Soul Cakes (or “Souls”, “Soul-mass”) resembles a biscuit or a scone, with spices and currants. In the US, you can substitute raisins if you can’t find currants at your grocers. If you use raisins, cut them into pieces as currants are much smaller.
There is a long history of the origins of Halloween and Soul Cakes that date back to the pagan holiday called Samhain (sah-win, sow-en), Summers End. The Gaelics celebrate with bonfires as it represents the start of the new year and the end of the harvest. The beginning of the darker half of the year. However, if crops failed that year, people starved, so death was always close.
Pagans believe the space between light and dark became soluble at Samhain. The veil between the worlds is at it’s thinnest and spirits could travel back and forth between the worlds. So life and death would co-mingle. A time to commune with your ancestors and honor all who have crossed over.
As Christianity rose, Pagans didn’t want to convert. Keeping pagan traditions helped to get them to convert to Christianity. Lemuria was a pagan celebration on May 13th that celebrated the life of the dead. Christianity took that holiday and converted it to All Saints Day (All Hallows Day) November 1st, keeping many of the same themes and traditions in an effort to reduce the impact of the Pagan Holidays, Lemuria and Samhain.
Samhain is celebrated on October 31st and became known as All Hallows Eve. All Hallows Eve was eventually shortened to Halloween. Christianity then added November 2nd, All Souls’ Day, to celebrate not just Saints, but all Christians that have departed.
The church played a part in starting Trick or Treating. They told parishioners to pray for the departed that were in purgatory. If enough prayers were offered up, the departed soul would fly up to heaven. Children would go door to door “souling”. The treats were called “soul cakes”. They would offer up prayers for the departed when given the treat (soul cake) On All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. A practice that continues in some countries today.
Soul Cake (Souling Song)
Soul! Soul! Soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
Apple, pear, plum or cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
A traditional Soul Cake uses British Mixed Spice (see recipe below). You can also purchase it from Amazon. In the past, I have used Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients and Schwartz brands, but it is pretty simple to make yourself. It’s similar to a pumpkin pie or gingerbread spice mix.
Soul Cake – Cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, spices and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly, but don’t overmix. Add enough milk until the dough comes together.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of ½ inch. Cut with a round, fluted biscuit cutter and place on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper or a silpat. I recently moved and my fluted biscuit cutters are still in boxes, so I used a glass as a cutter.
Use the back end of a butter knife to make a light cross indentation on the top of each soul cake. Push in the currants, 5 on each as shown in the photos. Sprinkle with a small amount of Turbinado (Raw) Sugar (optional). Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight tin.
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A sweet little cake that is a cross between a biscuit and a scone. Packed with currants and mixed spice.
- ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon butter
- ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup currants (or raisins)
- 5 currants for the top of each soul cake
- Up to ½ cup Milk
NOTE: If you use raisins, cut them into pieces as currants are much smaller.
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Step 2 Cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy.
- Step 3 Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
- Step 4 In a separate bowl, sift the flour, spices and salt.
- Step 5 Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly, but don’t overmix. Add enough milk until the dough comes together.
- Step 6 Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of ½ inch. Cut with a round, fluted biscuit cutter and place on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
- Step 7 Use the back end of a butter knife to make a light cross indentation on the top of each soul cake. Push in the currants, 5 on each as shown in the photos.
- Step 8 Spinkle with a small amount of Turbinado (Raw) Sugar (optional).
- Step 9 Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
- Step 10 Store in an airtight tin.
Mixed Spice (British)
Mixed Spice is a British blend of sweet spices, similar to a pumpkin pie or gingerbread spice blend in the United States.
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground caraway seeds
- pinch cayenne pepper
- Step 1 Blend all spices together and mix well.
- Step 2 Store in a sealed jar away from light.