Tuesday 1 November 2016

Soul Cakes

When I was researching about cakes from Sheffield I came across several mentions of Caking or Cakey Day. How have I not heard of Caking day before?! From people's memories it seemed to occur anytime from 30th October to 2nd November. I decided to look further into it and found it was a mix of trick or treating for Halloween and the ancient custom of offering food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls' Day.

Around Halloween in Sheffield many kids in the past got involved in Mischief Night. Supposedly this was the night before Halloween on 30th October. The 'mischief' could range from pranks such as knocking on doors and running away all the way up to setting fire to dustbins. Halloween night would involve a bit of trick or treating and then it would be Caking Night on 1st November which is actually All Hallows Day or All Saints' Day. On 2nd November for All Souls' Day all those who have died are remembered and offerings of food are given to them.

There seems to be a standard basic recipe for Soul Cakes which really is more a biscuit than a cake. Where the Sheffield Soul Cakes differ is that it specifically says that they don't contain dried fruit and there's no mention of them having a cross on them. It does seem over the years the religious and spiritual side of 'Souling' has fallen by the wayside. Originally people would dress up in disguise, known as Guisers, and would go from house to house begging for soul cakes in exchange for promising prayers for the dead. Up until the 1970s it was common place in some South Yorkshire villages to dress up in disguise as someone else from the village. In some places this would be a competition judged at the local pub. It seems this tradition has now died out probably as Halloween activities have taken over from All Souls' Day.

Makes 24
Equipment: Large bowl, electric whisk/beaters, baking tray lined with non-stick paper, rolling pin, 3in (7.5cm) round pastry cutter, wire rack.


6oz (170g) Unsalted butter, softened
6oz (170g) Caster sugar
3 Egg yolks
1lb (450g) Plain flour plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp (5ml) Mixed spice
Pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp (30-45ml) Milk
Icing sugar for dusting


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
3. Beat the egg yolks in one by one.
4. Sift over the flour, mixed spice and salt.
5. Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough, adding milk to help it bind.
6. Turn out onto a floured surface for rolling out.
7. Roll out to around ½ inch (1.5cm) and then cut out individual 'cakes' with the cutter. Place on the prepared baking tray and prick all over with a fork.
8. Bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown. If baking in batches reduce the cooking time for any further batches.

9. Transfer to wire rack and then dust with the icing sugar while still warm.

1 comment:

  1. A nice, easy recipe, I'll give it a try. I have heard of soul cakes before but didn't know the rest of the story.
    It's a shame that some customs have died out, especially when they involve specific foods. More especially if they are replaced by highly commercial customs from across the pond. If only we could bring back the simpler ones where being there with friends and family is more important than how much you spend.


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