Parkin & Cake Trials in Pastry School

So, here’s one of the reasons I’ve had cake on the brain:

Whadya think?

I think it looked okay-ish. Tasted great, but looked pretty amateur — I’ve gotta improve my masking and frosting skills.

Y’know, like, when you make something and you think, “This is pretty good…” and then not even 10 minutes later you think, “This is pretty good… but I should have done THAT!” — that’s totally how I felt about my cake project.

It’s comprised of a mocha sponge cake brushed with coffee syrup, layered with chestnut liqueur-infused ganache, and covered in chestnut whipped cream.

My chocolate-coffee-chestnut cake came into being because last week everyone in my class had to make their own cake project and present it to our chef for dissecting and tasting. While my creation definitely wasn’t the prettiest of the bunch, chef gave it top marks for taste and texture.

Besides — I know what I can do next time to make it look a lot better!

This parkin recipe I’m posting today is pretty much the exact opposite of what I was trying to do with my cake project — my cake was supposed to be elegant and sweet, while parkin is a down n’ dirty spice cake snack of the people.

I didn’t realize this before sifting through recipe books and planning posts for the month of November, but parkin is one of the festival foods commonly associated with Bonfire Night in England (which is, sadly, something I missed by about 10 days).

It’s weird timing that I would come across this recipe now, just because of the Occupy movement that’s been hitting major cities — little is it know that the movement actually started in Dataran, Kuala Lumpur, before igniting the high profile protest in Wall Street.

There’s even an Occupy protest happening in Vancouver right now, although I’m not totally sure what it’s supposed to accomplish.

While it would have been good to have a solidarity march for Wall Street or something, there’s not quite enough social inequity and crazy right-wing politicians in Canada to justify a full blown Occupy for any length of time.

Especially considering that the people who’ve pitched their tents on the Art Gallery lawn downtown don’t really seem to have any clear demands, other than to legalize raw milk — a stupid, irresponsible demand to which I’m 100% opposed.

Also, some of the protesters have been going to our local mayoral debates and heckling the candidates. I mean, good job, geniuses — the political change you want will come way faster if you interrupt democratic process.


The other weird thing about the Occupy movement is how the Guy Fawkes mask has been appropriated for the cause.

First off, the mask they’re using (as cool as it is — I love V for Vendetta) is more pop culture than historical culture. And isn’t the massive pop culture-making machine at least partly at fault for perpetuating the obsession with material culture and social inequity in the US?

Also, Guy Fawkes kinda failed to blow up the King and overthrow the British government.

I’m just thinking that maybe a Gandhi mask would be better.

Anyways, no more political talk — parkin is a sweet oat cake that’s loaded with molasses and ginger. It’s chewy and sticky and better if aged for a couple days before eating (with whipped cream or jam).

Parkin requires steel-cut oats instead of rolled oats, which can be little unusual in North American supermarkets, but they’re not too hard to find.

If you want to substitute rolled oats for steel-cut, then I would skip the pre-cooking part of the recipe.


*adapted from A World of Cake


  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup whole milk


Bring 2 cups of water in a saucepan to a gently boil over medium-high heat. Salt the water, add the steel-cut oats, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot. Simmer the oats for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally —  allow another 20 minutes to cool before draining any excess water and proceeding with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Sift the flour and baking soda together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into chucks and place in the bowl. Mash the cooked steel-cut oats into the sifted flour and butter until evenly incorporated.

Stir in the brown sugar, fresh grated ginger, and ground spices.

Add the egg and stir to evenly incorporate before adding the molasses and milk.

Gently work out any large clumps of steel-cut oats in the batter, then pour the parkin batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 ~ 55 minutes.

Let cool in the pan to room temperature, then remove the cake from the pan, wrap it in clingfilm and let sit overnight before eating — this will help the flavour of ginger and molasses mature!

Once ready to eat, slice into small squares. Squares can be garnished with whip cream and a gooseberry.

Time for me to Occupy my kitchen with some parkin. Yum!

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13 thoughts on “Parkin & Cake Trials in Pastry School

  1. I have never had a Parkin, but it does look like I have been missing out on something-yum! I have saved the recipe for these little gems, so thanks for inspiring me to try something new.
    As far as you cake, like all foodies, we are our biggest critics. However, it is what drives us to improve. You cake looks stunning to me. Have a great day.

    • Christine says:

      Aw, thanks for complimenting my cake, Tina! The thing with being in school (with other, more competitive people) is always having to take an objective eye and be overly critical — it’s just something that’s getting hammered into me. I have to make something and think, “Would someone pay for this, yes or no?”

  2. A Tablespoon of Liz says:

    Love the cake! I’ve never had parkin, but it looks really good! I’ve never seen a cake that required the oats to be cooked before either. It sounds like my kind of cake though, so i’ll have to give it a try!

    • Christine says:

      Cooking the oats before hand makes the cake superrrrr chewy (UNCOOKED oats do that in the first place, but COOKED oats, wow!) — the trick, according to the book, is to only cook them 3/4 of the way done.

  3. Susan says:

    This looks like it smells and tastes fantastic. Also, I love a good rant. Rant on! (Your pastry school cake looks pretty amazing too. Nice work!)

  4. I love how you’re able to relate the foods you bake to their historical origins! I love finding out where different foods and traditions come from. And, besides, it’s sooo pretty!

  5. peasepudding says:

    I love parkin and I can’t beleive I have never made it before, both your cakes look delicious.

  6. yay for cooking with steel cut oats! i made granola bars out of them once 🙂
    and i’ve never tried parkin, or heard of it before! but it sounds really yummy

    • Christine says:

      It’s totally yummy — also, this recipe is really easy to make vegan!

      I’d just swap the butter for Earth Balance, skip the egg, use almond milk, and add another 1/4 cup of flour. 🙂

  7. easybaked says:

    I think your cake was beautiful! Cakes are my hardest thing– I hate frosting layer cakes….I need skills…. 🙂

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