“A Soul Cake, a Soul Cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!”
Early Days of Trick-or-Treating
From the English Catholics we get begging from door to door, the earlier and more pure form of “trick-or-treating.” Children would go about begging their neighbors for a “Soul Cake,” for which they would say a prayer for those neighbors’ dead. Instead of knocking on a door and saying the threatening, “Trick-or-treat,” children would say either:
A Soul Cake, a Soul Cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!
Soul, soul, an apple or two, If you haven’t an apple, a pear will do, One for Peter, two for Paul, Three for the Man Who made us all.
While Soul Cakes were originally a type of shortbread, it is said that a clever medieval cook wanted to make Soul Cakes designed to remind people of eternity, so she cut a hole in the middle of round cakes before frying them, thereby inventing donuts! Fresh plain cake donuts would be a nice food to eat on this day.
For lots of ideas on Halloween and All Saints, check out my multipage document, with bibliography: All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints Day.
A Recipe for Soul Cakes (from CatholicCulture.org)
- 6 cups sifted all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 envelope active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 egg white, slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Cream shortening and sugar. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of sugar has been added. Set aside.
Scald milk and add to the creamed mixture. When cooled add yeast mixture and stir until thoroughly blended.
Sift together flour, salt, and spices, and add gradually to other ingredients, kneading into a soft dough.
Set sponge to rise in warm place in greased covered bowl.
When doubled in bulk, shape into small round or oval buns. Brush tops with slightly beaten egg white.
Bake in moderately hot oven (400° F.) for 15 minutes.
Drop temperature to 350 ° F. and bake until delicately browned and thoroughly done.
(Recipe Source: Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960)
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.
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