Depending on which country you live in, Halloween festivities usually involve the preparation of delicious baked goods and sweet treats such as toasted marshmallows, pumpkin pie, flapjacks and toffee apples. But have you heard of soul cakes? Until recently I hadn’t so I made it my ‘soul intention’ to do a little research into their background and try my hand at making a vegan version.
Soul Cakes are old English traditional cakes that are usually baked on Hallowe’en. In years gone past on this date, children would go ‘souling’ which involved going from house to house singing for some of these tasty cakes. This was a precursor to today’s custom of children trick-or-treating. In Christian countries, and in the Roman Catholic Church, prayers for the souls of the departed are reflected in the three day celebration of the commemoration of the departed which begins on October 31st, also known as All Hallow’s Eve.
Two days later, All Souls’ Day takes place (2 November) when the souls of those who have departed are prayed for and in particular those family members who are still in purgatory and awaiting their entry into Heaven. The souls of these people were believed to be spending a period of time suffering in Purgatory to pay for sins committed during their earthly lives. Prayers and vigils were thought to ease their suffering, hastening their release from Purgatory and entry into Heaven.
Prior to the reign of Henry VIII, when England was a Catholic country, poor people used to stand at the wayside begging for alms (food or money) as ecclesiastical processions passed by. In exchange, they prayed for the souls of the dead. Traditionally, on All Souls’ Day, they were given soul cakes. For every cake eaten one soul was thought to be released from Purgatory, opening its way up to Heaven.
Painting depicting Purgatory
Having investigated the history of soul cakes I decided to make a vegan version. Traditionally, they use currants but I have substituted sultanas as I had these to hand. These cakes are similar to a soft shortbread biscuit and are crumbly, golden and subtly sweet with a wonderful aromatic hit from the spices. I adapted a recipe from Fuss Free Flavours @FussFreeHelen.
Being a newbie to vegan baking I looked up egg substitutes of which there are many. Chia seeds are a widely used egg substitute in vegan baking and they’re also great for your health. They are packed with Omega 3, rich in antioxidants and provide fibre, iron and calcium. Use 1 tablespoon of Chia seeds mixed with 2.5 tablespoons of warm water and leave to develop into a gel. And there’s your vegan egg! The other substitutes I made were plant based butter and almond milk. But you could use coconut or soy. There are two options with decorating. Either just make crosses in the biscuit or make crosses and press in dried fruit such as cranberries or currants into them. I made mine with just a simple cross and when dusted with caster sugar they look simple but attractive. I defy you not to eat them warm from the oven! How many souls will you release?
Happy Halloween, all!
SULTANA VEGAN SOUL CAKES
100 g vegan butter (such as Flora Plant Butter)
100 g golden caster sugar
1 Chia egg (1 tablespoon Chia seeds mixed with 2.5 tablespoons warm water to make a gel)
250 g plain flour
1 pinch saffron (or turmeric for the colour)
1 tsp allspice
1.5 tsp mixed spice
2 tbs almond milk
50 g sultanas
Cut up the vegan butter into small chunks to allow it to soften. Turn the oven on at 180°C / 360°F / GM 4.
Using an electric mixer, cream the vegan butter and sugar together in a medium-sized mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Whisk in the prepared Chia egg.
Add the flour and spices, adding enough milk to form a dough that holds together.
Stir in the sultanas.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1cm thick .
Cut out rounds and roll out any remaining bits.
Use the back of a knife to make crosses on the biscuits taking care not to go all the way through.
Place on a lined baking tray. Bake at 180°C / 360°F / GM 4 for about 20 mins until golden and firm.
Remove to cooling rack.
Dust with caster sugar once they have cooled.
The biscuits will keep for around 3 days in an airtight container. But like any biscuit or cookie they are best enjoyed fresh!
Roll out dough and cut out biscuits
Make a cross and place on baking tray
Dust the baked biscuits with caster sugar
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