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Soul Cakes: The Original Halloween Treat

Oct 16, 2012 08:48PM ● By Anonymous

 More biscuit-like in consistency than an actual cake, Soul Cakes harkens back to the Middle Ages in Britain and Ireland. NPR did a story on the cakes in 2007, saying this:

Samhain was the festival of the dying sun god, and its dark power stayed potent even as the old ways faded. Samhain became All Souls' Eve and All Souls' Day. The practice of gathering round a bonfire waned. Instead, night visitors of the Dark Ages began to venture abroad, going house to house. If they were lucky, they would be met at the doorstep with a plate of sweet and steaming soul cakes.

Essentially, it was an early form of trick-or-treating, and each cake eaten represented a soul being freed from purgatory. These days, we wander from house to house on Halloween, which occurs two days before All Souls’ Day, and few of us think about releasing souls from purgatory. But that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in a seasonal baked good!

Soul Cake recipe
Originally from // makes 12 to 15 2-inch soul cakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup currants

For the Glaze

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.

Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.

One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won't need the entire half-cup.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.

Decorate the soul cakes with currants and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny. Serve warm, with cold pumpkin juice.