Showing posts with label light cake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label light cake. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Make a Soul Cake + Comment to Win on a Halloween Poll from Cleo Coyle

What is a Soul Cake?

Short answer: The soul cake is the culinary antecedent to the candy treats we give out on Halloween night. Of course, this holiday, which celebrates ghosts and goblins and other scary things, makes little logical sense. I mean, really—if some denizen of the underworld were to knock on your door on a dark October night, would you chase it away by throwing candy at it?

Well, it seems the time-honored tradition requires that we do just that. About fifteen hundred years ago, Druids celebrated the fall festival of Samhain (the dying sun god), by lighting bonfires. They believed the souls of the dead returned to the physical world on Samhain eve and the fires would help ward them off. 

As Christianity spread, Samhain was turned into All Souls' Eve (Halloween) and All Souls' Day (November 1), when the faithful said prayers to honor their dead ancestors. It was during this time that a new tradition was born. On All Souls' Eve, beggars and the children of the poor went from house to house, asking for food and promising to pray for the dead souls of your ancestors in return. As the custom evolved, these “soulers” were given “soul cakes” for their trouble. Each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. This practice, of giving sweet treats to those who knocked on your door on All Souls’ Eve, is thought to be one of the origins of modern Halloween trick-or-treating.

In 1891, a minister in Cheshire, England, wrote down a traditional song sung by Medieval soulers, learned from a little girl at the local school.

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, 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.

In 1963, Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a version of this traditional song. Here’s Sting’s (very beautiful) rendition, which he blends with the wassail song:




Like many old recipes, soul cakes came in several variations, depending on the region and time period. Some were more like shortbread, biscuits, or scones, others more like yeasty buns. Most were packed with spices and dried fruits and topped with a cross.

Although my little soul cakes look somewhat like the historical versions, I made mine lighter, moister, and sweeter treats to eat. Instead of dry, rather mealy Medieval biscuits (or yeast buns that require rising time), my soul cakes are a cross between quick-and-easy pumpkin muffins and whoopie pies with brown sugar and plenty of fall spices for flavor. The pumpkin provides good moistness; and the combination of pumpkin and canola oil (instead of butter) creates soul cakes that are a tad healthier for you than traditional versions, while still being quite tasty for breakfast or coffee break snacks. 

May you eat them with joy...
and may God bless you! 

~ Cleo

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, CLICK HERE.

Servings: about 24 Little Cakes


2 large eggs

½ cup vegetable oil (I use canola) 

1 cup whole milk (use whole for added fat, better flavor and texture)

1 (15-ounce) can of pureed pumpkin (about 2 cups)

1 cup light brown sugar 

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon 

1 teaspoon ginger 

1 teaspoon nutmeg 

¼ teaspoon cloves 

½ teaspoon table salt (or 1 teaspoon coarse salt)

3 teaspoons baking powder

3 cups all-purpose flour 

1 cup raisins and/or craisins (sweetened dried cranberries).

If you're not a fan of raisins or craisins, try chocolate chips.

NOTE: I make these little cakes in a rustic way (via a simple "drop and swirl" method on a baking sheet, more on how to do this below). If you would like a more finished looking Soul Cake for company or a bake sale, simply use a whoopie pie pan like the one shown here. Mound the dough into the pan tins, and the little cakes will spread and rise more evenly for you.

(1) One bowl mixing method: First preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Place eggs in bowl and whisk. Add oil, milk, canned pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt. Whisk until blended. Finally, add the flour and baking powder. Stir well to blend the flour into a smooth batter. (You can use an electric mixer, if you like, but do not over mix.) 

(2) Prep pan and drop: For best results, line baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat the paper with non-stick cooking spray. For each cake, fill the quarter cup (1/4) container of your measure cup set and mound it onto the prepared baking sheet. (Or use a ¼-cup size cookie scoop.) Leave room between for spreading. 

(3) Swirl and decorate: Use the back of a tablespoon to swirl the mound of batter into a relatively even circle that is a little bit flatter than the mound but not too flat. (See my photos as a guide.) Using raisins and craisins (or chocolate chips), create a cross on the cake to represent the prayers that beggars and the children of the poor once offered in exchange for the treat. 

(4) Bake: Oven should be well pre-heated to 400° F. Bake about 10 – 15 minutes (depending on oven and size of your cake). Serve warm with butter or allow to cool and dust with powdered sugar if you like. 

Storage notes: Once cool, store your Pumpkin Soul Cakes in the refrigerator after wrapping each separately in plastic or wax paper. They should keep several days that way and can be reheated in about 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave.

And now for those  
Halloween Trick or Treaters!
Here's a poll for you...


To learn about
this fun, fast-paced,
holiday-themed mystery,

 click here.

Holiday Buzz

Holiday Buzz is a culinary
mystery that includes
many delicious holiday
and cookie

For a free
Recipe Guide to Holiday Buzz
Click here.


Eat with 

*spirited* joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Easy Old-Fashioned Spongecake

My mother's favorite summer cakes were all based on spongecake and summer fruit with whipped cream. They were light and not overly sweet, but always indulgent.

So when I spotted this strange spongecake recipe, I had to give it a try. It's a Better Homes and Gardens Recipe from the fifties that's supposed to be quick and easy.

However, I have to say this is one of the stranger recipes I have ever made. Not only is there no separation of eggs or gentle folding so they won't collapse, but logic would seem to dictate that the hot milk really ought to deflate the whole thing! 

Interestingly, they recommend baking it in a square pan. How very chic and modern for the fifties. I cut it in half to create two layers, added whipped cream and strawberries and had a fabulous dessert in no time.

The only major things to notice are that the eggs have to be room temperature and the sugar must be added slowly so the eggs won't deflate.

Hot Milk Spongecake
(from Better Homes & Gardens)

2 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter + extra for greasing pan

Take the eggs out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x9 pan well with butter. Combine flour with baking powder and set aside.

Beat the eggs until thick, about 4 minutes. Slowly add the sugar. Beat for another 4-5 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat just enough to combine. 

Heat the milk and the butter enough for the butter to melt. Pour into egg mixture and beat to combine. Pour into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes.

Choose your own fruit. This would work equally well with blueberries or sliced peaches. I used about one pound of strawberries.

To make the cream:

1 - 2 cups of heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar per cup of cream
splash of vanilla

Beat the cream until it begins to take shape. Add the sugar and continue to beat, adding the vanilla. Beat until it holds a shape.

Use a serrated knife to slice the cake in half horizontally. Spread cream over the cut side of the bottom half. Lay strawberry slices on top of the cream. Cover with the top half of the cake. Spread cream over the top. Arrange strawberries on the top in a pleasing pattern.

If there is leftover cream, pass it in a bowl when serving.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Angel Food Cake with a No-Brainer Blueberry Sauce

I love eggs. The incredible, edible egg really is an apt description. How many other foods work equally well in savory dishes and sweet ones?

If you're a fan of cooking competition shows like Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star, you've probably heard someone complain about having to bake something. Every season, some pro complains because baking requires exacting measurements and doesn't leave as much room for creativity as cooking. I'm not sure that's always true, but it is true about Angel Food Cake. Recipes for this classic don't vary much.

Around here, now that the cheesecake, cookies, and New Year's Bombe are gone, we're getting hungry for something sweet, so I decided to bake an Angel Food Cake. The ingredients are simple, you probably have them in your kitchen right now, and it's actually not all that hard to make. You do have to have a special pan, though.

You'll find that some recipes are positively scary, requiring superfine sugar and cake flour. I didn't use either. Instead, I mixed the dry ingredients and sifted them together a few times.

Angel Food Cake contains no fat! Yup, it's true. Ideal for all those diets everyone started after the holidays. If you're serving it to a dieting crowd, serve it with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt. Remember it does contain sugar -- it's not calorie-free! If dieting isn't a concern, serve it with whipping cream and fresh fruit. Or serve it with a sauce. I made a no-brainer blueberry reduction that's good enough for company.

Angel Food Cake

1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

10 - 12 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Sift into another bowl. Sift back into the original bowl. Repeat and set aside.

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar. Hint #1 Don't overbeat. The egg whites should hold a curling peak, not a stiff peak.

Divide the egg whites. Sift some of the flour mixture on one half, sprinkle on the vanilla, and fold until blended. Repeat until all of the flour mixture has been folded in. Add the rest of the egg whites and fold in. Hint #2 If you add the flour gradually to the egg whites, they'll be more likely to stay fluffy.

Spoon/pour into an Angel Food Cake pan. Do not grease! Bake 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and turn upside down immediately. Some pans come with little feet, if yours does, you can let it rest on the feet. There are those who think that it's better if the cake is in the air. The conventional method is to hang the middle part from a bottle. The neck holds the cake pan and the bottle is sturdy enough (hopefully) not to topple. My pan has a tiny middle part that doesn't fit over a bottle. I turned four wineglasses upside down and let the edges of the cake pan rest on them. Hint #3 Let cool thoroughly upside down, even overnight. Loosen the edges to remove and turn over a serving plate. Hint #4 Slice with a serrated knife.

No-Brainer Blueberry Sauce

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 cup Cognac
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1/4 cup sugar

This is a really a no-brainer reduction. Combine all the ingredients in a small pot, stir, and bring to a boil. Turn down to just a bit more than a simmer (uncovered) and let cook until it reduces by half, about 45 minutes.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Cleo Coyle's Buttermilk Apple Snack Cake for a Sweet New Year!

Congrats to our final gift card winner! Molly Ebert of Indiana won our last $25 Williams-Sonoma gift card. Stay tuned for more of our contests coming up in the near future...


On the Gregorian calendar, the New Year will be celebrated on January 1. On the Chinese calendar, the date for turning over a new leaf will be February 14. And on the Jewish calendar, the New Year (5770) is ushered in this very evening!

Rosh Hashanah literally means “first of the year” in Hebrew and it commemorates the creation of man—within the larger Biblical story of the creation of the world. It also begins the High Holy Days, a ten day period that culminates in the somber observance of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement.

In synagogues across the world, the Jewish New Year is celebrated with many traditions, one of which is the blowing of the ram’s horn. The “shofar” is the name for this horn, and it’s blown like a trumpet to symbolically awaken the listeners from their slumbers and alert them to the coming judgment of God. In general, this is a time of year to reflect on the year you’ve had--especially mistakes and missteps—and contemplate how to do better in the year ahead.

Rosh Hashanah is a holiday rich in meaning and tradition. As with all holidays, food plays an important role. Apples are commonly eaten (dipped in honey – yum!) to symbolize a wish for a sweet year ahead. Honey cake is also a favorite.

Even though my Buttermilk Apple Snack Cake is not Kosher, I thought I’d share it with you today because of Rosh Hashanah’s apple tradition.

I love this cake because it’s easy to make and also very light, tender and buttery, with a delicate flavor of apple and the rich, bright note of buttermilk.

While it's a delish snack cake to eat any time year (and goes very well with a freshly brewed pot of joe), I think it’s especially comforting to slide into the oven on a fall afternoon when there’s that crisp chill in the air, the sun begins to set a little earlier than you're used to, and you’ve just come in from raking leaves, a long walk in the park, or picking those newly ripened apples...

To get my recipe for
Buttermilk Apple Snack Cake,

The recipe will appear in PDF format.
You can print it out or save it to your computer.

For more of my recipes or to find out more
about the books in my culinary mystery series,
click this link to my virtual home at

Finally, if you’d like a truly Kosher recipe for an apple cake, click here. The ladies who created this recipe know their stuff. They managed a catering company in Columbus, Ohio, for over twenty years.

In closing, a common greeting at this time is “Shana Tova” for a good year or “Shana Tova Umetukah” for a good and sweet new year. So...

Shana Tova Umetukah

~Cleo Coyle
author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries
"Where coffee and crime are always brewing..."