Remember, Remember the Fifth of November; Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Even though some of the things I make for this blog are more than a little strange, it’s rare that something is so disgusting as to be totally inedible. Still, there are always exceptions, and this 1867 recipe for Yorkshire Parkin was definitely one of them.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning though. I’m moving out of my place in a few weeks and so I’m trying to use up the ingredients in my pantry. This includes a large jar of treacle, and so when I saw The Old Foodie’s post on tharf-cake for Guy Fawkes Night (5th of November) I saw an opportunity.

Of course, the traditional food for Guy Fawkes Night is parkin, a dense gingerbread made with oats and treacle. The Old Foodie has covered parkin extensively and I’ll direct you to her page for the history.

But the recipe from 1830 that she provides has to be left for 24 hours, and I was in one of those must cook right now moods. Waiting 24 hours wasn’t an option. Luckily there was a similar recipe in The Young Englishwoman.[1]


Both recipes are quite different from modern recipes in that they don’t contain flour. I was a bit skeptical of that from the beginning, and the huge amount of ginger also seemed suspicious, but then the mixture smelled amazing so who was I to argue?

I melted the butter with the treacle and heated it until the mixture was viscous enough to pour easily, then added that to the oatmeal, ginger and 1 tsp of caraway seeds (I halved the overall recipe, but no quantity was given for the caraways so I just guessed). Once all the ingredients were moist I pressed the mixture into a buttered tin and cooked at 160 for 30 minutes and then let it cool.

Parkin, recipe from 1867

Although the warm parkin filled the house with a delightful, Christmas-y scent, the mixture was too dry to cut without crumbling. The taste was disappointing too. The treacle is bitter, the ginger chest-clearingly fiery and the caraways take it from simply disgusting to truly vile*.

In short, this is not a recipe that I recommend trying yourself. But I’m not giving up on parkin altogether, just waiting until I have my tastebuds back!

*In fairness, my house-mates didn’t hate it quite as vehemently as I did.

Parkin, recipe from 1867

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Yorkshire Parkin from The Young Englishwoman (available here)

The Date: 1867

How did you make it?: See above.

Time to complete?: About 50 minutes.

How successful was it?: Awful.

How accurate?: Actually I think it was pretty accurate, notwithstanding the usual comments about using a modern oven etc.


Young Englishwoman: A Volume of Pure Literature, New Fashions, and Pretty Needlework Designs. Ward, Lock and Tyler, 1867.

[1] Young Englishwoman, 53.


  1. Hi Kim, perhaps leaving the mixture overnight helps the oatmeal to bind with the oatmeal? And did you break the oats down to a meal? I’m curious to try this. It’s thought that Anzac biscuits have their origin in Parkin …

  2. Hi, there are definitely a couple of recipes which say to live the mixture overnight, and some say this is to let the grain swell (like this one given by The Old Foodie, but a lot of others don’t mention it. Whether that is something you are just supposed to know to do I’m not sure. You’re right about the consistency of the oatmeal though, I used quick oats and ground them up a bit but there’s no way I got it as fine as

    I’m glad you mentioned the connection to Anzac biscuits.I hadn’t heard of a connection but the similarity struck me when I was making a second batch (with flour). The way you melt the treacle and the butter together is not all that common, and the connection is even closer when you get to later recipes which use golden syrup rather than treacle. Do you know if anyone has suggested how we got from parkin to Anzacs?

    • I do! South Australian culinary historian Allison Reynolds has made the origin of the Anzac her specialty. She has a Facebook page and there are various interviews with her if you search her name and Anzacs.

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