2 ingredients – Black Treacle and Oatmeal.  Hello???  That’s not Parkin, that’s just a ginger cake!!!!  Illusions of one of my culinary heroes shattered in seconds.  Oh well, I’d just have to make it all up.

Blitzed porridge oats, vanilla and rum?  Not your traditional ingredients, but not so far distanced from to spirit of true Yorkshire Parkin.  Close enough but it would upset the purists, hence ‘illegal’ Parkin!

Ready in 90 minutes, but better if you can leave it for a couple of days!


  • 225g Oatmeal (or see above)
  • 100g Plain White Flour
  • 100g Demerara Sugar
  • 2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 4 tbsp Milk
  • 1 medium Egg
  • 1 tbsp Dark Rum
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 100g Butter
  • 125g Black Treacle
  • 100g Golden Syrup


  • Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir in the bran with a fork
  • In a pan, gently heat the butter, syrup and treacle, stirring occasionally until combined
  • In a jug, mix together the reamining ingredients (milk, egg, rum & vanilla extract), then stir well into the flour mixture with the fork.  The mixture should be very dry and lumpy at this stage
  • Pour in the butter-syrup mixture and stir well with a baking spoon to form a loose batter Batter mixture, ready for baking
  • Grease a cake tin (approx 20cm * 20cm), and/or line with greaseproof paper
  • Pour the batter into the tin
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven (fan, 140c) for 1 hour
  • Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and cut into squares.

Best left in a sealed tin for a few days for the flavours to develop – the cake should be quite sticky.  For a dessert, serve with a treacle syrup or butterscotch sauce


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