Soul Cakes

20161031_162240As a Catholic mom, I sometimes struggle to find a balance between the purely fun, secular aspects of holidays and the religious reasons for the seasons (to borrow a popular Christmas phrase). I don’t want my son to miss out on the things I enjoyed growing up, but I do want him to be able to find God in his daily life, and that includes holiday festivities. This may seem like an odd starting place for a cooking blog, but I’m about to arrive at the intersection of faith and food: Today’s recipe, soul cakes, is a reminder of the Catholic roots of trick-or-treat.

A link to the blog “Catholic Cuisine” appeared in my Facebook feed last week, and the title bragging about “the original Halloween treat” sucked me in. It turns out that children used to go door to door on Halloween and offer to pray for the souls of their neighbors’ deceased family members in exchange for soul cakes – the treat in trick-or-treat. You’ll find the original post and a recipe for soul cakes here. I decided this could be a great way to begin making the connection between our faith and Halloween for my son.

I made a few changes to the mix of spices the author used. I went with ¼ tsp nutmeg, 1 ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ginger, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves. I also tossed a few of the cooled cookies at a time in powdered sugar instead of sprinkling them with powdered sugar; tossing added much needed sweetness and looked nicer for transport to and sharing with people who work at our church.

I also tried a few variations that were mentioned in the blog post. I made crosses on the top of a few cookies with either raisins or chocolate chips, but both toppings kept falling off the cookies. I quickly gave up on that idea. Using an egg wash might have helped, though I doubt the powdered sugar coating would have stuck.

Speaking of egg wash, my son was assisting with this recipe and decided our dish towel needed an egg wash. Before I could stop him, he started dipping it in the liquid ingredients… oh the adventures of having a preschooler in the kitchen. However, there was lots of measuring and dumping he could help with, as well as plenty of dough to roll and cut, so if you’d like to get your kids in the kitchen (and you have a little patience), this is a good recipe to try.


This is Vincent helping mix the dough before he dipped our dishtowel or got both of us covered in flour.

When it came time to taste the cookies, my reaction was mixed. The soul cakes ended up being a little dry, and lacking in sweetness despite the powdered sugar coating. They do pair well with hot tea or coffee, however. Next year, I think I’ll try combining a tried and true recipe for shortbread with this recipe for soul cakes. Hopefully the result will be a sweeter treat with a more pleasing texture.

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