Monday, October 31, 2011

Quick Soul Cakes

For those of you wishing to celebrate the western All Souls Day and the Vigil of All Saints (a.k.a. All Hallow's Eve/Halloween) in a way that brings out the Christian (and Orthodox) significance of the day, I highly recommend for your enjoyment the tradition of making "soul cakes" (a.k.a. "doughnuts") with your children.

Before you freak out at the idea of making doughnuts from scratch, check out this short-cut version which I've adapted from Catholic Traditions in Cooking, by Ann Ball (see p. 129). All you need is a can of refrigerated biscuits, some spices, sugar, and oil.

These are called "soul cakes" because they are circular, signifying, in the unending arc of the circle, the immortality of the soul. Add a double whammy of catechetical instruction disguised as fun and yum, as you make the seven-spice mix with your children, teaching them the story and theology of creation (when human souls came to be).

Preheat oven to 375ยบ.

Make 7-Spice Mix: Have your child(ren) help measure each spice and put it in the bowl as you talk with them about how the seven spices represent the seven days of creation and remember together what God made on each day. If you haven't read it recently, it may be a good idea to read the creation story in a children's bible before you begin your kitchen activities. (Note: You can substitute other sweet spices, if you wish, or organize them in another order. My ordering below is simply alphabetical and has no correlation to the respective day of creation being discussed.)
  • 1/8 t Allspice—1st Day: Light
  • 1/8 t Anise—2nd Day: Firmament (Sky)
  • 1/8 t Cardamon—3rd Day: Dry Land and Seas, Vegetation (Plants)
  • 1 t Cinnamon—4th Day: Sun, Moon, and Stars
  • 1/8 t Cloves—5th Day: Sea Creatures and Birds
  • 1/8 t Mace—6th Day: Animals, Adam and Eve
  • 1/2 t Nutmeg—7th Day: Rest (and Worship)
Now for the Orthodox theological kicker: Ask your children if they know about the 8th day of creation and then tell them all about it. The 8th day of creation is, of course, the Sunday of the Ressurection of our Lord, in which He re-creates, making all things new; it is the unending "Day of the Lord," which we enter mystically in every Divine Liturgy resting in the completed salvific work of the Creator. (For more on the Orthodox understanding of the Sabbath and the 8th Day, I highly recommend the one-page article on p. 219 of The Orthodox Study Bible.)

To signify the 8th day of creation and emphasize how it is the most amazing, blessed part of creation, pour into the spice mixture,
  • 3/4 C sugar—8th Day of (Re)Creation: New Life in Christ's Resurrection
Now you're ready to make the doughnuts!
  • 1 can refrigerated biscuits (Trader Joe's are the best).
Flatten and stretch biscuits, using your fingers to make a hole in the middle to form a doughnut shape.

Warm in a fry pan over medium heat
  • canola or other vegetable oil (enough to come up to midpoint on the biscuit cakes when placed in the fry pan).
When the oil is hot, place as many doughnut rings in the oil as will fit without touching, and fry until golden brown, about 1 minute on each side.

Remove from oil with tongs, allow excess oil to drip back into pan, and coat in sugar-spice mix. Place coated cakes on cookie sheets (covered with parchment paper for easy clean-up, if you'd like). Repeat the previous steps until all the doughnuts are fried and coated. Then bake until fully cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to rack to cool.

Makes 6 to 8 soul cakes; easily doubled.


Christine said...

The Soul Cakes were a huge hit tonight! Thank you for the inspiration and the specific direction on how to execute it. Blessed Feast of All Saints! Lord have mercy on all our souls!

Jen said...

Awesome! Glad you all enjoyed them.