31 Oct

Bonfire night is like a religion to me. The way people get giddy over Christmas or make a massive meal out of their birthday is nowhere near close to the way I feel when the leaves start turning and the clocks go back. As far as autumn occasions go, Halloween can kiss my arse. Nothing more than a night to make a spectacle of yourself, bonfire night is the real deal, and a wholly more British do to boot. You simply can’t beat getting wrapped up in your big winter coat, huddling round a bonfire and eating some artery-hardening food whilst watching a group of men make poor attempts at a professional firework display, and that’s just the start of it.

It may be something to do with the food customs that the towns north of Manchester keep when it comes to this historic event. As well as the more well-known dishes of corned beef hash and potato pie, a Lancashire bonfire night affair comes as standard with a side of red cabbage or picked beetroot, and if you’re particularly lucky, black peas (or parched peas as they’re known further north) doused in vinegar as a traditional treat. Treacle toffee, treacle tart and toffee apples all sweeten the deal, offering up a roll call of autumn’s best flavours to provide the perfect lining for a cider-fuelled evening.

For the most part however, my Guy Fawkes night love comes down to the way it brings my whole street together. For as long as I can remember, my parents, neighbours, friends and family have gathered early each November for a night of troughing and boozing in the cobbled back streets that are still a feature of the part of Bolton I’m from.* My best childhood memories are of bonfire night; epic games of hares and hounds, staying up way past my bed time to run around the streets, then desperately wanting to join in with the adults, surreptitiously stealing my first sip (pint) of beer and like the good teenager I was, pretending not to be pissed.

Times change though, of course, and the weeks running up to bonfire night are no longer characterised by stealing bonfire wood from other people’s back yards. (No jokes). It’s all about the baking these days, especially the time-honoured classic round these parts that is parkin. A treacle, ginger and oat-based confection that originated in Yorkshire, it’s a bake supremely popular this side of the Pennines, which is ridiculously easy to make and improves impeccably with age. You can make it up to a week before eating, though ideally should be left for no less than two days to get the fudgy, moist consistency it’s famous for. When it comes to parkin, patience is a virtue.


This particular parkin recipe is my Nana’s, which originally was passed on to her by a close friend’s grandmother. It ignores the current vogue of adding golden syrup and mixed spice, making for a simple but somehow more impactful parkin than I’ve experienced in my long career of eating this particular cake. Passed down to my Aunty Emma and now to me, (surely affirming its place as a bonafide family recipe), with a few tweaks along the way, I now pass it on to you. Welcome to the family.


  • 150g (5oz) self-raising flour
  • 90g (3oz) Quaker Oats
  • 150g (5oz) soft brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 170g (6oz) butter
  • 2 tablespoons treacle
  • 1 large egg
  • 120ml milk  


  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C / 300°F / gas mark 2.
  2. Grease and line a standard loaf tin with baking paper.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the self-raising flour, Quaker Oats, soft brown sugar and ground ginger.
  4. Put the butter and black treacle in a large pan and heat until the butter and treacle syrup have melted. Mix to combine.
  5. Beat the egg in a jug and add the milk, before quickly adding to the treacle and butter mixture.
  6. In a clean bowl, alternately add the dry ingredients then the wet, stirring through thoroughly after each addition.
  7. Pour the Parkin mixture into the loaf tin, and bake for approximately 1 hour.
  8. Leave to cool and wrap in tin foil or place in a cake tin. Squirrel it away for a couple of days before its ready to eat.

* Its so northern, it’s almost satirical.


2 Responses to “Parkin”

  1. Rebecca November 5, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    I made this recipe yesterday, in time for the bonfire we had tonight and it was delicious! The softest and most moist parkin I’ve ever had! Thank you for sharing your recipe 🙂


  1. Best of the Foodie Blogs: Ten at Ten (44) | Foodies 100 - November 7, 2012

    […] up we have parkin. I love the dark, sticky, gingeriness (is that a word?) of this lovely cake. If you fancy making […]

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