Today, November 2nd, is All Souls’ Day, a day when people of some faiths and regions honour the faithful departed. Masses are held in Catholic churches to honour those who have passed on as well as in hopes that our prayers and offerings will help to assist the souls in Purgatory to reach Heaven. It is also a common time for visits to cemeteries, often with foods and drinks being placed at the graves of loved ones. This day comes just the day after All Saints’ Day, a day to honour those who were beatified prior to their death.
There was an old English custom on All Souls’ Day known as “soul-caking” where people would go door to door begging for soul cakes. These cakes were made in remembrance of the dead and the soulers (as they were called) would sing songs and recite prayers for the dead in exchange for them. It was believed that each soul cake eaten would free one soul from Purgatory.
The songs were often little rhymes and chants along the lines of:
“Soul, soul! For an apple or two! If you have no apples, pears will do. If you have no pears, money will do. If you have no money, God bless you!” (reminds me of the song “Christmas is Coming”).
“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, anything good thing to make us all merry. One for Peter, one for Paul, & three for Him who made us all”. …lyrics from A Soalin’, a holiday song written and performed by Peter, Paul and Mary (1963).
Soul cakes often varied from place to place. Some were flat and oval while others were rounder and more like a bun. Some resembled shortbread, while others were spicy sweet cakes and still others were filled with dried fruit more like a traditional Christmas fruitcake In some areas, they were even made more in the form of fruit filled tarts.
Here’s an easy recipe for soul cakes that are fruit filled pie crusts. You use one of the refrigerated pie crusts (or make your favourite recipe) and cut it into circles. Place each circle in a section of a muffin tin. Combine 2 T. melted butter, 1 cup dried fruit of your choice (or use a mixture), and 2 T. honey. Fill the mini pie shells with this mixture and bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes. Let cool for a bit before eating as the filling will be very hot!
Here’s a link to a spicy cake recipe for soul cakes: http://www.greenchronicle.com/recipes/soul_cake_recipe.htm