Place of origin
Region or state
|Northern England - Lancashire, Yorkshire|
|Flour, oatmeal, molasses, lard or butter|
Parkin or Perkin is a soft cake traditionally made of oatmeal and black treacle, which originated in northern England. Often associated with Yorkshire, particularly the Leeds area, its precise origins are unclear, and it is very widespread and popular in other areas, such as Lancashire. Parkin is generally moist and even sometimes sticky. In Hull and East Yorkshire, it has a drier, more biscuit-like texture than in other areas. Parkin is traditionally eaten on Bonfire Night, 5 November, but is also enjoyed year-round. It is baked commercially throughout Yorkshire, but is a mainly domestic product in other areas.
The principal ingredients of a Yorkshire parkin are flour, oatmeal, black treacle (similar to molasses), fat (traditionally lard, but modern recipes use butter or margarine), brandy and ginger. While it is possible to find recipes that omit oatmeal or treacle, or even both, these are generally considered distinctive features of Yorkshire parkin, and it is hard to see what would distinguish it from any other gingerbread without them. Both were important constituents of the Northern, working-class diet in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, so it is likely that parkin evolved in that period of the Industrial Revolution. However, Lancashire Parkin is baked using Golden Syrup and extra sugar. The secret of a good parkin is the texture.
The flour used in parkin in England is self-raising, containing a small amount of chemical leavening agent. If this is not available, or if the proportion of oatmeal is high, it is essential to add a leavening agent, e.g. baking powder or a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar.
One of the key features of parkin is that it retains its texture well and can be kept for a week or two in a sealed tin or box. In fact, connoisseurs often prefer to eat it slightly aged. Fresh parkin is frowned upon, but sometimes eaten as an accompaniment to a compote of tart fruit, like cooking apples or gooseberries. This would have made parkin particularly suitable as a working-class Sunday treat that could be eked out for packed meals on working days. The name is sometimes given as perkin, and it is often pronounced as such in the Midlands, even when the normal spelling is retained. Both Parkin and Perkin are diminutives of Peter. They are also common English family names and were used in the past as pet forms of the Christian name "Peter".
- Roberts, Chris (2006). Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme. Thorndike Press. ISBN 0-7862-8517-6.
- Bates, Margaret (1964). Talking about Cakes. Penguin Books, p.88.
- Lepard, Dan (3 November 2007). "100-Year-Old Parkin". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 21 May 2010.
- Thompson, E.P. (1965). The making of the English Working Class. Pelican Books, p.319.
- Concise Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. parkin