The traditional cake mixing ceremony stirs it up for Christmas

Diwali is over but people are all holly and jolly. We are on to the next cultural event. It is the time to waggle a spoon in a bowlful of dried fruits and booze and allow the flavours and textures time to soak in and mature in a sealed container. A month on when the Christmas festivities peak, the rich plum cake will be ready for the delicious bite.

While home kitchens are readying for the stir-up, the cake mixing ceremony has become a revered annual and community event with hotels taking the lead in celebrating it in a grand way. “The idea is to spread cheer and joy,” asserts Executive Chef Prabhat Chandra Kuila of Hotel Fortune Pandiyan.

“The process of cake mixing is believed to be a harbinger of good tidings. Baking it is an arduous task and that is why the preparations begin at least a month in advance,” follows up F& B Manager Ravisundar.

Since the occasion gives an opportunity to bring people together, the hotel’s general manager Sujith Chamukutty led his team members along with the in-house guests, including foreigners, in the fun. Everyone rolled up their sleeves, wore disposable gloves and caps and dug into the huge pile of dry fruit mixture weighing 100 kg.

Red and black currants, chopped raisins, dried apricots and apples, crystallized pineapples, ginger chips, orange peel, candied fruits, glazed red cherries, dates and figs, pistachios and walnuts and spices of ground green cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cloves were heaped on a stainless steel table and hand-mixed with 15,000 ml of rum and brandy and turned over and over again amidst lot of cheering and camaraderie.

The sloshed dry fruits were carefully put away in haandis and sealed with cling wrap to rest till a week before Christmas. The containers will be turned once in a fortnight to allow the liquor to coat all the fruits.

At the Gateway Hotel Pasumalai too, General Manager Devraj Singh and his staff members joined hands to keep the tradition going. It is believed the cake mixing ceremony was started by Sir William Harvey, the founder of J.B.Coats, atop the Pasumalai Hill in 1891 when the property here was converted into his residence. “To be able to continue the ritual with your friends, family and guests is something to feel happy about,” notes Devraj.

It is believed that more the number of people involve in stirring the ingredients for the Christmas plum cake, the better and bountiful the year ahead is. And when the process is carried out happily in a true team spirit, it also is a moment of wish fulfilment.

While mixing the 15 kilos of dry fruits -- containing two kilos each of cashew nuts, almonds, dates, candied ginger, tutti frutti, black currant and one kilo each of orange peel and raisins and spice powders like cinnamon and dry ginger along with exotic hazel and pine nuts —in five litres each of brandy and rum, 20 one rupee coins were also put in the aromatic mixture.

“We followed the age-old tradition of pot luck. Whoever gets a coin in the cake is considered blessed and lucky,” says Devraj.

The mixture has been sealed in an air tight container to enable the dry fruits and nuts soaked in liquor mature over the next five weeks. According to Executive Chef V.John Praveen, the cake is kept upside down in an airtight container after baking. A small amount of brandy or whisky is then poured into holes in the cake every week until Christmas. This is called “feeding the cake”. The cake mix at Hotel Fortune Pandiyan will be used to bake about 300 kg of plum cake, plum pudding and the special Christmas night gateaux. The hotel will unveil the special plum cake on 10th December and it will be sold at its Pastry Shop for Rs.700 a kg. The myriad flavoured cake will also be available in packs of 500 gms and 250 gms. The sale of 15 new varieties of cakes and pies for Christmas and New Year will also start from December 15 at The Pastry Shop.

The Gateway’s delicious plum cake weighing over 100 kilos will be available from December 18 at the GAD restaurant. The scrumptious cake will be available in packs of 250 gm, 500 gm (Rs.300 plus Tax) and One kg (Rs.600 plus Tax).

Though Christmas is a feeling, it is said, that stays in the heart always, the countdown to Christmas has started.