On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.
"A soul cake, a soul cake, pray good missus a soul cake..."
Soul Cakes of various sorts are found through out European traditions. They were left out for wandering souls, or placed on their graves on All Hallow's Day/All Souls' Eve [that's November 1st, the evening before November 2st which was All Souls Day]; or given to beggers or the poor in lieu of the dead. It was said by some that for every cake given away and eaten, a soul was released from purgatory. The children's custom of going from door to door a-souling, singing the above mentioned chant, asking for soul cakes, can be seen to be behind the Halloween custom of "Trick-or-Treating". Behind all of this, of course are ancient Pagan customs associated with Samhain , the Celtic New Year holiday on October 31st [it's pronounced "sow-in" (rhyming with "now")].
( description and recipe © Copyright 2006 by ClassBrain.com )
Two sticks butter
3 and 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 cup fine white sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or mace
1 teaspoon each, cinnamon, ginger, allspice
2 teaspoons malt vinegar (or cider vinegar)
Oven: 350 degrees bake 20-25 minutes
Method : Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender (or a large fork); Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and spice; and mix to a stiff dough with the beaten eggs and vinegar. Knead thoroughly and roll out, 1/4 inch thick; cut into 3 inch rounds and set on greased baking sheets. Prick cakes with a fork and bake; sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar while still warm.
Alternative method : Cream butter and sugar. Mix in lightly beaten eggs and vinegar. Sift flour and spices, add and mix to a stiff dough. Knead thoroughly and follow the rest of the directions above.