November is a month that seems to sneek up on us, unannounced, bringing it’s gloomy short days along with it. Aside from January, November has to be my least favourite month of the year, historically it’s always been a month where things tend to go wrong, throw in the clocks going back, making the night start to draw in around 5pm & you can see why it’s a recipe for disaster. Thankfully we have a few festivities early on the month to ease us in, perhaps most notable being Allhallowtide, the season encompassing All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day & All Souls’ Day.
All Souls’ Day is the third & final day of this season, landing on November 2nd. It is a day of prayer & remembrance for the faithful departed. In medieval times, ‘Souling’ would take place the night before All Souls’ Day, a night where ‘Soulers’ (usually the poor & children) would go from door to door begging for soul cakes. Despite the name, these small round cakes which are more of a scone-cum biscuit confection. Similar to a shortbread but filled with sweet spice & currants, the soul cakes are topped with the mark of a cross to signify that they were alms (goods donated to those living in poverty which are considered an act of virtue of charity).
Upon receipt of a cake, the soulers would sing & say prayers for the souls of the cake givers, their friends & deceased relatives thought to be in purgatory. This medieval custom has all but disappeared these day, with a slight exception in parts of Sheffield. As a lover of all things food history & keeping traditions alive, how could I not bring you my own recipe for these interesting little cakes. They’re incredibly easy to make, & you would suspect using only basic ingredients, they’re delicious with a cuppa!
(makes around 14)
- 120g butter
- 120g caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 300g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- Pinch of salt
- 90g currants
- 2-4 tbsp milk
- Begin by beating together the butter & sugar in a large bowl
- Add the egg yolks to the bowl & beat to combine
- Next, sift over the flour, baking powder, mixed spice & salt before adding in the currants
- Mix everything together until the mixture begins to clump together
- Add in just enough milk to finish bringing everything together into a dough
- Shape the dough into a ball & empty onto a well floured worksurface
- Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to approximately 1/2 cm thick
- Using a 7cm round cutter, cut out the cakes & transfer to a parchment lined baking tray, re-rolling any leftover dough
- Next, use a blunt knife or spoon handle to cut a deep cross into the top of each one, being careful not to cut all the way through the cakes
- Bake the soul cakes at 180C for 15 minutes, until lightly golden in colour
- Leave to cool on the baking tray for 10 minutes before removing & placing on a cooling rack
- The biscuits will keep in an airtight container for around 3 days
Thank you for sharing both the recipe and the traditions behind it! It sounds like a wonderful tradition, its sounds similar to commemorating the faithfully departed in some faiths which is also around this time on month.
We will try this recipe at some point as it sounds delicious!
Also, I just wanted to say that your red velvet beetroot cake is one of our favourites which we keep returning too!
We have enjoyed it with family on many occasions and have also directed them to your Instagram. My sister has made the cake and loved it too! (she doesn’t have Instagram but I’ve have directed her to your website).
My son (24) loves it so much that he has taken to baking it himself and does a great job!
As a family, we enjoy baking, cooking and eating together, well, we are Greek Cypriot so food is number one on our list at home!!!
At some point in the future I will be sure to show you photos of our version, obviously not as pretty but very scrumptious!
I wish you a comforting and nourishing winter season!
Thank you so much for your comment, you have no idea how truly wonderful this is to read this!
I’m so happy that any of my recipes can bring a little happiness to you & your family, especially so that it’s red velvet cake, it’s one of my favourite recipes too, the one that always gets made for our family special occasions.
I would absolutely love to see some photos of your bakes one day & hope that you all continue to enjoy them!