All Hallows’ Eve : Soul Cakes

Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve goes back as far as 2000 years ago to a Celtic festival held around November 1st called Samhain, meaning, “summer’s end”.  This traditional holiday was a time for an annual communal gathering to celebrate the end of the harvest year.  A time to gather resources needed for the winter months. Samhain was also a time of communing with the dead.  “There was a belief that it was a day when spirits of the dead would cross over into the other world” – Santino.  Over the course of time, supernatural entities including fairies and witches came to be associated with Halloween.


Many traditions have been centered around this holiday throughout the ages. A favorite is Trick or Treating. The history of this tradition has several origins, with one being tied to “Soul Cakes”.

Soul cakes are an old English traditional cake, sometimes known simply as ‘souls’. The tradition of giving out soul cakes on All Hallows’ Eve dates back to the Middle Ages, when children went door-to-door saying prayers for the dead  On All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, children went ‘souling’, asking for soul cakes from house to house: quite possibly a precursor to trick or treating.

In the late 1800′s the traditional idea of the trick was established, playing tricks on members of the local community.  Trick or treating didn’t truly begin until the start of World War ll, where American children went out on Thanksgiving to ask for food.  This was known as Thanksgiving begging.




Soul Cakes (traditional recipe)


175g butter

175g caster sugar

3 egg yolks

450g plain flour

2 teaspoons mixed spice

100g currants

a little milk to mix


1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/Fan 170/375F. Cream the butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy and then beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

2. In a separate bowl, sieve the flour and the spices together and add to the wet mixture along with the currants (reserving a small handful to decorate the tops later).

3. Mix with a wooden spoon and then add some milk to pull everything together into a dough.

4. Roll out to a thickness of around 1cm and cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter. Use a straight-sided knife to make a slight cross indent in the top of each cake and then push in raisins along it.

5. Place on a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray and bake for 10 to 15 mins on the fire or in the oven until golden. Allow to cool before eating. Makes 12 – 15 cakes.


Soul Cakes (updated recipe)


1 cup butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

3 cups flour, sifted

cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger- 1/4 teaspoon each

a pinch of salt

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup half fat greek yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 170C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and spices; set aside.

3. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar together, until pale and fluffy.

4. Add the yolks one at a time, beating well in between. Add the cranberries and combine.

5. Add the flour mixture gradually and finally the the yogurt to form a moist dough.

6. Roll out on a well-floured surface, cut out medium sized ‘cakes’ using a cookie- cutter and, using a knife, mark them with a cross.

7. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 12- 15 minutes, until golden brown, rotating halfway through.

8. Take out of the oven and let cool on a wire rack.



Source: The Simple Things

Photography: The Tasty Other


Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *