Saturday, July 17, 2010

Soul Cake



Gordon Matthew Sumner, aka Sting, will turn 60 on 02.10.2011. Those of you humming Message in a Bottle or Roxanne can now feel suitably old. Sting released a new album last Christmas and it is worth getting. Called If On A Winter’s Night, it is not so much a Christmas album as a winter album, a collection of traditional but lesser known carols, traditional English songs, lullabies and his own compositions. 

 
One track on the album, Soul Cake, is a traditional and catchy song that dates from the Middle Ages.

Sting’s performance of it can be viewed at:

The lyrics are:
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
 God bless the master of this house, and the mistress also.
And all the little children that round your table grow.
The cattle in your stable and the dog by your front door.
And all that dwell within your gates
we wish you ten times more.
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.

One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.
Go down into the cellar and see what you can find.
If the barrels are not empty we hope you will be kind.
We hope you will be kind with your apple and strawber’
For we’ll come no more a ’soalin’ till Xmas time next year.
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.
I have a little pocket to put a penny in.
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’ penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’ penny then God bless you.
A soul, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
A soul cake, a soul cake, please good missus a soul cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.
For those who are even older and predate Sting, think back to Peter, Paul and Mary. They sang the same song but then it was called A ‘Soalin’. Their 1997 performance of it in Australia can be viewed and heard at:

A lovely version by Loraine Washburn in which she sings 4 vocal harmonies and plays 3 guitar tracks is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tL4zpBjSTt0&feature=related

So what is the song about?

From Wikipedia:
A Soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Soul’s Day to celebrate the dead. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, were given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who would go from door to door on Hallowmass singing and saying prayers for the dead. Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes is often seen as the origin of modern Trick or Treating.

The tradition of giving Soul Cakes originated in Britain during the Middle Ages, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.

The cakes were usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinammon, or other sweet spices, raisins or currants, and later were topped with the mark of a cross. They were traditionally set out with glasses of wine on All Hallows Eve, and on All Saints Day children would go "souling" by calling out:

Soul, Soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
three for Him what made us all!
Soul Cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, & three for Him who made us all.

(lyrics from A Soalin', a 1963 holiday song written and performed by Peter, Paul and Mary).

The song Soul Cake from British rock musician Sting's 2009 album If On A Winter’s Night is very much based on the original verses mentioned above, using them as a chorus.
There is also a traditional belief that soul cakes were the inspiration for the doughnut. One cook, upset that many of the soulers were motivated by the free food rather than the spiritual significance decided to invest the custom with renewed religious meaning. The cook cut a hole in the middle of her soul cake dough and deep fried it in hot fat. The circular cake represented the endless circle of eternity, meant to bring home to the souler eating it of his duty to pray for the souls who were awaiting the call to eternal life in heaven. This circular cake is held to be the inspiration for later doughnuts.

And, for those interested in the recipe…

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup caster/superfine sugar
4 cups plain flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons currants
a little milk

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale in colour and fluffy in texture.
Beat in the egg yolks.
Fold in the sifted flour and spices
Stir in the currants.
Add enough milk to make a soft dough.
Form into flat cakes and mark each top with a cross.
Bake on a well-greased baking tray in a hot oven until golden.

Alternative recipe with metric measurements:

Ingredients:

375g flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp mixed spice
185g butter (at room temperature = soft)
155g caster sugar
90g currants
90g sultanas
1 egg
125ml milk

Method:

Preheat oven to 220 C / Gas 7. Grease baking tray or line with parchment.
Sieve dry ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Rub in the butter. Mix in the sugar, currants and sultanas.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk. Mix in well until you have a firm batter.
Using a dessertspoon and fork, spoon the mixture onto greased trays. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated oven.

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