Ceremonies in city hotels herald the yuletide season, writes A.SHRIKUMAR

Laddus and murukkus can move over for the time being as it is the turn of creamy cakes now to tingle the tongues. Christmas is still a month away but it is already time to bake cakes! Christmas cake, after all, is not such an easy bake. It needs a long wait. November is the month when this long process starts and the handful star hotels in the city have struck the Christmas jingle.

An elaborate cake mixing ceremony was arranged at Hotel Fortune Pandiyan on Tuesday, where the milieu was charged with pre-Christmas cheers and English songs playing in the background.

“Traditionally cake mixing ceremony starts 60 days before Christmas. But since Madurai has a hot climate, 30 to 40 days is good enough time for the mixture to get soaked in wine” informed P. Bala Subramaniam, Executive Chef.

The base for the Christmas Cake consisting of luscious mounds of fruits (raisins, glazed red cherries, orange peel, tutti-frutti, black currants, dates, dried apricots, figs and prunes), nuts (walnuts, cashew, almond flakes and pistachio) and spices like ground cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and cloves was neatly laid on a long steel table.

Actual ceremony started with guests and invitees, including some prominent people of the city, covering their heads with the chef's cap and kneading the mixture with gloved hands. Next, liquor bottles were uncapped into the mixture for another round of super mix. A combo of whisky, brandy, Bacardi (blue rum) and wine went into it. Some exotic varieties of liquor included ‘Satori African wine'; US based ‘Remi Martin Brandy' and ‘The Glenlivet Scotch Whisky'. Dry fruits, nuts and spices were marinated and fermented earlier and kept for the occasion to lend the desired flavour.

“With Christmas cakes, the earlier you mix the dry fruits, the better the flavour. The dry fruits and nuts need ample time to ferment in wine before being baked. For 20 kg of the mixture, one litre of any alcohol is ideal,” shared Bala Subramaniam. “This year, we have increased the quantity of the mixture from 120 to 165 Kilos” beamed General Manager Mr. Vijay Tenneti. After a month's fermentation, the mixture will be ready for baking when another 165 kilos of maida (refined flour) and sugar will be added in one to one ratio. While eggs are used for binding the mixture, chocolate sauce, fruit jams and orange pulp on top help in mellowing the heady air of alcohol.Hotel Pandiyan is making the yummy plummy delight spiked with an extra tinge of ginger, pista and almonds for this season. The end product will cost Rs. 450 plus Taxes per Kg and will be available at their pastry outlet on New Natham Road.

The GAD, All Day Dining restaurant, at The Gateway was the venue for a similar ceremony earlier this week. A whopping 100 kg of dry fruits and nuts like almonds, red and black sultanas, cashew nuts, cherry, dates, dry ginger, figs, hazel nuts, lemon and orange peel, tutti frutti, pine nuts, apricot, dried peaches, plums, prunes and apples, candied mango, pomegranate molasses, were let to be fattened in 20 litres of liquor. According to Executive Chef, N. Krisshnakumar, this would yield 200 kg of cake costing Rs. 550 per Kg.

With much pomp, the hospitality industry has ushered in the Christmas chime. And with the sweetness of fruits, richness of nuts and goodness of wine, the festive flavour and fervour have already got giddy.

Making of a plum cake

( Hotel Gateway, Pasumalai)

INGREDIENTS:

Butter: 500gm

Egg: 12nos

Sugar: 600gm

Vanilla and mixed fruit essence: 10ml each

Baking powder: 50gm

Soaked fruits in( liquors): 400gm

Mixed fruit jam: 200gm

Spice powder: 10gm

Black jack: To colour

Curd: 100gm

Flour:1.500gm

METHOD: Whip butter and sugar till smooth texture is attained. Add the eggs one by one while whipping. Add both the essences and mix nicely. Next add the soaked fruits and mixed fruit jam. Now add flour, baking powder and the mentioned spices slowly to the mixture. Now put the black jack for brown colour effect. At the end add curd and mix properly. Pre-heat the oven at 150 degrees Celsius and cook for 45 minutes.