Soul Cakes – an ancient Halloween tradition


Soul Cakes are a spicy shortbread which used to be baked on All Hallows Eve (Halloween). The word “Halloween” comes from All Hallows’ Eve and means “hallowed evening.” Trick or treating is thought to come from the practice of “souling”, when poor Irish peasants went door to door on All Hallows Eve begging homeowners for food to celebrate the occasion. Soul cakes were given to them. This ensured the homeowner would be free from a curse or prank. Each soul cake was said to represent a soul in Purgatory and in exchange for a cake, the souler would promise to pray for the dead of that household.

Here is a version of a song that was sung by children in the 19th century when they went “souling”:

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

This is a recipe from ( originally from the Texarkana Pagan and Witches group on MSN. Soul cakes were the original trick-or-treat goody.


SERVES: Makes about 18-20 cakes (biscuits)

1 Cup – 226gms – unsalted butter

3 ¾ cups – 520 gms – plain flour, sifted

1 Cup – 200gms – castor sugar

¼ teaspoon ground Nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground allspice

2 eggs

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

4-6 tablespoons milk

Icing sugar to sprinkle on top


Preheat oven to 180°C.

Cream the butter and add the flour – mix.

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 and roll out about 1 cm thick.

Cut into 70mm (3-inch) rounds and place on greased baking sheets. Prick several times with a fork and bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly brown.

Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.