In many European countries, the idea of “Souling” became an acceptable alternative to pagan Samhain rituals for Christians. Souling was a visiting custom carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries. The soulers visited houses, sang a song and collected money, food, and/or drink.
A common ‘treat’ for soulers were Soul Cakes. Traditionally a gift for the spirits of the dead, they became a tithe paid to soulers who then pledged to pray for the souls of those who had passed to the Otherworld.
The cakes took many different names and shapes – from simple shortbread to fruit-filled tarts. Generally, a soul cake was made with whatever grain the community had available. Here is a modernized version of an old recipe:
Two sticks butter, softened
3 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg & saffron
1 tsp each cinnamon & allspice
2 tsp malt vinegar
Cut the butter into the flour with a large fork. Mix in the sugar, nutmeg, saffron, cinammon and allspice. Lightly beat eggs, and add to flour mixture. Add malt vinegar. Mix until you have a stiff dough. Knead for a while, then roll out until 1/4″ thick. Use a floured glass to cut out 3″ circles. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while the cakes are still warm.