Honoring our ancestors
During the month of October, people all over the world are paying homage to their ancestors. It is believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and dead is at it thinnest on Samhain so this is the perfect time for us to reflect on our history and honor those who have come before us.
There are many ways to do this–from lighting candles in your home or garden, setting up an altar or shrine with edible offerings, writing letters or poetry about your memories of them, dancing under the moonlight–or even making soul cakes!
What are Soul Cakes?
Soul cakes are small cakes traditionally baked as a way to honor ancestors, departed loved ones, and celebrate the beauty of life on Samhain. These small round cakes made of flour and spices were given as offerings and were generally made with ingredients like oats or wheat, honey, butter or oil for sustenance; salt for wisdom; cinnamon to help banish negative energies; nutmeg to bring prosperity into your home; and ginger for healing.
What is the tradition of soul cakes?
The tradition of soul cakes is a fascinating one that really takes us back to the roots of Halloween. In medieval times, families would prepare these cakes as a way to honor and remember loved ones who have passed away. The cakes themselves were often simple, but they carried a weight of significance. They were essentially offerings to the souls of the departed, a way to provide them with sustenance for their journey in the afterlife.
Children and the impoverished would engage in “souling,” a custom where they’d go from door to door, often singing soulful hymns or offering prayers for the dead. In exchange, they would receive a soul cake. This practice was a communal ritual that allowed people to connect with the spiritual realm while also providing for those less fortunate. The cakes, sometimes referred to as “souls,” served as a tangible link between the living and the dead, the earthly and the divine.
Now, as for the connection to modern-day Halloween and trick-or-treating, it’s quite likely that our contemporary practices are a throwback to these older traditions. The act of going door to door, the exchange of food, and even the focus on the spooky and the spiritual all echo the essence of ancient Halloween customs like souling. So, when you see kids running around in costumes, shouting “trick or treat,” remember that they’re participating in a ritual that has deep, historical roots, whether they realize it or not.
Isn’t it amazing how traditions evolve yet somehow manage to retain their core essence? It’s like a thread that weaves through time, connecting us to the wisdom and practices of those who came before us.
Recipe for Soul Cakes
The best thing about this recipe for soul cakes is that they are made with basic kitchen staples and ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen right now such as flour, butter, eggs, milk, spices, and raisins.
Soul Cakes: An Offering for Our Ancestors
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- electric mixer
- small bowl
- Small Sauce Pan
- round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 stick 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup currants or raisins
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine the flour, spices and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.
- Warm the milk in a small saucepan. Remove from heat.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.
- One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won't need the entire half-cup.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.
- Decorate the soul cakes with currants or raisins and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny. Serve warm.
We hope you enjoyed the recipe for soul cakes. If you’re looking to learn more about how Samhain is celebrated, please take a look at some of our most popular articles.
- Samhain Celebration Guide
- Samhain: The History, Folklore & Magical Meaning Of The Final Harvest
- A Simple Samhain Ritual to Honor Our Ancestors
- 6 Ideas for Hosting the Perfect Samhain Celebration
- Crafting Your Own Besom: Explore the Magic of the Witch’s Broom
- The Magical Wheel of the Year: 8 Sabbats For Seasonal Living
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