NZTC International - Word of the Week: Soul cake

NZTC International - Word of the Week: Soul cake


No, this week's word has nothing to do with Afro-American cuisine, but is a timely reminder of the origins of Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Soul cakes are part of an old English tradition of "soul-caking" and "souling". Soulers, usually children of the poor, would go from door to door singing prayers for the dead, and in return would be given these small, sweet, round or oval cakes. The tradition was particularly popular along the Welsh border. Brought to North America from Britain, this custom evolved into today's practice of "trick and treating". In Portugal, the custom continues as Pão-por-Deus (Bread of God), celebrated on 1 November, which in Spain is Dia de Todos-os-Santos (All Saints' Day).

So, to get into the spirit of these ancient Halloween traditions, here's a soul cake recipe for you to try, all the way from Shropshire. These buns can be served hot with berry jam and accompanied with a mug of cider or hot chocolate and marshmellows:

Soul cake recipe

• 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup butter
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 envelope active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup lukewarm water
• 1 egg white, slightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 2 cups milk
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 4 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

This should produce around 18-24 cakes and take about 3 1/2 hours to make.


Cream the shortening and sugar. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of sugar has been added. Set aside. Scald the milk and add to the creamed mixture. When cooled, add yeast mixture and stir until thoroughly blended. Sift together flour, salt, and spices, and add gradually to other ingredients, kneading into a soft dough. Set sponge to rise in a warm place in a greased covered bowl. When doubled in bulk, shape into small round or oval buns. Brush tops with slightly beaten egg white. Bake in moderately hot oven at 200° C (400° F) for 15 minutes. Drop temperature to 175° C (350 ° F) and bake until delicately browned and thoroughly done. (Recipe Source: Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960).