Home-baked cakes for Christmas is a custom some women have stuck to

Christmas has its instant cake connect. Our childhood memory is likely to hold the image of an indulgent Christian aunt with home-made cake at our door. Her cakes may not have flummoxing frosting. But that did not matter. Over the years, that indulgent aunt may well have remained, but the cakes most often do not smell of home. Instead, they come off the shelf of a fancy cake shop with stumping designs, exotic berries and sinful cream. Though a tad stiff a search, it appears, there still are a few indulgent aunts who insist on home-baked cakes for friends and neighbours for Christmas. While quite a few have given up the practice, those like Santha Sunny and Viola Irene Hunt have not. For them, their skill is not business, but a gesture from the heart.

“I still bake about 20 cakes for Christmas mostly for my Christian and non-Christian friends. For those friends I could not give for Christmas, I bake another set of 10-15 for New Year,” says the 63-year-old Santha. Irene takes it as a time to give back. “During Onam, my friends come with a feast and it is an array of goodies for Id too. Christmas is my turn to give them something. I bake about 15 cakes a season,” says Irene, retired principal of Malabar Christian College.

Santha and Irene insist it is the warmth of friends that keep them going. “They never demand that I bake a cake. But I know their preferences,” says Santha. “Friends often call and tell me they are waiting for my cake. A friend’s daughter calls me from Mumbai to remind me of her share. It will be duly packed and sent with her parents,” laughs Irene.

The women say baking is a skill they perfected over the years. “My mother baked well and she always made plum and plain cakes. Plum cakes do not have many takers here and I started experimenting with the plain cake. I would rely on cookery shows for ideas,” says Santha. Irene says being the eldest daughter-in-law of a large family, baking became her responsibility. “I would bake for the birthdays of all the children. That itself would make it six to seven a year. Further, my husband did not eat anything from bakeries. So I would bake cookies for him,” Irene recounts how baking became a habit.

While Irene’s specialty is her plum cakes with nuts and raisins, Santha says a hit from her repertoire is the carrot and date cake. “Plain cake always has takers and I also do cakes with white chocolate frosting and fresh cream,” she says. Over the years, Santha says there has been a change in people’s preferences. “People these days are health conscious and prefer cakes without cream or frosting,” she says.

Irene and Santha say they have not considered their skill a business idea. “I do it out of interest. Of course, I feel good when people tell me it is good,” says Santha. “It is my token of love for my friends,” says Irene.