Yesterday (November 2nd) was All Souls Day – a day traditionally set aside for the commemoration and celebration of the dead. There are all sorts of traditions around the world for All Souls Day, from pilgrimages to graveyards to leaving supper out for the dead at bed time.
One European tradition is the making, giving and eating of ‘Soul Cakes’.
The recipe I found is originally from the Cheshire/North Wales Border area which is quite local to me and is thought to be from the Victorian age although its traditional simplicity implies it could be much older.
Traditional Soul Cake Recipe (Note: Soul Cakes are in actual fact biscuits, very similar to shortbread)
340g Plain Flour (sifted)
170g Butter (softened, cubed)
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Mixed Spice
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 Egg (beaten)
2 tsp White Wine Vinegar
You Will Also Need:
Whisk (or Fork to beat the egg)
2 Flat Baking Trays (Greased or Lined with Baking Paper)
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (I didn’t have any Ground Nutmeg so grated some in fresh – probably about half a teaspoon but I didn’t measure it.)
Add in the beaten egg and white wine vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a firm dough.
Cover and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
(At this point I forgot that the dough involved vinegar and licked the spoon. I advise you don’t do this – I couldn’t get the taste of vinegar out of my mouth for absolutely ages…)
When you remove the dough from the fridge, preheat your oven to 200ºC (I did mine at 180ºC as I have a fan oven) and grease/line your baking trays.
Flour a flat surface and roll your dough out to about ¼” thick (7mm) and cut it into round shapes with a cookie cutter. (Mine made about 14 rounds and four or five small flower shapes from the left over dough)
Traditionally, each round is marked with a cross to signify their ‘purpose’ as Alms for the dead. I did this by using the handle of a knife to press a simple cross into each biscuit.
Bake in the oven on the baking trays for 15 to 20 minutes until they are slightly coloured. (They smell very vinegary at the start of baking, but don’t w.orry – the taste cooks out entirely)
They are delicious served either warm from the oven or cool later.
I ‘decorated’ mine by mixing some icing sugar and water to make icing and drizzling this into the cross shapes.
Apparently, each Soul Cake eaten frees a soul from Purgatory and if this is true then we certainly freed a few last night because the Soul Cakes were so tasty we ate almost all of them!!
It is thought that the tradition of sharing Soul Cakes with children and beggars (also known as ‘Souling’) on All Souls Day could be one of the things behind the modern tradition of Trick or Treating at Hallowe’en.
Thanks to the team at Steenbergs for sending me a pot of their FairTrade Mixed Spice to bake with – it smells and tastes divine. Much bolder and tastier than any other Mixed Spice I have used in the past.
Thanks also to the Stork team who sent me a tub of Stork to bake with.
Both products received as part of the Great Bloggers Bake Off team, all opinions are my own.