The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
It was our first Guy Fawkes Day, more commonly known as Bonfire Night, in England. Aside from a much forgotten viewing of V for Vendetta almost ten years ago, I knew little of the holiday.
The fireworks startled us. They sounded like gun shots just across the road. We weren’t sure what was happening. We bolted to the window and quickly found that the 5th of November is also called Firework Night. The noise and display continued most evenings for at least two weeks.
It’s little things like this, like the seemingly sporadic, never-ending fireworks in November, that remind me I live in a different country. A place that I didn’t grow up. A place with its own traditions and heritage that continually creep their way into my daily life in a mostly welcomed way. Most days, I don’t think much about it. I just go about as I would otherwise. Most days, England doesn’t feel too far from America, for better or worse. Then the fireworks start, and I’m reminded.
This Sunday, the 5th of November, there will be festivals in local parks where they’ll have large bonfires and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes. Some of the gatherings will have carnival rides and fried food and they’ll remind me of State Fairs that I went to as a kid. There’ll be newness and familiarity and I relish it all. Then the fireworks will begin again. They will go on throughout much of November and I will wish that there were more strict laws and regulations surrounding fireworks as I have for the past two years.
I am certain that this is a controversial statement, but I have never really loved fireworks. They’re fine to look at and a fine tradition but they just don’t excite me.
Here’s something that does excite me…
Baked goods related to holidays, geographic areas, and traditions. Lucky for me Bonfire Night has one such bake.
The lovely Parkin Cake.
What’s Parkin cake?
Glad you asked. Parkin is a cake traditionally eaten on Bonfire Night in both Lancashire county and Yorkshire county. The preparation is a bit different based on county, but they’re both considered Parkin.
Although I live in Lancashire county, I quietly lean towards the Yorkshire version. The cake is a subtle, oat-y gingerbread cake made with treacle. It’s moist and gently spiced and when you bake it, it will make your house smell like a ginger-y, autumnal dream. It’s a tradition I fully embrace.
If you like this Bonfire Night Parkin Cake, you might also like:
Bonfire Night Parkin Cake
From what I gather, Parkin is traditionally baked until it's quite firm and then left in an airtight container to soften for a few days before eating. The recipe I've come up with gives you all the delicious soft texture straight out of the oven, no wait necessary (except to let the cake cool)! That said it is still a very good cake to bake ahead of time as it retains its moisture very well. The cake is also usually served in squares and baked in a square tin. I've used an 8" round cake tin (because that's what I've got) and sliced the cake into 10 pieces. It worked beautifully. I've also used maple syrup in place of the traditional golden syrup. But, if you can find it, you could use golden syrup or even honey.
- 1/2 cup treacle or mild molasses
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar firmly but not too firmly packed
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 stick of unsalted butter 4 oz.
- 1/2 cup traditional rolled oats
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 pinches of ground cloves
- 1/2 cup 2% milk you could use 1% or whole if that's what you've got
- 1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 300*F and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.
Grease an 8" cake tin and line with parchment paper on the bottom and the sides.
Combine the maple syrup, treacle, light brown sugar, and butter in a small sauce pan. Place the sauce pan over low heat, stirring frequently until everything melts down and comes together. You do NOT want this to simmer or boil. There will still be some undissolved sugar--that's fine!
While your liquid ingredients are warming, get your dry ingredients together. Put your oats in a large bowl. Break them up a little with your hands. I break up the oats so that there are still some whole oats and some coarsely broken smaller bits. If you prefer you could blitz them up in the food processor with maybe 2 or 3 pulses.Then add the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Whisk it all together.
In a small bowl or measure cup whisk the egg and milk together.
Once your treacle mixture has come together, make a well in your dry ingredients and pour the treacle mixture into it. With a wooden spoon, mix it all together. Then add the milk mixture. Stir until all the milk mixture has incorporated. It will look like it's not going to come together, but keep going. It will.
Once it has all come together and looks like a cohesive batter pour it into your prepared cake tin.
Place in the oven and bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean (55mins to 1hr. 5mins).
Let the cake cool in the pan, on a cooling rack, for 20 minutes.
Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely before slicing.
Serve with softly whipped cream, ice cream or simply on its own.