Preparation for the Christmas cake begins much in advance. The Hotel Gateway at Pasumalai set the ball rolling this Saturday evening. The festive cheer was rung in with the traditional cake mixing ceremony.

The first step in cake mixing saw rum-soaked dry fruits and nuts going in with raisins, dry cherries, black currant, orange and ginger peel mixed in wine and brandy. Pairs of hands wearing gloves rose and moved together for mixing the ingredients till the dry fruits were flattened. Nearly 80 kilos of ingredients were mixed thoroughly before the concoction was covered and sealed in an airtight container. It will be now kept for a month for the mixture to ferment before the Christmas cake is baked.

“To make a perfect Christmas cake, we need to do lot of planning in advance,” said Executive Chef Ashok Kumar. “All the cut dry fruits should be mixed really well with the spices so that the flavour is well absorbed. When mixed in advance, the desired flavour is obtained. Alcohol helps retaining the flavour and acts as preservative. Ingredients mixed in correct proportion is the key to perfect baking. With proper refrigeration, the cake will have a longer life.”

There were many specially invited guests who enthusiastically performed the ritual wearing gloves and aprons.

“We look after our guests as a part of one large family and it is so heartening to see them participate. We normally distribute the cake to our hotel guests on Christmas day. We also get advance cake orders” said Sumant Khanna, the sales manager.

The History

The Christmas cake traces its roots to an old English tradition that began as plum porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas eve, using it to fill their stomachs after a day of fasting. Soon dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture, and eventually it turned into Christmas pudding.

In the 16th century, oatmeal was removed from the original recipe, and butter, wheat, flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together in what resulted in a boiled plum cake. Richer families that had ovens began making fruit cakes with marzipan, an almond sugar paste, for Easter.

For Christmas, they made similar cake using seasonal dried fruit and spices. The spices represented the exotic eastern spices brought by the wise men. This cake was known as “Christmas cake”.

Christmas cakes are usually made in advance keeping the cake upside down in an airtight container after baking. A small amount of brandy, sherry or whisky is then pored into holes of the cake every week until Christmas. This is called “feeding the cake”.

Making Christmas cakes is a tradition which involves the whole family and as the early ‘inns’ were family run establishments the tradition spread to involving travellers or guests who were staying in the inn at that time, looking to them as an extension of the family.

A simple recipe

INGREDIENTS:

Butter, sugar and refined flour: 500 gm each

Egg: 10

Baking powder: Two gm

Vanilla and lemon essence: Five drops each

Bread crumbs: 50 gm

Caramel Blackjack: Two Tsp

Dry fruit mixture: One kg

METHOD:

Mix butter and maida (refined flour). Next, beat eggs and sugar together.

Now mix both the mixtures well. Bake in double boiler method in the oven at 180 degree temperature for 45 minutes.