Sunday, October 31, 2010

Soul Cakes: The Original Halloween "Treat"

During the Middle Ages in England, on the night before All Saints Day, or Hallowmas, pesants and children called "soulers" would go about town singing and praying for the souls of the dead. They would stop at homes and beg for a "soul cake" and promise in return to pray for the household's deceased family members to be released from purgatory. If homeowners did not give out cakes it was believed their home would be cursed. And this my friends is thought to be the origination of trick or treating.

There are many recipes for soul cakes from a small round cake to a doughnut shaped treat. Some variations include cutting a cross on the top or adding rasins. It seems that the recipes developed over time and region. 

Because my children need more sugar from October 31st to November 2nd, we made our own soul cakes today. I'm hoping someone comes by singing the traditional song:

Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!
Soul Cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, & three for Him who made us all.

Chances are if I try to hand one out people will quietly usher their children to the next house and later report me to the police, so perhaps I'll just stick with taking them to our churches All Souls Day party on Tuesday night.

If you are looking for a festive treat to make on all Souls Day these are a delicious little treat. They are a bit like a spiced shortbread cookie, not really fluffy cake like.

I decided to go with a more traditional recipe from, but I'll still post the full instructions with pictures for you below, as I made a few changes as I went.


1. Using a pastry blender cut 1 c. of butter into 3 3/4 cups of flour. I bought my first pastry blender just for this occasion.

2. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Allspice smells like Christmas.

3. In a separate bowl beat eggs, vinegar and milk together. I would like to add a little shout out here to my amazing mother-in-law, who is always gifting me with amazing things for my kitchen, like these awesome Pyrex measuring cups, Thanks!

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix.

5. Kneed thoroughly to form a stiff dough. You really have to work this dough, I thought there was no way it was moist enough, but once I mashed it all up it was just right.

6. Roll out to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out 3 inch circles with a cookie cutter or glass.

7. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. I use a slotted spoon for this.

9. Eat, yummy.


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