I tried a new recipe for the first time today. Actually two new recipes. I made whole wheat soul cakes and gluten free soul cakes. Both kinds turned out really well. I’ll put the explanation after the recipes because I noticed as I was looking for recipes that it was really annoying to scroll past paragraphs and paragraphs of text looking for the recipes.
Whole Wheat Soul Cakes
1 cup (two sticks) butter
3 3⁄4 cups sifted flour (I did 2 cups whole wheat and 1 3/4 cups white, but you can do all white flour or whatever mix you want)
1 cup sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
4 -6 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup currants if you have them
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a large fork.
Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice; beat eggs, vinegar, and milk together.
Mix with the flour mixture until a stiff dough is formed. Add currants if you have them.
Knead thoroughly and roll out 1/4-inch thick.
Cut into 3-inch rounds and place on greased baking sheets. Prick several times with a fork and bake for 20-25 minutes.
(Adpated from this soul cake recipe at Food.com)
Gluten Free Soul Cakes
340g gluten free flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF all purpose blend)
170g salted butter (diced)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg (beaten)
2 tsp of white wine vinegar
1/3 cup of currants (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 and grease 2 flat baking trays (I used parchment paper instead of greasing)
Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl – flour, spices, and sugar. Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (I just used the food processor to blend in the butter.) Add in the beaten egg and vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon until a firm dough is made. Add currants if you have them. Then cover it and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Flour a working surface and roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thick and using a large round pastry cutter cut into rounds, (optional: use a straight edge to press into, and then draw a cross shape, in the top of the dough). Place these rounds on the greased baking tray, sprinkle with sugar, and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 375 until slightly coloured. Serve warm or cold.
(Adpated from this soul cake recipe)
What Are Soul Cakes?
No one seems to be sure of the exact origin of the custom, whether it’s medieval or predates Christian practice. Certainly you could credibly trace it back to the practice of leaving votive offerings for the dead and it’s likely that practice was baptized by the Christians as were so many pagan customs. In any case during the Middle Ages and afterwards in England and Ireland for All Saint’s/All Souls, or perhaps the Eve of All Saints (the calendar was different, so that’s kind of unclear to me which it was or perhaps it was all three) people would go about towns and villages singing and praying for the souls of the dead. They would stop at homes and beg for a “soul cake” and promise in return to pray for the household’s deceased family members to be released from purgatory. According to some sources if homeowners did not give out cakes it was believed their home would be cursed. And this custom of going door to door to get treats (or to curse those who don’t give treats) is thought to be the origin of trick or treating.
There are many recipes for soul cakes. Some variations include cutting a cross on the top or adding raisins or currants. I’d have added currants if I hadn’t been out of them, alas.
There’s even a traditional song, probably one of many versions:
Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!
Soul Cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, & three for Him who made us all.
In any case, today is All Souls’ Day, or the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. Yesterday on the Feast of All Saints, we celebrated all those dead who already rejoice in heaven. Today we pray for all those souls who still groan in purgatory that they may join the inhabitants of the heavenly city as soon as possible. So I taught my kids to pray: May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon them.
Other references: Wikipedia article on Soul Cakes