Soul Cakes

I thought about whomping up a rather detailed and probably controversial account of Halloween through the ages.

Instead I’m going to talk about cookies.

Medieval people went “souling” every year on All Saint’s Day (1 November). They’d go from house to house, chanting prayers or singing songs, and householders would hand out cookie-type goodies called soul cakes to them when they were finished. This custom is an ancestor of trick-or-treating, only it wasn’t just kids who’d go since you could also expect a mug of ale with your soul cake.

Want to try them? Of course you do.

Soul Cakes

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the butter and sugar until creamy. Mix all dry ingredients together, then slowly add to the butter mixture. Add enough milk to make a dough the consistency of cookie dough.

Roll the dough flat (about half an inch thick) and use a drinking glass to cut the cakes. Mark each with an X. Use your biggest knife because this makes it more awesome.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden-brown.

If you feel like being completely inauthentic, they taste great dipped in or drizzled with chocolate syrup.

This recipe was adapted from one printed in British Calendar Customs (Folklore Society of London, 1940).


About J. Anderson Coats

J. Anderson Coats writes historical fiction for young adults chockful of name-calling and petty violence. THE WICKED AND THE JUST (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) is about teenagers behaving badly in thirteenth-century Wales.

6 thoughts on “Soul Cakes

  1. Adrienne says:

    I’m baking these when I get home from work! They sound delicious.

  2. I refuse to participate in this paternalistic, commercialistic, Satanic ritual which is unsafe for children and can only lead to child abduction, poisoning, willful destruction of property, overdosing on sugar, intentional pumpkin death, boisterous good cheer in neighborhoods, and — of course — catching Ebola. But, you know, happy Halloween if you choose to celebrate. 😀

    • J says:

      I’m going to make kids sing an authentic souling song before I give them any candy this year. If they can’t, well, more candy for me.

  3. courtneymck says:

    Good call leaving the history of Halloween alone as it would have taken you forever 😉 Always go with cookie-like treats instead! I’m going to make these this weekend and probably be completely inauthentic in my topping/dipping choices.

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