These soul cakes are very fitting for this week’s Cakes & Bakes. They’re part of an ancient Christian tradition that took place in the UK – especially ‘up North’ – each All Hallow’s Eve. Or as it’s better known in this day & age, Halloween.
The cakes were baked on All Hallow’s Eve to honour the dead – hence the name ‘soul’ – and the cross made on them before baking. On All Saints’ Day (1st Nov) and All Souls’ Day (2nd Nov), they were then were given as alms to the poor (especially children). Perhaps it’s the origin of modern day trick or treating.
I searched through all my old-fashioned cookery books and finally found a recipe for them in the not so old A Calendar of Feasts: Cattern Cakes and Lace.
The recipe isn’t the most detailed, but from the way they turned out, I’d say they were more a biscuit than a cake! If I made them thicker than I did, they’d probably resemble scones… but they wouldn’t have cooked completely through in the 15 minutes advised.
I was all out of the mixed spice that the recipe called for; I did some detective work and found out that Schwartz mixed spice comprises nutmeg, cinnamon and ground coriander seed. I used half a teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon… I was all out of coriander seeds too!
I don’t think the mixed spice is mandatory if you don’t have any, soul cakes can be made with ground ginger, allspice, the aforementioned nutmeg and cinnamon… or any mixture of all the above!
I wonder if I’ll get any funny looks from the neighbourhood kids if I hand these out when they come around trick or treating this weekend!
- 175g/6oz butter
- 175g/6oz caster sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 450g/1lb plain flour
- 1tsp ground mixed spice
- A little milk to mix (I used about 4 tbsps)
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl and then beat in the egg yolks one at a time
- Sift the flour and the spice into another bowl then add to the butter mixture
- Stir in the currants and add milk if necessary to form a soft dough
- Form the dough into flat cakes and mark each with a cross
- Put on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown