Bess, dressed as a witch, sneaks a Witch Cake into a dog dish.

Witch Cakes

  • 4 Tbsp urine of the afflicted
  • 1 cup rye meal
  1. Mix rye meal and the urine of an afflicted person together and form into a compact cake. Use more urine if needed.
  2. Pinch dough and pull outward to form points.
  3. Bake over fire until golden brown.
  4. Remove and cool for 20 minutes.
  5. Feed the cake to any dog at hand.
  6. If the dog writhes and trembles, compel it to speak the name of its demonic master.
  7. If it speaks, you have successfully transferred the spirit into the dog from the afflicted person.
  8. Discard possessed dog in a manner of your choosing.
Alternatively: If you do not have a dog at hand, you may also burn the cake, punishing the spirit with the torments of Hell. Burying the cake to trap the demon in the earth is also an acceptable substitution.

The History Shapes Cookbook

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From the History Shapes Cookbook, available now:

Friends, don’t hesitate. If you or your loved ones have been the victim of demonic possession by a witch, warlock, or an evil mage of any kind, then the Witch Cake is the recipe for you.

Witch Cakes come from a time when evil spirits were thought to roam free and possess good, Christian folks all willy-nilly. During that era, this small cake made of rye meal had a very special mission. When combined with the urine of an afflicted person, the Witch Cake acted as both demon alarm and a way to give it the boot.

There's a lot to unpack here. Unfortunately, we don't know a lot more than the basics listed above.

What we do know is that if you found yourself in the unfortunate predicament of being enchanted by the dark forces of Satan, you made a Witch Cake. It was thought that traces of possession would pass through a person's urine, because sure, why not? Combining that malevolent pee-pee with rye or another grain would “trap” the spirit or witch in a physical form.

To rid yourself of the witch, you had to rid yourself of the cake. You could bury it, burn it, or you could feed it to the family dog. Dogs were thought to be the “animal helpers” of witches. Forcing Rover to gulp down your tinkle cake would compel him to speak the name of the witch responsible for your troubles. Didn’t have talking dogs on your Witch Cake bingo card, did you?

Among members of the fringe religious groups that settled in early America, this whole process was a lot more common than you might think. To put another way, the United States was at least partially founded by people who collected each other’s piss and thought dogs could talk. And it gets crazier: Witch Cakes were the entire reason that the infamous Salem witch trials began.

Around 1692, Reverend Samuel Parris' daughter was acting bonkers and no one could figure out why. While he was out of town, his nosy neighbor Mary Sibley told Parris' Native American slaves John Indian and his wife, Tituba, to make a Witch Cake to get to the bottom of it. John and Tituba fed the cake to the Parris family dog and Fido was supposed to eat the cake, trip out, and reveal the name of its evil master.

We don't know what the cake fed to the Parris family dog looked like. The only two surviving Witch Cakes are from the 1850s and they look like "spiky bagels" according to Scarborough Museums Trust.

Yeah, it didn't work.

When Parris returned home and found out what his slaves had done, he got just as pissed as the cake and went bonkers himself trying to find witches in his community. At least 25 people would die over the nearly year-and-a-half-long Salem witch trials.

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