A soul for a soul cake- Halloween traditional food

Trick or treat! Happy Halloween, Mister.

Today we are gonna talk about a little bit history of Halloween, as this is the most fun day in autumn, full of spooky decoration, and monsters or superheroes show up around in town. It’s really unique from any other holidays. But in the other hand, I also find Halloween is somehow familiar, why? Because the culture where I come from, Taiwan, is quite a place where keep the old tradition Daoism ritual, every July in Chinese lunar calendar is a month of ghost (鬼月)… yeah… we call it directly that way, and it’s a whole month of “celebration/ respect” the spirits who come out from hell for a break. I still remember how my grandma prepared a whole table of deliciousness, light up candles and scents, we pray to the gods and pray for the spirits, wish they all enjoy the feast then we can eat the food afterward. In the month, we have lots of dos and don’ts… such as, don’t go swimming, don’t whistle at nights…etc. since people believe the spirits are powerful and should be respected, and may play some tricks if you are disrespectful to them. Therefore, there are always a lot of stories and rumors, between how the ghosts played tricks or some horror stories. Maybe we will talk more about this on some Asian recipe, but today we are going to talk about western Halloween. How did it all begin? And more importantly, what did the ancient eat on this special day?

The feast of All Hallows’, on its current date in the Western Church, may be traced to Pope Gregory III’s (731–741) founding of an oratory in St Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs, and confessors”. In 835, All Hallows’ Day was officially switched to 1 November, the dead at the beginning of winter. They may have seen it as the most fitting time to do so, as it is a time of ‘dying’ in nature. The word Halloween or Hallowe’en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word “Hallowe’en” means “Saints’ evening”. It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day).

By the end of the 12th century, they had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing church bells for the souls in purgatory. In addition, “it was customary for criers dressed in black to parade the streets, ringing a bell of mournful sound and calling on all good Christians to remember the poor souls. “Souling”, the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls, has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating.

The custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century and was found in parts of England, Flanders, Germany, and Austria. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collecting soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives. Soul cakes would also be offered for the souls themselves to eat, or the ‘soulers’ would act as their representatives. As with the Lenten tradition of hot cross buns, Allhallowtide soul cakes were often marked with a cross, indicating that they were baked as alms. Shakespeare mentions souling in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593). On the custom of wearing costumes, Christian minister Prince Sorie Conteh wrote: “It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities”.

So as a foodie, we definitely want to try the soul cakes! This recipe is adapted from lavenderandlovage.com. Share with you guys.

halloween history tradition food soul cakeshalloween tradition food soul cakes 萬聖節傳統食物

Serves 10-20 people, makes 12-20

preparation time 20 mins, cooking time12-15 mins.


175g unsalted butter

175g caster white sugar

3 egg yolks

450g all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons mixed/All spice

100g currants or raisins

1 tablespoon milk

Cooking steps:

Step1: Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F. Cream the butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy and then beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

Step 2: In a separate bowl, sift the flour and the all spices together and add to the wet mixture along with the currants or raisins (reserving a small handful to decorate the tops later).

Step 3: Mix with a wooden spoon and then add milk to pull everything together into a dough.

Step 4: Roll out to a thickness of around 1cm and cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter. Use a straight-sided knife to make a slight cross indent in the top of each cake and then push in raisins along it.

Step 5: Place on a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray and bake for 12 to 15 mins on the fire or in the oven until golden. Allow to cool before eating.

halloween tradition food soul cakesdead halloween souling soul cakeshalloween dinnerhalloween food on my tablehalloween tradition soul cakes dinnerhalloween history tradition food soul cakes

The recipe is just as easy as it is, and turned out really well! I used raisins since I couldn’t find currants. The texture is more like a scone or a cookie, even though they have a name with cakes, but it’s really surprisingly good! I thought I was not a big fan of cinnamon, but now I know I was wrong, the cinnamon really adds the unique flavor to these. We enjoyed it so much with hot tea and coffee, it truly is a wonderful food for Halloween, wish you enjoy this post, and share with me how you like the soul cakes or any spooky stories. 🙂

Trick or treat!