This night we come a souling,
good nature to find,
And we hope you'll remember
It's Soul Caking time!
Christmas is coming and
the geese are getting fat.
Please put a penny in
the Old Man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny
a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny,
God bless you!
-- Traditional, quoted inquoted in The Real Halloween by Sheena Morgan, p. 25.
Soul cakes could vary greatly between countries and regions, but here are some example recipes for you to try at home.
The following recipe is from Sheena Morgan's The Real Halloween, p. 92. She notes that soul cakes could come in many different forms with widely varying ingredients, and this is a very simple version. Basically, they're like small raisin tarts. It gives amounts for ingredients in different measuring systems. I would like to point out that if you are unable to fix the mixture of dried fruit that she describes, you can substitute another one that's too your liking because the concept of soul cakes in general is very flexible. Likewise, any seasoning you might decide to add would also be to your taste.
- 8 oz./225 g pie crust (or 1 package of already made)
- 3/4 cup/115 g dried mixed fruit (currants, raisins, golden raisins)
- 1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar or 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. sweet butter, melted
- Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin and use it to line some nonstick mini-tart pans.
- Mix the fruit, brown sugar, and butter.
- Pile a very small spoonful into the center of each pastry shell.
- Bake in a preheated oven, 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 10-15 minutes.
This is another variation of soul cake. This recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, pp. 169-170, and Bannatyne notes that the recipe was originally from "Saints and Soul-caking" by Maggie Black in History Today, November 1981.
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup dark molasses
- 3 1/2 cups oatmeal
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 cup milk
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8 inche square pan.
- Put butter and molasses in a heavy saucepan and heat gently; stir together, then put aside.
- In a mixing bowl, mix together oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, ginger, salt, and tartar..
- In a small bowl, stir the baking soda into the milk until it's dissolved.
- Pour the butter and molasses mixture into the dry mixture, stir slightly, then add the milk. Stir thoroughly.
- Turn into pan and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
- Cut into bars or squares. Serve with butter (this dense, delicious cake will keep for weeks in a cool place).
Did you ever eat Colcannon
When 'twas made with thickened cream
And the greens and scallions blended
Like the picture in a dream?
Did you ever scoop a hole on top
To hold the melting cake
Of clover-flavored butter
That your mother used to make?
Did you ever eat and eat, afraid
You'd let the ring go past,
And some old married sprissman
Would get it at the last?
God be with the happy times
When trouble we had not,
And our mothers made colcannon
In the little three-legged pot.
-- A traditional Irish song, quoted in The Real Halloween by Sheena Morgan, p. 96.
Colcannon, or calceannann, is a traditional Irish dish served at Halloween. Part of the tradition is to hide a ring in the dish. The person who receives the ring in their portion will supposedly marry in the following year (Morgan 96).
The following recipe is from Sheena Morgan's The Real Halloween, p. 96.
- A ring wrapped in waxed paper
- 1 finely chopped onion or two chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup/2 oz/55 g butter
- 2 cups/1 lb/450 g pre-cooked, mashed potatoes (kept warm)
- A little half-and-half or heavy cream
- 3/4 cup/1 lb/450 g pre-cooked curly kale (kept warm)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
- First, fry the onion with a teaspoon of the butter. Next, mash the potatoes again really well and beat in a little milk or cream until they are very light and fluffy in texture.
- Chop up the kale, then mix it with the rest of the melted butter and stir it into the potatoes. Season the potatoes, then hide the ring at the bottom of the dish. More melted butter and chopped parsley can be added to the colcannon just before serving.
- Any leftovers are traditionally fried until browned and crisp on both sides. Single girls would put the last remaining piece of Colcannon in a stocking and hide it under their pillows in order to dream of their future husbands as they slept.
This recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, pp. 157-158, and Bannatyne notes that the recipe was originally came from Brid Coogan. It serves 6.
- 6 potatoes
- 1 bunch curly kale
- 1/2 onion, chopped fine
- 6 Tbsp. butter
- 1/2 to 1 cup milk
- Salt and pepper
- Boil potatoes with a pinch of salt.
- In a separate pot, boil or steam a bunch of curly kale.
- Mash the potatoes and mix in butter and enough milk to make a smooth consistency (don't whip them, they'll get gluey).
- Add chopped onion, mix.
- Chop the cooked kale as finely as you can and mix it into the potatoes.
- Add plenty of salt and pepper.
- Scoop the colcannon, hot, onto each plate.
- Wrap a quarter in foil and hide it in each serving as a Halloween treat for kids.
- Variation: use white cabbage instead of kale, and green onions instead of white. Boil the onions in 1/2 cup of milk until soft, then add them to the mashed potatoes. Serve with lots butter.
Pan de Muertos
Pan de Muertos means Bread of the Dead in Spanish. This sweet bread bread is shaped into the form of skulls and bones and is traditional in Mexico and everywhere that Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated. This particular recipe is from Sheena Morgan's The Real Halloween, pp. 102-103. (I reproduced the basic recipe here, although she had suggestions for variations which I didn't copy.)
For the dough:
- 1/2 cup/4 oz/115 g butter, melted
- 2/3 cup/5 fl oz/150 ml milk
- 2/3 cup/5 fl oz/150 ml water
- 3 1/2-5 cups/1 1/2-2 lb/450-675 g all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup/4 oz/115 g sugar
- 1 tsp salt, 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 Tbsp powdered anise
- 4 eggs, beaten
For the glaze:
- 1/2 cup/4 oz/115 g sugar
- 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
- 2 Tbsp grated orange zest
- Warm the liquid ingredients until they are tepid. Place one third of the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt, yeast, and anise. Pour on the warm liquid and beat until well mixed. Add the beaten eggs and mis again. Add the rest of the flour in small batches until it is all absorbed and makes a soft dough. The dough should be slightly sticky rather than too dry. Knead the dough on a floured counter until it springs back when you prod it; this usually takes 5-10 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with parchment or plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour in a warm spot. Punch the dough down gently. Form the dough into skull and bone shapes and leave it to rise again. Bake in a preheated oven, 350 degrees F (180 degrees C), for about 40 minutes. Remove from teh oven and set aside while you make the glaze.
- Put the ingredients for the glaze in a pan and warm over a gentle heat until the sugar has melted. Then bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using a pastry brush, carefully paint the glaze onto the bread to coat.
Pan de los Muertos (Mexican Bread of the Dead)
This is another variation on the Dia de Los Muertos treat. The recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, pp. 155-156.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 10 drops anise extract
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. melted butter
- Tube of icing
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
- Mix all bread ingredients until smooth.
- Mold dough into a round shape (skull), or into smaller round shapes for animals, faces, or angels. Place dough on cookie sheet.
- Mix topping ingredients together: flour, cinnamon, and melted butter.
- Brush topping on dough.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool.
- Draw skull shapes with tube icing or decorate with eyes, noses, etc.
This is a popular treat for Dia de los Muertos. The recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, p. 171. Bannatyne notes that she found it difficult to find the meringue powder at the grocery stores in her area. Mexican bakeries or stores that carry Mexican foods will probably have it, but for those who aren't able to find it where they buy groceries, it is also available through the Internet. The same is true for the skull-shaped molds. Also, keep in mind that it's not a good idea to try making these candies when it's rainy or humid because they don't dry properly and will stick in the molds. This recipe will make about 20 medium-sized skulls.
- Skull molds
- 1/4 cup meringue powder (this is what makes the sugar hard -- it's a combination of egg whites, starch, and other miscellaneous edible ingredients)
- 5 lb. bag of granulated sugar
- 10 tsp. water
- Large bowl
- Small squares of cardboard to set skulls on to dry
- Mix water, meringue powder, and sugar until sugar is moistened. It is ready when you squeeze the sugar mixture in your hand and your fingerprints remain. If it doesn't hold together, add more water. Stir the mixture frequently as you're making skulls, because the water will sink to the bottom. If the mix gets dry as you're working, spritz with water.
- Pack sugar mixture firmly into mold.
- Scrape the back of the mold flat with a piece of cardboard or a ruler.
- Invert the mold onto a stiff piece of cardboard and lift it off carefully (if the sugar shape doesn't come out of the mold easily, it's too wet -- remix and try again with more sugar).
- Air dry skull on cardboard for eight hours.
- Decorate dry skull with tube icing (or the rock-hard icing you use for gingerbread houses) and/or beads, colorful foil, paper, feathers, or anything bright you can think of. Glue decorations to skull with icing.
This isn't actually a Halloween treat, although it does have some spooky traditional associations. It was once a staple at funeral feasts among 19th century Pennsylvania Germans. For most people, this old-fashioned treat wouldn't have the same meaning, but since other Halloween treats include raisins, I thought I would suggest this pie as a different kind of dessert for Halloween and remembrance of the dead.
The Death of Pennsylvania’s Forgotten Funeral Pie - The history of raisin pie and a recipe from Atlas Obscura.
Modern Halloween treats contain echoes of the past in the form of fruit (especially apples), nuts, and spices, but modern treats also include foods that originated in the Americas and were unknown to Europeans celebrating Halloween until American colonists came to rely on them as a sources of food like pumpkin and corn/maize. Chocolate, another food that originated in the Americas, is also a popular ingredient in Halloween candy, and candies and cookies in whimsical shapes that represent popular Halloween symbols are everywhere!
While we're on the subject of apples, a classic Halloween staple, do you know what the difference is between toffee apples, caramel apples, and candy apples? I wasn't sure, so I looked it up, and this article clarifies and this one explains more about different types around the world. Of the three, the British toffee apple is the oldest, dating from the mid-19th century. The candy apple was developed in the US, invented for Christmas in 1908 in Newark, New Jersey by candy-maker William Kolb. Candy apples and toffee apples are very similar, but with a couple of significant differences. In America, candy apples are like toffee apples, because both of them are apples on sticks covered with a hard candy shell, but the coating of candy apples is characteristically colored with red food coloring, and toffee apples don't include food coloring. The original candy apples were specifically covered with a red cinnamon candy shell, and some recipes still include cinnamon and spices, but not all modern candy apple recipes include the spice. Outside the US, you're more likely to find the unspiced, undyed toffee apples. Some other British recipes that I've seen for toffee apples also include vinegar and honey, which you don't usually see in American recipes. Sometimes, they use golden syrup instead of honey, which will take some explanation for Americans, who typically aren't familiar with that product, although we do use other, similar types of products. Although some people use the terms "caramel apples" and "candy apples" interchangeably because caramel is a kind of candy, adding to the confusion, caramel apples are actually a newer invention with a somewhat different coating. Caramel apples were invented during the 1950s, and their coating is softer and more gooey than the traditional candy apples/toffee apples. The basic apple-on-a-stick-and-covered-with-candy type of treat can also be dressed up in various ways by adding nuts, sprinkles, coconut flakes, small candies, crushed cookies, or chocolate drizzles! Because of its softer consistency, I recommend doing this with the caramel apples.
Homemade Caramel Apples
Completely homemade caramel coating using corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, and heavy cream.
The Best Caramel Apples
Uses brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk for the coating.
Easy Caramel Apples
Uses soft caramel candies and heavy cream for the coating. From Just a Taste.
Easy Caramel Apples
Uses chewy caramel candies and heavy cream for the coating and has a long list of possible add-ons.
Some people prefer candy apples because they have more of a crunch than the gooier caramel apples, but others say that the coating is too hard to easily bite through. I haven't tried making these yet, so I have no opinion, but I recommend trying to go light on the harder coating until you know how you like them. The staples of candy apple coating are white sugar, light corn syrup, red food coloring, and water, but different recipes use them in slightly different proportions, which would change their consistency and relative hardness. It might take some experimentation to decide which variation you like the best. Also, the older, more traditional candy apple recipes include cinnamon, but more modern ones often don't, making them more like a more colorful version of toffee apples.
How to Make Candy Apples
Unlike the other candy apple recipes, this one includes spices to give the candy apples more flavor.
Candied Apples II
Uses corn syrup, sugar, and food coloring for the coating.
Easy Homemade Candy Apples
Uses corn syrup, sugar, and food coloring for the coating. From Just a Taste.
Easy Candy Apples
Uses corn syrup, sugar, and food coloring for the coating.
This recipes comes from Ghosts, Witches, and Things Like That by Roderick Hunt, p. 30. The book was printed in England, which is why it uses terms like "knob of butter." In the book, it ends with a warning for children to be careful and get adult help if they decide to make any. The toffee is very sticky, and if it gets on your skin while hot, it can burn badly. It's not a difficult recipe, but some caution is needed.
- 4-6 small soft eating apples
- 8 oz (225 g) loaf sugar
- 1/2 lemon
- 4 Tbsp water
- Knob of butter
- Wooden skewers or peeled sticks
- Wash and dry the apples. Fix them on the skewers or sticks.
- Butter the platter or baking tray.
- Put the sugar, a squeeze of lemon and 4 Tbsp of water into the pan and plae on a low heat, stirring until dissolved.
- Now, boil fast until golden brown. Don't take your eyes off the mixture for a second while doing this.
- When you judge the mixture to be brown enough, take the pan from the heat. Work quickly. Turn the apples into the sugar mixture, turning to make sure each is completely covered. Be careful not to get any of the hot toffee on your fingers.
- Leave the toffee apples to harden on the buttered platter.
For more variations on toffee apples, see the following recipes:
Homemade Toffee Apples
Uses vinegar and golden syrup in the coating. Golden syrup isn't common in the US, where we tend to use other products for the same purposes that British people use golden syrup, like honey or maple syrup as sweet toppings or molasses or corn syrup as the basis for gooey/sweet desserts. However, for people in the US who want to try this, it's possible to find it at stores selling international foods, or you can make your own golden syrup at home because it's just made from sugar and water with a little lemon. It's also a vegan product because it doesn't rely on any animal-based foods, so if you're looking for a vegan dessert for Halloween, this might be the one for you!
Uses vinegar and honey in the coating. In Britain, people might eat toffee apples on Halloween or Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes' Night (see this page for more Bonfire Night treats).
Baked Apple Dumplings
This recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, p. 164, and Bannatyne notes that the recipe was originally from The Good Wife's Cook Book, 1911. It makes four dumplings.
- 4 cups flour
- 3 Tbsp. shortening
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in hot water
- 2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 apples
- Butter to grease pan
- 3 egg whites, beaten
- Sift flour with tartar and chop in shortening.
- Add baking soda and mix together.
- Add milk and mix into a paste.
- Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 8X8 inch squares.
- Put one apple, pared and cored, in the center of each square. Bring the corners of the square to meet and pinch them together.
- Bake in a buttered pan, pinched side down. Bake 1 1/4 hours, until pastry is brown. Remove from oven.
- Brush with beaten egg whites and bake 2-3 minutes more.
- Serve hot, with vanilla ice cream.
Spicy Pumpkin Bread
This recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, pp. 153-154, and Bannatyne notes that the recipe was originally from the Isaiah Hall B&B Inn in Dennis, Massachusetts.
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cloves
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.
- Cream together brown sugar and shortening.
- Beat in eggs.
- Add canned pumpkin and milk; mix well.
- In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cloves.
- Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix.
- Stir in nuts and raisins.
- Place batter into prepared pan, and bake for 55 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool ten minutes, remove from pan, and cool on rack. May be frozen.
Sweet Pumpkin Seeds
This recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, pp. 149-150.
- 1-2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
- 2 Tbsp. melted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- In a small bowl, toss raw seeds with melted butter, brown sugar, and spices.
- Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Rock & Roll Chef's Pumpkin Seeds
This recipe comes from A Halloween How-To by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, p. 150.
- 1-2 cups pumpkin seeds
- 2-3 tsp. vegetable oil
- Salt (or soy sauce) to taste
- In a bowl, add cooking oil to coat seeds. If using soy sauce, add.
- Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown. Cool. Add salt, if using.
An old-fashioned favorite that can be given a modern twist! There are many different recipes for popcorn balls, using various combinations of corn syrup, molasses, marshmallows, or peanut butter to make the popcorn stick together and form the ball shape. Also, you can add small candies or food coloring for decoration or to give the popcorn balls more of a Halloween appearance.
Vintage Popcorn Balls
This site explains some of the history of popcorn balls and their association with Hallowen with links to further information about popcorn and Halloween treats. The recipe comes from a vintage 1940s cookbook for children and uses either molasses or corn syrup.
Traditional Popcorn Balls
Basic popcorn ball recipe from Taste of Home that uses corn syrup.
Best Ever Popcorn Balls
Uses both corn syrup and marshmallows and demonstrates how the popcorn balls look with different add-ins, like candy corn.
Mallow Popcorn Balls
This one uses large marshmallows and no corn syrup.
Caramel Popcorn Balls
This recipe uses corn syrup with brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk to make the caramel.
Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls
This recipe uses corn syrup with brown sugar and peanut butter. The person who posted it says that this is a Halloween favorite from their childhood.
A classic Halloween treat that, sadly, nobody hands out to trick-or-treaters anymore. But, it's okay because you can always buy some for your Halloween party or make your own at home! Baking your own donuts lets you make them in the flavors you want, personalizing them with frosting and sprinkles, and if you bake them, they'll have less grease than commercially-made fried donuts. Baking donuts isn't too difficult, although it does require a donut pan to get the classic donut shape. Below, I've linked sites with easy donut recipes for beginners:
Baked Doughnuts Three Ways
King Arthur Baking Company presents a basic donut recipe with tips for customizing it in different ways.
Baked Pumpkin Doughnut
What could be more appropriate for Halloween than pumpkin donuts? Fun for breakfast or just as a Halloween treat!
Vanilla Glazed Baked Donuts
An easy recipe for baked glazed donuts. It suggests using food coloring in the glaze, so you can make it Halloween colors!
Easy Baked Glazed Chocolate Donuts
I love these chocolate donuts!
Baked Vanilla Donuts
Another easy recipe for baked and glazed vanilla donuts.
"The ultimate recipe for old-fashioned fried doughnuts coated with sugar and cinnamon."
Baked Apple Cider Donuts
Baked donuts with the taste of apple cider and fall spices.
These are modern recipes that were designed to specifically promote certain products. I included links to sites where you can find them because some of them are actually my favorite Halloween recipes.
Libby’s Great Pumpkin Cookie Recipe
This is my favorite Halloween cookie! Not everyone would think that pumpkin and chocolate flavors go together, but they do! My mother started making these for me back when I was a little kid in the 1980s (this site shows one of the first ads using this recipe and what the cookies are supposed to look like), but we tend to make them differently from the original recipe. If you follow the original recipe, you're supposed to make the cookies into large pumpkin shapes (you have to manually shape it with a spoon or spatula because the dough isn't the kind you can roll out for using a cookie cutter) and then decorate the pumpkins like jack o'lantern faces using frosting and candy pieces. However, we didn't have the patience to do that, and the cookies they want you to make are humungous. You get a whole lot more cookies out the recipe if you make them like regular drop cookies. You can still make fairly big drop cookies and still get dozens of them out of this recipe. We still put M&Ms on top for decoration.
Black Magic Cake
This is a recipe from Hershey's. It's really moist, and it's my favorite chocolate cake. I frequently make it on my birthday, just a few days before Halloween. Personally, I prefer it with a vanilla frosting, but any frosting you like is good.
I have lists of the sources that I used when making this site on my Sources page, and I even have some recommended websites for additional reading, but here, I wanted to recommend some specific cookbooks for Halloween recipes.
A Halloween Cookbook by Sarah L. Shuette
This book has easy recipes for kids. Most of the recipes are for foods in Halloween-themed shapes. There are sugary snacks that would be good for a party, and there are also some non-sugary foods, like a snake-shaped sandwich and a pasta salad.
A Monster Cookbook by Sarah L. Shuette
This book has easy recipes for kids. Most would make good party food and snacks, although there is also a breakfast recipe with oatmeal.
Halloween Recipes from Allrecipes
Halloween recipes from allrecipes.com. Includes dinners, appetizers, snacks, and desserts.
Halloween Recipes from Taste of Home
Halloween recipes from Taste of Home. Includes meals and desserts.
34 Homemade Halloween Candy Recipes
Candy recipes from Taste of Home. Some candy recipes are specifically for Halloween, decorated like eyeballs, ghosts, or aliens, and others are more general treats that would not look out of place at other times of the year.