Great Northern Parkin Under Wensleydale

Classic British food is probably not on the forefront of people’s minds when they think of really great food. Perhaps it’s because I’m married to a Brit, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it; granted, I did marry into a family of food-lovers, but I dare you to argue with me after eating Sticky Toffee Pudding, or Treacle Sponge, or good-quality classic Fish and Chips, or Yorkshire puddings with roast beef! | Parkin and Wensleydale with a cup of tea

I think the Brits tend to do simple food very well. Actually, looking at my love list above, perhaps they do comfort food very well 🙂

One of these easy recipes is Parkin. It’s a gingerbread cake that originates from Yorkshire in the north of England. There’s nothing terribly special about the ingredient list (oats, flour, eggs, butter, sugar, molasses and ginger), but the unusual thing about this cake is that you leave it to age for a few weeks after it bakes. | Great northern parkin under | Great northern parkin under Wensleydale

Waiting for this cake is a test of your willpower. Just out of the oven, the smell of the gingerbread is mouth-watering, so you get excited about trying a little piece but, no, you have to wait. And not just until the cake cools. Nope, you have to wait weeks, two or three, to be precise! | Great northern parkin under Wensleydale

It sounds strange, I know. You leave a cake to sit (in a tightly sealed container, granted) for a few weeks, and it doesn’t go bad or stale?


It’s completely counter-intuitive. The cake becomes crumbly the longer it sits, but at the same time it is also slightly dense (in a good way). And as it ages, the sweet molasses and ginger flavours mingle and become more pronounced, to give you a wonderfully rich-tasting cake. | Parkin and Wensleydale with a cup of tea

Last but not least, you cannot eat this cake on its own. No, it must be eaten with cheese, and not just any cheese – it must be eaten with plain Wensleydale (not that weird fruit-laden Wensleydale)… and a cup of tea… preferably on Guy Fawkes Night (but I’m Canadian, so I feel justified in ignoring that last part). | Parkin and Wensleydale with a cup of tea

On a rainy Vancouver day, after three weeks of waiting, there is almost nothing more satisfying than a cup of tea and a slice (or two… or three…) of ginger Parkin under a great wedge of Wensleydale. | Parkin and Wensleydale with a cup of tea

If you’ve never tried it, hopefully I’ve convinced you to give it a whirl. I’m certain you won’t be disappointed 🙂

Classic Parkin Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Modified slightly from a Gary Rhodes recipe in New British Classics
Dry stuff:
  • 200 g (~1.5 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 10 g (~2 tsp) baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 150 g (~1 cup) large-flake oats, processed into a coarse flour (or use oat flour)
Wet stuff:
  • 200 g (150 mL) golden syrup
  • 100 g (70 mL) molasses
  • 200 g (3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 200 g (1 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbsp skim milk
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 275F and well-grease a 9x13-inch pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Add in the coarsely-ground oats and mix.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, melt together the golden syrup, molasses, butter and brown sugar. Do not let the mixture simmer or boil, you only want this to melt.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and blend.
  5. Add in the beaten eggs and milk, mix to combine.
  6. Pour the batter into the well-greased 9x13-inch pan and bake for 75 minutes, or until the centre of the cake is firm to the touch.
  7. Leave the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes, before turning it out to finish cooling.
  8. Place the cake in an air-tight container and leave at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks. The closer you leave the cake to 3 weeks, the better the flavour will be.
We have made this cake in a 9x13x2-inch pan as well as a 5x11x3-inch loaf pan, and both have turned out great.
If you bake it in the deeper loaf pan, be prepared to increase the baking time by 15 minutes or so.

Enjoy! | Great northern parkin under Wensleydale