A soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to commemorate the dead in the Christian tradition. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who go from door to door during the days of Allhallowtide singing and saying prayers “for the souls of the givers and their friends”. The practice in England dates to the medieval period and was continued there until the 1930s, by both Protestant and Catholic Christians. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes continues in some countries today, such as Portugal (where it is known as Pão-por-Deus) and in other countries, it is seen as the origin of the practice of trick-or-treating. In Lancashire and in the North-east of England they are also known as Harcakes. In the United States, some churches, during Allhallowtide, have invited people to come receive sweets from them and have offered “pray for the souls of their friends, relatives or even pets” as they do so.
What could be more appropriate to celebrate the season than by making soul cakes?
1 cup butter, two sticks American 3 3⁄4 cups sifted flour 1 cup fine sugar 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ginger 1 teaspoon allspice 2 eggs 2 teaspoons cider vinegar 4 -6 tablespoons milk powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or a large fork. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice; beat eggs, vinegar, and milk together. Mix with the flour mixture until a stiff dough is formed. Knead thoroughly and roll out 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds and place on greased baking sheets.
Prick several times with a fork and bake for 20-25 minutes. Presentation: Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.
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