I've always loved the annual tradition of trick-or-treating. When my boys outgrow this tradition, I may have to borrow some neighborhood kids so I can still go out with the little ghouls and goblins! It turns out that trick-or-treating dates back to the English All Souls' Day parades, where poor people would go door-to-door asking for food. Families would give them "soul cake" pastries in exchange for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives. Churches encouraged this practice, thinking it was a nifty way to replace the age-old tradition of Samhain, where people would leave out food and red wine for dead spirits. This new tradition was called going "a-souling" and kids eventually took over the task - they would visit homes in their neighborhoods and call out "Soul, Soul, for a Soul Cake: pray you good mistress, a soul cake."
Wearing costumes also has ties to Celtic and European cultures. Winter was really frightening for people hundreds of years ago. There was little food, the days were short, and most people were plain afraid of the dark. Most people thought ghosts came back to earth on Halloween, and they were obviously terrified of leaving their homes. They wore masks if they had to go out in the dark so that the ghosts would think they were fellow ghosts. Big bowls of food were placed in front of their doors to keep the ghosts happy and to prevent them from entering their homes.
In honor of all this craziness, I've decided to make soul cakes for Halloween. I'm hoping they'll make for some interesting breakfast food in the morning! Tomorrow night's recipe? Pumpkin Lasagna!
Soul Cake Recipe
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup caster/superfine sugar
4 cups plain flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons currants
a little milk
(see measure conversions for more information)
- Cream the butter and sugar together until pale in colour and fluffy in texture.
- Beat in the egg yolks.
- Fold in the sifted flour and spices.
- Stir in the currants.
- Add enough milk to make a soft dough.
- Form into flat cakes and mark each top with a cross.
- Bake on a well-greased baking tray in a hot oven until golden.