Parkin and Pears

Image of pear treeStrictly speaking parkin, a North Country ginger cake, contains oatmeal and this doesn’t, but I couldn’t resist the alliteration. It departs from tradition too in being topped, or rather bottomed, with pears (it’s a sort of upside down cake). 

I’m putting pears in everything at the moment because the tree on the corner of the house has been laden this year, but they marry particularly well with ginger. This is nose-ticklingly gingery, as a good parkin should be, based on a recipe from the peerless Katie Stewart.

Just as an aside, whoever thought of putting golden syrup in a squeezy bottle deserves a medal. If only they could do the same for black treacle … I bent a spoon just getting the lid off.

Parkin and Pears

  • Servings: makes a 20cm cake
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Image of parkin with pears


About 1 1/2 to 2 pears, ripe but firm

225g plain flour

1 level tspn bicarbonate of soda

1/2 level tspn salt

3 level tspns ground ginger

1 level tspn ground cinnamon

75g butter

100g caster sugar

2 rounded tbsp golden syrup

2 rounded tbsp black treacle

2 eggs

5 tbsp milk

100g preserved ginger

To glaze: some of the syrup from the preserved ginger or a little maple syrup

Image of a basket of pearsMethod:

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm cake tin.

Sift the flour, bicarb, salt, ginger and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. Break the eggs into a second bowl with the milk and whisk lightly. Rinse the preserved ginger (makes it easier to cut), drain and chop.

Peel, core and slice the pears and arrange on the bottom of the tin. Set aside.

Image of sliced pears in base of tin

Put the sugar, butter, golden syrup and treacle in a saucepan and heat gently until the the butter has melted, then mix together well. Set aside to cool somewhat.

Once you can comfortably hold your hand against the side of the pan, stir in the eggs until blended. Add the mixture to the sifted flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Stir in the chopped preserved ginger.

Pour into the tin and give it a rap on the counter to settle the batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50-60 minutes or until well risen and firm to the touch.

Cool in the tin for half an hour and then gently ease it out upside down onto a rack. Remove the base and carefully peel off the baking paper. Once the cake has cooled completely, brush the top (formerly the bottom) with ginger or maple syrup.

If the bottom (formerly the top) has domed in the oven, slice it off if that sort of thing bothers you. Cook’s perk.

Image of a slice of parkin with pears

7 thoughts on “Parkin and Pears

    • Thanks, Cindy. This is a tricky one for US readers … blackstrap molasses is too strong to sub for black treacle, you’d need light, unsulphured molasses. Golden syrup is harder still … some people suggest equal parts of corn syrup and honey or maple syrup but I haven’t tried it. You can get golden syrup in some US delis but I suspect not in your neck of the woods. Sorry to make it so difficult! Lxxx

    • Ok, Cindy, a bit of an update … I have consulted my American friend Robin who lives in the UK and has a lot of practice at switching between US and UK ingredients. She reckons blackstrap would be fine in lieu of black treacle. She says subbing corn syrup and honey or maple syrup for golden syrup (are you still with me? 🙂 ) would be disastrous as the flavours would be overpowering … she suggests dark Karo corn syrup. Or maybe you’d be safer making a different cake! Linda xxx

  1. Mmmmm. My Yorkshire born Grandma made THE best parkin. I often make Jane Grigson’s pear and ginger upside cake from her Fruit Book but I’ll try your version next time, it looks and sounds delicious. No probs with golden syrup in my neck of the woods, it’s a necessity in most households

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