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An earlier form of carolling – and trick or treating, to boot - is the tradition of “souling” or “soul-caking”.

As singers make the rounds, door-to-door, chanting ancient rhymes a welcome reward is a soul cake – for which there are a range of recipes.

Here’s one from Shropshire, a county in the West Midlands of England, that’s collected by Dorothy Gladys Spicer for publication in her 1960 book “Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands”.

"INGREDIENTS

6 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Cream shortening and sugar. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of sugar has been added. Set aside. Scald milk and add to the creamed mixture. When cooled add yeast mixture and stir until thoroughly blended. Sift together flour, salt, and spices, and add gradually to other ingredients, kneading into a soft dough. Set sponge to rise in warm place in greased covered bowl. When doubled in bulk, shape into small round or oval buns. Brush tops with slightly beaten egg white. Bake in moderately hot oven (400° F.) for 15 minutes. Drop temperature to 350 ° F. and bake until delicately browned and thoroughly done.”

To join in the musical feasting, here’s Allison Crowe, with the first song track served up by her a cappella album "Souling".

lyrics

Soul Cake

Traditional - as performed by Allison Crowe

Oooh, ooh, ooh ooh, ooh,
Oooh, ooh, ooh ooh, ooh…

A soul cake, a 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.

A soul cake, a soul cake
please good missus a soul cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul
and three for Him that made us all.

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,
the dogs at your front door,
and all that dwell within your gates
we'll wish you ten times more.

A soul cake, a 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.

A soul cake, a soul cake
please good missus a soul cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul
and three for Him that made us all.

Go down into the cellar
and see what you can find.
If the barrels are not empty
we'll hope that you'll be kind.

We'll hope that you'll be kind
with your apple and your pear.
And we'll come no more a-soulin'
’til Christmas time next year.

A soul cake, a soul cake
please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a plum, a peach or 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
and three for Him that made us all.

The streets are very dirty.
Me shoes are very thin.
I have a little pocket
to put a penny in.

If you haven't got a penny
an half-a-penny will do.
If you haven't got an half-a-penny
well, God bless you.

A soul cake, a 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.

A soul cake, a soul cake
please good missus a soul cake.
One for Peter, two for Paul
and three for Him that made us all.

credits

from Souling (Bonus Tracks Edition), released November 20, 2015
Allison Crowe - voice, arranger, engineer & producer

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