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Halloween Soul Cakes

Ingredients: makes 12 cakes

good pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons milk, and a little extra
150g butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
500g plain flour
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons currants

How to make soul cakes … WASH YOUR HANDS

  1. Ask an adult to put the oven on to 180c / Gas Mark 4.
  2. Crush the saffron to a powder in the pestle and mortar, add the milk and pound to combine.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add the eggs, flour and spices, beat the mixture well.  Stir in the currants and add the saffron and milk mixture.  Add a little more milk if the mixture is too dry, it should form a soft dough.
  4.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into flat cakes around 5-6cm across.  Place on a greased baking tray.
  5. Ask an adult to put into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.  Leave them on the tray to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Soul Cakes originate from the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced ‘Sow-in’), which means Summers End, more commonly known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween.  The festival was to mark the end of summer and the beginning of winter, offerings were made to their gods to thank them for the harvest and pray for sufficient food to keep people fed over the winter months and for the health of their families.  This was also thought to be the start of the Celtic New Year.   A little bit like our Harvest Festival now.  This was also the time of year when people who had died were remembered, stories were told about them to keep their memories alive.

The tradition moved on through the centuries and developed into Soul Cakes. These were baked and left on the porch with a glass of milk or wine for the souls of loved ones who had died.  On All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, 1 November, children and poor people would sing the song below for their love ones to earn the treat of a Soul cake that evolved into the modern day version of trick or treating.

A soul, a soul, a soul cake.
Please god missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
Up with your kettles and down with your pans
Give us an answer and we’ll be gone
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate
Crying for butter to butter his cake
One for St Peter, two for St Paul,
Three for the man who made us all.

Another version sung in parts of the Midlands and Lancashire is:

Soul! Soul! For an apple or two
If you have no apples, pears will do.
If you have no pears, money will do.
If you have no money,  God bless you!
Often the children would be accompanied by a hobby horse (very much an echo of the ancient Celtic past here), which, typically, was called the Hooden Horse at this time of year.