Sweet and spicy with hints of saffron, soul cakes are a delicious and traditional way to connect with a bit of tradition this Halloween season.

soulcakeshomemadeIt’s Halloween and in honor of the day I wanted to find a traditional flavor that would suit the day. Soul cakes seemed like just the thing.

There are various theories about the origination of soul cakes for Samhain/Hallowe’en celebration, however, after the 8th century there is a more or less agreed upon symbolism. Soul cakes were given to the Mummers as they danced through the streets in costume on Samhain night driving the evil spirits and guiding the souls of the dead out of town. Mummers actually comes from the word to “mum” or to act/dance/play silently. Soul cakes were some of the original treats for “trick or treating”.
Soul cakes were also given to “beggars” on All Soul’s Day in return for prayers for the souls of the dead.

There are a variety of recipes for soul cakes, the one that I made today was simple and delicious. They have a texture somewhere between a snickerdoodle and a biscuit. The spices and saffron give them a subtle yet complex flavor. They were easy to make and my kitchen smelled divine with nutmeg, saffron and cinnamon wafting through the air. 


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground fresh if possible
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground fresh if possible
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Generous pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup currants


For the Glaze:
1 egg yolk, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.
Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.
One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won't need the entire half-cup.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently
Decorate the soul cakes with currants and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny.
* Soul Cakes