Catholic Recipe: Soul Cakes
All Saints Day, formerly known in England as All Hallows and in France called Toussaint, honors, as its name implies, all the saints canonized and uncanonized, known and unknown. Long ago the church bells rang for most of the night before All Saints'' Day to praise the saints "risen in their glory." Everywhere patronal and family saints are especially remembered. It is a feast to give them praise rather than to ask favors of them, a day for praising them to God rather than asking them to remember the living to Him.
The observance of this feast merges into the next, which is All Souls' Day, so that by evening it has become the eve of the day of the dead. On All Souls' Eve the graves in Hungary are lighted with candles and decorated with flowers. Indeed, the custom of visiting the cemeteries and adorning the graves of relatives and friends with wreaths and bouquets prevails in most Latin and Central European countries.
In Czechoslovakia there is an old tradition of eating special cakes on All Souls' Eve, and of drinking cold milk "to cool the souls in Purgatory." In Belgium also a particular variety of cakes is baked, and it is an old superstition that "the more one eats of them the more souls will be saved from Purgatory."
In many old English towns, maids still go "souling" on All Souls' Eve, that is, singing for cakes, and one hears such ancient ballads as:
Soul! soul! for a soul-cake! I pray, good misses a soul-cake — An apple or pear, a plum or a cherry, Any good thing to make us merry, One for Peter, two for Paul, Three for Him who made us all.
Dissolve the yeast cake with 1 teaspoon of sugar in the lukewarm water and let it stand in a warm place. Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the milk which has been scalded and slightly cooled and then add the yeast. Sift the flour with the salt and cinnamon and add to the mixture, kneading for a few minutes. Place in a bowl and allow it to rise in a warm place to double its bulk. Shape the dough into round buns and bake at 375° F. for about thirty minutes or until lightly browned. Originally, these cakes were shaped like men and women and were given raisins or currants for eyes.Recipe Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951