I·ATE Food Term of the Week: Soul Cakes


Soul cakes are small round cakes that resemble in appearance and texture to biscuits. On the top, they have a cross, and they are filled with raisins and spices.

Preparation of this dish dates back to Medieval England and Ireland, where on October 31st people used to leave out soul cakes for the dead, while on November 1st soulers, mostly children and poor people, went to rich people to ask for theirs, singing and praying. This tradition was called “souling” and in the USA is seen as an origin of the famous “trick or treat”. Also Christians adopted this costume, blessing and giving soul cakes to poor people in churches and monasteries.

In Portugal, soul cakes are the so-called Pão de Deus, a soft briochey roll topped with coconut and sugar, with a slightly macaroony texture.
In this case, though, the recipe is no longer confined to the Halloween period only.

But how are soul cakes prepared?

There is not only one way to prepare them actually. They can be cakey or biscuity, with saffron or ginger, and they can also be different in shapes, making them oval, round or square.

However, thanks to Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, written in the 17th century, we know how soul cakes were made in the early 1600s:

 “Take flower & sugar & nutmeg & cloves & mace & sweet butter & sack & a little ale barme, beat your spice, & put in your butter & your sack, cold, then work it well all together, & make it in little cakes, & so bake them, if you will you may put in some saffron into them and fruit.”


If you liked this article, we recommend you to read also the one of Moussaka


Cooking Journey. 2020. Traditional Soul Cakes, [ONLINE] Available at: https://cookingjourneyblog.com/soul-cakes/ [Accessed 27th October 2021]

Npr. 2007. Soul cakes: Hallowed offerings for hungry ghosts, [ONLINE] Available at https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15536354&t=1635320453733 [Accessed 27th October 2021]

Daily Info. n.d. Traditional foods for Trick n’ Treaters, [ONLINE] Available at https://www.dailyinfo.co.uk/traditional_halloween_recipes [Accessed 27th October 2021]

written by Sofia Vigo
Sofia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign languages and Literatures, and a Master’s degree in Language sciences, Terminology and Text types. Since October 2021, she is one of the trainees taking care of terminology projects in the Terminology Coordination Unit at the European Parliament.