I’ve heard of the tradition of soul cakes for years, but being an American, and more so, a Texan, they are not something that has ever been a part of my Halloween experience. But an English friend of mine posted a picture of the treats on social media, and I decided it was high time I found out what they’re like.
The history of soul cakes
Dating back to the Middle Ages, soul cakes began as a tradition in Britain and Ireland. These small, cake-like cookies (that’s what we Americans call them) were given to children as they went from door to door, offering prayers for the souls of those who have gone before in exchange for the treat. Sound familiar? Yes, these cakes are the origin of the modern-day concept of trick-or-treating. So of course, being historic and spooky and English, I just had to make them.
Just FYI, they are delicious. Though they are traditionally made with raisins, I decided to make mine with dried cranberries instead. It seemed more apropos for the holidays.
Also, this recipe is adapted from the original English measurements my friend so graciously gave me, so that’s why the amounts are odd. But I made them (in the picture) with the amounts listed below and they turned out perfect!
- 1 1/2 stick butter
- 1 1/2 c. + 1 tbsp powdered sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 c. dried cranberries
- approx. 1/2 c. milk
Preheat oven to 350º.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then add yolks one at a time.
Sift the flour and pumpkin pie spice into another bowl. Then slowly beat into the butter-sugar mixture. At this point, the dough will be crumbly. Add milk in small amounts until it comes together like biscuit dough (it will be sticky. That’s okay.) Fold in cranberries.
Dump 1/2 the dough on a well-floured cutting board and roll out to 1/2″ thick with a rolling pin. Use a biscuit cutter to cut into circles. Don’t forget to mark each cake with a cross (you can use a butter knife for this). Place cakes 1″ apart on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-13 minutes. Cool on a rack and enjoy!
Mine did not turn golden but instead turned to a lovely creamy color. They are soft and cake-like, but with a denser consistency like a scone (but not as dry). Next year, I will definitely make these for breakfast on Halloween morning, as I can imagine they pair nicely with a cup of coffee.
Happy Halloween, my friends!