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Friday 24 September |
The Blessed Virgin Mary—Our Lady of Walsingham

Soul cakes!

Simcha Fisher - published on 11/02/16

On All Soul’s Day, if we can manage it, we bake soul cakes. Here’s the recipe I use, because it doesn’t include yeast.

These dense, fragrant little cakes are a good way of helping your kids step down from cramming Kit Kats into their faces for several hours a day. They are sweet, but also pleasantly spicy and old-fashioned tasting, and quite easy to make. I’ll make beef stew to go with ours. I didn’t have cider vinegar, so I used regular, and used cloves in place of allspice. You can add currants or raisins or whatever else you like. Medieval recipes are forgiving!


We used to sing “Soul Cakes” as a round when I was little. Sting has recorded a version, but it’s really unbearably Sting-y (and also veers off into Christmas territory), so here’s a more toothsome rendition:

Going “souling” was a kind of ritual begging on All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day, when children and the poor would go house to house, singing and collecting cakes and other treats, and offering prayers for the dead in return. We got our begging in on Monday, so we’ll settle for eating some warm spicy cakes after school, and adding some extra prayers for the dead to our evening routine.

And now that I’ve snared you in by talking about food, here’s a reminder: Praying for the dead ought to be a part of our daily life, as members of the Communion of Saints. To make sure you fit it in, why not add it to grace before meals? “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.” Takes two seconds, frightens guests, and pays into that bank of grace. If you help souls get out of purgatory, you can bet that they’ll help you when it’s your turn. Easy peasy, no yeast necessary.

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