Parkin Cake for Guy Fawkes Night

Don't forget to enjoy square of Parkin Cake for Guy Fawkes Night.
Don’t forget to enjoy square of Parkin Cake for Guy Fawkes Night.

Ever wonder how it would feel to have your most notable failure in life celebrated by an entire nation, then have a holiday named after you? Guy Fawkes must have known what it feels like. Every November 5th, Great Britain annually commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which was an attempt to assassinate King James I of England.  Guy Fawkes has the embarrassing honor of being remembered as the member of the Gunpowder Plot who was caught guarding the explosives that were placed under the House of Lords. In order to express their thankfulness for the plot’s failure, revelers would annually celebrate with bonfires in remembrance. Later, other celebratory traditions developed, like burning effigies of hated figures like the pope, and venting general anti-Catholic sentiments.

Nowadays the holiday has lost much of its previous aggressive political and religious undertones, and has become a large, light celebratory affair focused on bonfires and firework displays. Because bonfires became inextricably linked with Guy Fawkes Night, the holiday took on traditions of other Celtic holidays that also celebrated with bonfires. One of those traditions was to serve special cakes, like what would eventually become known as the Parkin Cake – a traditional sponge cake from Northern England made of oatmeal, treacle/molasses, and ginger. Because molasses cakes are known to be hard after baking, then soften during storage, this cake is convenient to bake ahead of time, then enjoy later during the winter holidays. So whether or not you are able to attend a bonfire gathering or fireworks show, you can at least enjoy this cake’s warm flavors of ginger and molasses, not just on Guy Fawkes Night, but also through the fall and winter.

Parkin Cake


13T butter – extra for greasing
1 large egg
4T milk (substitute almond milk)
½ cup golden syrup (substitute equal parts honey and light corn syrup)
½ cup treacle (substitute molasses)
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup oatmeal (rolled oats or Coach’s oats, cracked n’ toasted style)
2 cups of self-rising flour (substitute 2 cups of all-purpose flour or cake flour, plus 3 tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp salt)
1T ground ginger


  1. Heat oven to 230F.
  2. Grease a 9×9 square cake tin, then line with parchment paper.
  3. Beat the egg and milk together. Set aside.
  4. Melt the golden syrup, treacle, brown sugar and butter in a pan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.
  5. Mix the oatmeal, flour, and ginger. Add the liquid mixture and the eggs and milk to the dry ingredients. Fold together until just combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake 45 minutes – 1 hour. Check the cake for doneness after 45 minutes with a wooden toothpick piercing the center of the cake. The cake is done if it comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
  7. After the cake has cooled. Keep in an airtight container or wrapped in parchment paper and foil. Let sit for 3-5 days. The cake will become softer and stickier as time goes on (up to 2 weeks). Cut in squares when ready to serve.

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