It’s November, which means it’s cinder toffee season. Except ever since having a chat about this particular topic to Sam of Tea & Cake November is now parkin season. And cinder toffee season. You can have both.
Anyway! Parkin is a particularly Yorkshire thing; I’d never even heard about it before moving here, let alone eaten any. It’s a sticky gingerbread that is dense and a bit like eating treacle porridge. That sounds strange, but bear with me. It keeps really well and matures with time, so a parkin should really be made a week before you intend to eat it. This is not a lightweight cake, it’s something you make to put in your lunchbox when you go hiking in the snow. It is delicious, hearty food.
As it happens, I was given an invitation to attend a gathering of the Pudsey and West Leeds branch of the Clandestine Cake Club, a Halloween-themed evening. (If you don’t know anything about CCC I advise you to read the website. It’s brilliant.) This was a last minute thing and I didn’t have a huge amount of time to work out what I wanted to make, so I thought I’d make some parkin.
Because bundt is a bit of a thing at the moment (the fault of Dolly Bakes in Bolton, who gave a great talk on bundt at the CCC annual meeting) I’d picked up a ring mould a few weeks ago and reckoned this would be a great starting point for an easily-sharable parkin. On Sunday I made my parkin according to the recipe we have on T&C (with the addition of some finely chopped stem ginger, and some of the syrup from that in with the milk) and then started wondering how to decorate it.
Golden syrup is a huge part of a good parkin, so as a complimentary flavour I was thinking about golden syrup-flavoured icing. However I could only get so far without making it so sweet it made my teeth hurt just thinking about it, and also golden syrup inhibits icing from setting. Sam, again, came to my aid with some inspiration: golden syrup jellies. I had a recipe from the Bompas & Parr jelly book and figured I could swap the gelatine for Dr Oetker Vege-gel (veggie, and it sets clear, a huge improvement over agar-agar). For a mould I used a pac-man ice cube tray Sam had given me for christmas a few years ago, which took 150ml of liquid; in the end I used 100g hand-hot water mixed with 100g syrup, then sprinkled on 1 sachet of vege-gel, stir to dissolve then bring to the boil, and pour into the moulds before it sets.
It worked, much to my surprise. The jellies demoulded without any fuss whatsoever and tasted of thinned down golden syrup. I think I could have used more syrup, maybe 150g syrup to 100g water (& 1 sachet), and it would still have been fine.
The problem – of course there’s a problem – was that the jellies were too heavy to be supported on the water icing (made with ginger cordial) that I’d made to paint the cake. What I should have done was waited for the icing to set properly, not “just enough” and sliced off thin layers of the jellies to cover. Instead I piled them on and in the morning they had all slid off. Foolishness! So I left them where they were, sliced off the tops, and stuck these slices on the top instead.
The writeup from the evening with a list and pictures of all the cakes present is here; I made a point of trying all the pumpkin ones (which were all different and still lovely) before any of the others – nearly 30 cakes means you have to pick and choose the ones you want!