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! 🙂
Cheese soda bread
- 200g/7oz plain flour
- 150g/5oz wholemeal flour
- 50g/2oz wheatgerm
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1tsp salt
- 30g/1oz butter, cubed
- 300g/10½oz buttermilk
- 100g/3½oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
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- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/430ºF/Gas mark 7
- Grease a large baking tray and set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients well
- Rub the butter into the flour mix before making a well in the centre
- Pour the buttermilk into the well and begin bringing the flour from the edge of the bowl towards the centre using a spatula or dough scraper
- Add the grated cheddar and knead the dough into a ball, trying not overwork
- Put the dough on to the baking tray, make a deep cross on the top using the dough scraper or large sharp knife
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the top
- Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving
- The buttermilk we buy in the supermarket only comes in 250g containers. We just top up the recipe amount with 50g plain yoghurt
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As you may have read a couple of weeks ago, I made a batch of profiteroles (and some éclairs later on in the week). I fished out my piping set, forgetting how completely inadequate it had been the last time I’d used it.
I should have realised that it was going to be a false economy when I picked it up at the supermarket. The bag with 6 metal nozzles cost all of £2. I used it once when I made some cupcakes. It was very fiddly – the bag was way too small, it could only hold a few tablespoonfuls of icing. By the time I piped the éclairs with cream, the bag had split and cream was actually diffusing through the whole thing; I’d only used it three times!
I’ve now thrown out the bag – I’ve held on to the nozzles and coupler so am in search of a large, decent, durable piping bag. When looking online I read quite a few reviews from buyers, there were endless one star reviews; complaints about some brands of bag splitting at the seams after just one use. I didn’t fancy buying single-use plastic bags, too much waste, so here are some of the reusable piping bags in the running.
- Cotton Thermo standard piping bag – 28cm: £2.99, Nisbets
- 2 piece piping bag set by Cake Boss – 20cm & 30cm: £11.95, Wayfair
- PME premium icing bag – 30cm: £6.75, Divertimenti
- Master Class professional 50cm icing and food piping bag: £5.10, Amazon
- Large icing bag – 30cm: £5.65, Lakeland
Another year, another series of the Great British Bake Off. We never get fed up of following it – we’re hooked! We’ve already got a favourite baker and decided on the one we think will win.
Mel & Sue are a great double act and there’s such a chemistry between Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.
We think the people who enter the competition are very brave. The heat, the pressure and the high standards and withering looks of the judges. Not to mention the ultra-critical public – no thank you!
Get your bake on!
Curated by H is for Home
I love baking and make a cake about once a week. With it being just two of us (Fudge isn’t included when it comes to cake!), having just a slice each each day, a normal cake lasts us at least 4 days. We need an attractive cake dome to keep it in. What I’m after is a glass or pottery plate with a glass dome so you can see the cake through it. Here are the prettiest ones I found on the internet…
- Orla Kiely multi stem cake dome, cream: £85, John Lewis
- Black Toast glass comport dome: £45.50, Emma Bridgewater
- LSA Vienna glass plate and dome: £64, Selfridges
- Anchor Hocking Monaco cake set & ribbed dome: £26.99, Amazon
- Sweetly Does it traditional 25cm glass dome cake stand: £30, House of Fraser
Temperatures have fallen this week and the local sycamore trees are getting the tell-tale tar spots on their leaves. Two clues to the onset of autumn. Autumn makes us crave more hearty foods – porridge for breakfast, shepherd’s pie for dinner. This week’s Cakes & Bakes item falls into this category. It’s Rose Prince‘s pear and ginger cake taken from a recent Telegraph Magazine.
Cakes & Bakes: Pear and ginger cake
Those who know Rose Prince's cake-making will be accustomed to the boiling method that she uses for fruit and spice cakes – it ensures an edge with a lovely chewiness and a soggy inner crumb. Eat this cake with mature cheddar cheese, after a long Sunday lunch.You will need a 20cm square cake tin with a loose base, or a similar 25cm round tin. Prepare the tin by buttering it well, then lining with baking parchment and buttering it again – generously.
- 2 tbsp demerara sugar
- 2-3 pears (depending on your pan), peeled & halved
- 180g unsalted butter
- 180g soft brown sugar
- 90g golden syrup
- 90g black treacle
- 2 level tsps ground ginger
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 270g ground almonds
- 90g plain flour
- ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat the oven to 170ºC/340ºF/Gas mark 3½
- Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the base of the cake tin, then place the pears, core facing down, in the tin. Set to one side while you make the batter
- Put the butter, sugar and both the syrups into a large saucepan together with two tablespoons of water and bring the mixture to the boil. Boil over a medium heat for 3 minutes then remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool for 10-15 minutes
- Mix in the ground ginger, then the beaten egg, and beat well
- Stir in the ground almonds
- Sift in the flour together with the bicarbonate of soda
- Mix everything together well, then immediately spoon the mixture into the cake tin over the pear halves, without disturbing their arrangement if possible
- Bake for 50-70 minutes, until the cake feels firm when pressed
- Turn the heat down to 160ºC/320ºF/gas mark 3 if the surface or edges begin to look too dark
- Allow to cool, then turn out on to a board or flat plate/platter
- Serve cut into thick slices
This week I attempted a cake (or more rightly, a bake) that I’d not done before – lemon & polenta berry squares.
It’s taken from 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies & Other Tempting Treats. It turned out really well, the berries kept it lovely and moist and the polenta gave it a bit of a crunch.
Here’s the recipe:
Lemon & polenta berry squares
- 175g/6oz butter, plus extra for greasing
- 175g/6oz caster sugar
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 100g/3½oz ground almonds
- 150g/5½oz polenta
- 2 tsp baking powder
- finely grated rind of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 300g/10½oz frozen small berry fruits such as cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrents and redcurrents (I used a mixture of bluberries and strawberries sliced in half)
- icing sugar, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 23cm/9inch shallow square cake tin and line base with baking paper
- Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light & fluffy, then gradually beat the eggs into the mixture until smooth
- Add the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, lemon rind and juice and stir together until well mixed. Stir in the fruit of your choice
- Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
- Sift icing sugar lightly over to decorate and cut into squares