My Grandma would often bake and there would always be a tin of treats in the cupboard for when people called for a cup of tea and a chat, which they did often. She mostly made scones and tray bakes, with the cakes being cut into dainty little fingers and put into tins to store away ready for visitors. Grandma had a hostess trolley which would be loaded up with cake slices and scones and cups of tea and wheeled into the lounge for guests. This loading of the trolley was a job I loved to do when I was there and still now every time I take a lid off a cake tin and get a whiff of homebaked goodness I am transported back into her kitchen, doing the very important job of selecting slices of cake to display. Mostly I remember ginger sponge, parkin, lemon cake and scones (and a Christmas cake at Christmas), and if she knew I was coming, she would do a couple of plain scones since she knew I didn't like fruit. However, I was still happy picking the fruit out and eating them that way, since they were so nice.
I didn't start to bake myself until after she passed away, and I have always wished I could share what I make with her. I know it would have put a smile on her face for me to fill her cake tins up with home baked cake again, since in her later years, baking was one of the things she was no longer able to do. It was another way in which I could have helped her out and another connection we could have shared. I would love to know what she would think of it all - I suspect she would think I cut my slices too big and slap on far too much buttercream, and I don't think she would have much time for Kitchenaids and gadgets (now you see where I get that from!).
Anyway, I remembered that Mum had kept Grandma's little cookbook collection and I decided to have a look through to see if I could work out which recipes she used. This was the first one that jumped out as we knew she made Parkin, and it was handwritten on a well worn piece of paper.
8oz/240g medium oatmeal (this was almost impossible to find, but my Mum finally tracked it down in Holland and Barrett!)
4oz/125g self-raising flour
4oz/125g demerera sugar
1 egg, beaten
4oz/125g golden syrup
4oz/125g black treacle
"a little milk and ginger" - not quite sure how much I was meant to use, so did a couple of tablespoons of milk and 2 teaspoons ginger - would probably use a bit more ginger next time.
1. Preheat oven to 160c and line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.
2. Mix the oatmeal, sugar and flour together, and then rub in the margerine.
3. Gently melt together the golden syrup, treacle, ginger and milk in a pan (note: I didn't do this, I just bunged it all in, but after looking at other recipes I should have done it this way!).
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture along with the egg.
5. Mix to combine, then pour into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour.
6. Cool in the tin for a bit and then transfer onto a wire rack.
I'm really not too sure on the instructions since Grandma's were slightly vague, as I think her recipe was more of a note to self on the ingredients and quantities rather than a detailed step-by-step guide! We ended up spreading melted chocolate over the top aswell which is probably sacrilege... but I noticed that the Caked Crusader also made parkin recently and apparently it is best eaten spread with butter and after a few days of being stored in a tin. Ooops!
Making the parkin really took me back, since 'rubbing in the marg' and 'making a well for the egg' were the two main bits of baking with Grandma that I remembered! It tasted so familiar and distinctly 'Grandma' especially since I don't actually think I've ever eaten Parkin anywhere else. I'm looking forward to trying some of the other recipes in her collection to see if I can conjure up some of the other tastes, smells and memories of happy times with her.
Eunice Grace Whittaker, 10.07.1920 - 10.01.2008