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Make Pax Cakes for Palm Sunday!

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

Here’s a fun and easy Palm Sunday food for your family! Pax Cakes!

On Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was going to celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover and also to meet his death. Because of this, Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week. According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem amidst great crowds of people who laid down their cloaks in front of him and also laid down palm branches. Christians around the world celebrate this special day by attending the Palm Sunday service at their church where they wave palms and read the story from the bible.

In certain areas of England, after the Palm Sunday church service, Pax Cakes (Pax is “Peace” in Latin) are given out by the priest to the congregants. This tradition goes back to 1570 when a local landowner grew frustrated with the parishioners in her church. It seems they were not getting along with each other and she had had enough! She gave her priest five shillings to buy cakes and ninepence to buy ale to be distributed and consumed in church on Palm Sunday. Ha!

The landowner hoped that the cakes and ale would ensure peace and reconciliation between the neighbors before they took their Easter Communion the following Sunday. The custom fell away from use for a time but was revived in the 1800s, although when it was revived, it was only for the cakes and not the ale.

Pax Cakes are round shortbreads, stamped with the image of the Easter lamb and flag or the Chi Rho (the insignia for Christ's name). The cakes are handed out and a blessing of “Peace and Good Neighbourhood” is spoken by the priest with each cake given (hence the name of Pax Cakes since “pax” is the Latin word for “peace”).

In honor of this funny tradition, make Pax Cakes for Palm Sunday! These shortbread cookies require very few ingredients and are so easy to make. Plus, they are made of shortbread and shortbread is absolutely amazing! For an added flair, to your cookies, pipe a Chi Rho insignia on them made from a simple confectioner’s sugar icing.

Pax Cakes

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 Tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar. Add the vanilla salt. Add flour and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a round cookie cutter or a clean jelly jar. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Blen the powdered sugar with enough milk to form a thin icing. Put icing in a sandwich baggie and clip a corner of the baggie to use to pipe the icing. Draw the Chi Rho insignia on each cookie.

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