The Great British Parkin-Off


Unless you have some kind of connection with Yorkshire, the likelihood is you have no idea what parkin is. Well, it’s a kind of gingerbread cake made with oatmeal and treacle. It’s moreish and not too sweet, and it’s easy to make. It also happens to be a Bailey-family favourite and is made in the shed-load by my northern lass of a Grandma, Irene, before she visits us in London.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I picked up a copy of Paul Hollywood’s latest book, British Baking, and found a recipe for – you’ve guessed it – Yorkshire Parkin. Well there was nothing for it but to have a little competition between the two. This week, my favourite little sous-chef, chief-taster and fellow parkin-fan, Joe, got in on the action too.

First up, Grandma Bailey. She usually measures this recipe with the same cup every time, but seeing as we don’t have access to that cup (I’m expecting to have it bequeathed to me in her will), she has very kindly converted it into grams for us.

100g margarine
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125g medium oatmeal
125g wholemeal bread flour
90g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
210ml milked, boiled

Preheat your oven to 160°C fan and grease and line a roughly 20x20cm cake tin.

Melt the margarine, treacle and syrup in a bowl in the microwave or on the hob. Add the dry ingredients and stir together. Lastly, add the milk and mix. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes.

NB: Parkin is best left to sit, wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil, for 24 hours before eating, to let the flavours mature and to develop that characteristic sticky top.


A little family joke, spotted on holiday in Barcelona last year

Now, over to Paul…

225g margarine
110g golden syrup
110g black treacle
2 eggs
125ml milk
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
225g dark muscovado sugar
225g medium oatmeal

Preheat your oven to 160°C fan and grease and line a roughly 20x20cm cake tin.

Again, melt your margarine, syrup and treacle in the microwave or on the hob.

Lightly beat the eggs into the milk with a fork.

Add the dry ingredients to the melted mixture and stir, followed by the eggs and milk.

Pour into the tin and bake for 45 minutes. Just like Grandma’s parkin, I recommend you leave this to sit for a day or two before tucking in. It may be hard to resist, but it’s definitely worth the wait.


Grandma Bailey’s, left, and Paul Hollywood’s, right

The verdict? If you like your parkin slightly denser, egg-free and lower in sugar, Grandma Bailey is your girl; it really is the cake of my childhood. On the other hand, Paul’s is lighter textured and has a richer, more adult flavour. At risk of being forever excommunicated from the family, I’m a Paul-convert. By a fraction. Please forgive me Grandma. But, to be honest, you can’t really go far wrong with either; both are delicious – Joe certainly seemed to think so.



  1. Ellen Taylor November 2, 2016

    I want to try this NOW but I’ve only got butter in the house. Does it have to be Marge?

  2. Susanna December 6, 2016

    I was given a very similar recipe to your Gran’s, only it uses half butter and half lard.
    Also, (sorry Gran) I was told that the version without egg is the Lancashire one…….
    I think it probably is that there weren’t many eggs in winter and it is part of a tradition of eggless cakes we largely ignore now. But it does need to be kept if you make the eggless one- and that is my favourite !

  3. Barbara Sabin March 19, 2018

    My Mother was the cook/housekeeper for three Doctors and I hope I am not biased when I say she was a super baker. She always said that Parkin is a Yorkshire Delicacy and it never has eggs in it, Her words were ‘Parkin is Parkin, add eggs to the mixture and it is Cake’ Her success was in adding extra Golden Syrup and Black Treacle,she said Parkin is crisp when it is fresh baked and sticky when it has ‘come again’.
    Her recipe was:-
    12ounces SR Flour,
    12ouncesMedium Oatmeal,
    8 ounces Margarine,
    8 ounces Demerara Sugar
    6 Tablespoons Golden Syrup,
    6 Tablespoons Black Treacle,
    1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger,
    1 Teaspoon Bi-Carbonate of Soda
    1 large pinch of Salt
    Rub Margarine into flour add the oatmeal, ginger and sugar, warm the golden syrup and black treacle and add milk to mix to a pouring consistency ;Pour into a greased and lined baking tin.
    She baked it slowly at 145C if it sunk a little in the middle she was happy as this she said was the secret, all the edges were crispy and then sticky when it had ‘come again’ in the tin (if it lasted that long).


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