In Lancashire and the North East of England, the little soul cakes are known as Harcakes.
It may be the origin of trick-or-treating, no-one knows for sure.
Usually, the little cakes were filled with all spice, nutmeg, cinnamon or ginger, together with currants or raisins. They were topped with the mark of a cross to signify that they were alms. (A bit like hot cross buns.)
To be fair, soul cakes are more like a cross between a scone and a shortbread than a cake.
Children and poor members of the community would go out begging for the cakes. They were often set out on a tray with cups of wine on All Hallows Eve (or Halloween, as we now call it) as an offering for the dead.
A song was often sung by children as they went around souling and in 1891, Reverend Holme, of Tattenhall, Cheshire wrote down the words and melody of the song which he learned from a little girl at the local school.
The song was published two years later, by folklorist, Lucy Broadwood. Throughout Britiain, different versions of the song appeared right up until the 1950s.
There are folk singers who still sing a version of the song today. This is part of the song, as recorded by the world famous American folk trio, Peter Paul & Mary in 1963.
They called it A' Soalin
Soul, soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him what made us all!
Soul cake, soul cake, please good missus, 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, and three for Him who made us all.
If you'd like to have a go at making these sweet & spicy little cakes for Halloween, here's the recipe:
Ingredients: 340 g plain flour
170 g granulated sugar
170 g butter
100 g currants of raisins
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon allspice 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 egg, beaten 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar raisins (optional)
Instructions: 1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Rub the diced butter into the flour mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
3. Add the sugar, fruit and the spices and combine well
4. Add the vinegar & egg. Mix until it comes together into a ball of dough.
5. Cover the ball of dough in the bowl and leave to chill for 20 minutes.
3.Lightly flour a clean, flat surface and roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into large rounds using a cookie cutter. Use the end of a wooden spoon to press a cross shape into the cakes. Place the cakes onto the baking sheets and press raisins into the top of the cakes, if desired. Gather the scraps together and roll again until all the dough has been cut into cakes.
Bake, one sheet at a time, for 12-15 minutes, or until the cake tops are lightly golden. Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
Store in an airtight container for about a week.
Author: Kym Frederick
Kym is Newport City Radio's mother hen. Every week she turns up to our team meeting with a selection of tasty cakes and she makes a mean cup of tea!
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