Christmas cake business is a family affair for these women

On the dining table of the Thakidiyel home is the sweetest spread. Four women of a family have made it so. Boxes handcrafted with bright red paper petals hold within the sweet of these women’s hours of labour. Their Christmas special plum cakes are set to begin their journey out of the oven to their multiple fans. The women have been celebrating the togetherness of Christmas with this seasonal business for over eight years now. They vouch it is growing by the year. Sisters Cynthy Thomas and Sherly Abraham and their sisters-in-law Annie Jose and Mariamma Maxy gear up for their annual business three to four months before Christmas.

“We began by baking 50 cakes. Now it has grown to about 200,” says Cynthy. Annie pitches in, “This time we got an order from Bangalore, but it was late for us. We had already finished soaking our fruits.” The women exhibit neat partition of duties and responsibilities in preparing for the season. “We begin by buying the variety of fruits and divide it neatly among us. All of us take our share home and chop them finely. We mix and soak the fruits for about two months. Then we take it to our ancestral home in Thamarassery where it is baked traditionally, 50 a day,” says Cynthy. Once the cakes are baked and cooled they brush it with brandy three times and pack it with butter paper and plastic to make sure the brandy does not evaporate.

If their cakes have a following among friends and relatives, it has to be the recipe. But the women guard it vigorously. Ask them about the ingredients and they suddenly turn stingy with words. “Cashew, raisins and dates,” says Cynthy. “Orange peel,” says Annie. “Ginger and cherries,” adds Sherly. Finally, Cynthy declares, “Actually, our recipe is our secret. Many have asked for it. But we don’t give it. Yes, it is a family recipe.” But the women say a specialty of their cake is the finely chopped fruits. ‘We chop it painstakingly. Even a small raisin is chopped into five,” says Cynthy. Most of the cakes the women bake are taken by another sister who runs a business of Christmas hampers. Their businessmen husbands too buy from them to gift their clients. The rest are bought by friends and at times by outlets. “We charge from everyone though,” grins Cynthy. The gift-wrapped cakes come at a price of Rs. 650 while those without it is for Rs.600. “This time we opened a Facebook page and have an order from a shop in Kochi too,” she adds. With greater exposure through social networking sites and also word-of-mouth publicity, the women say there is opportunity for their seasonal business to grow. “But it also means we have to hire people for help. Now we do all the work amongst ourselves,” says Cynthy. Though the profit, which they divide amongst themselves, is a bonus, the women assert they love what they do for the togetherness it gives. “It gives us joy,” says the four who also run a dry flower arrangement business the rest of the year.