The Everyday Lore Project

2 November 2020 – All Souls’ Day

2 November 2020 – All Souls’ Day

I am full of biscuits and gin. It’s All Souls’ Day, the last day of Allhallowtide, and the day to commemorate the souls of those who have gone before us. With cake. Soul cakes to be precise. Or Souling cakes, Soulmass loaves, Soulmass bread, harcakes, dirge cakes and other names depending whereabouts you’re baking from. And they can be round, or square, or even triangular. And made of oats. Or not made of oats. Like I said, it depends where you are.

But the gist is, it is said that for every cake or alms given away to callers, or Soulers, or Cakers, on All Souls’ Day, the soul of a loved one is freed from Purgatory. Or something like that, I really have had an awful lot of gooseberry gin

Soul cakes are really biscuits, and very easy ones to make at that. As long as you don’t drop the eggs.

But my lovely friends, Sarah and Robert, made what could have been a dry and dusty affair (much like the taste of my finished cakes), a joyous one. Plus their photos and execution are so much better than mine:

In our (my) haste to try the Soul cakes fresh from the oven, we all forgot to say the rhyme:

A soul-cake, a soul-cake
Have mercy, lord, on all Christian souls

traditionally said before eating. But we did say it as soon as it was remembered.

It was a such a fun evening, complete with squirrel cookie cutters, very bad Sam and Dave impressions, and phrasing. Robert received a Hollywood handshake at the end, before mixing Sarah and himself some gin sours using the remaining egg whites.

I felt sad as I’d thrown my egg white away. So I ate more Soul cakes to make up for it. Although, I have made sure to set one aside, for it is said Soul cakes bring good luck (some are even kept as family heirlooms), and given we have another Friday the 13th this month, I’m not taking any chances.  

The Everyday Lore Project has been running since St Distaff’s Day on 7 January 2020 and will run until 12th Night on 6 January 2021. Sarah and Robert joined me for that very first post too which was all about hangover cures. Hmm. Alcohol seems to be a theme here. As 6 January doesn’t feel that far away now, please share my posts to get the word out further, and subscribe if you fancy a daily dose of experiential folklore straight to your inbox.


Chambers, R. (ed) (2004) The Book of Days, A Miscellany of POPULAR ANTIQUITIES in connection with THE CALENDAR including, ANECDOTE, BIOGRAPHY, & HISTORY CURIOSITIES of LITERATURE and ODDITIES of HUMAN LIFE and CHARACTER,  Edinburgh, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Jones, J. and Deer, B. (1987) Cattern Cakes and Lace, London, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Soul cake recipe from Cheshire

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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