Food

Cake that captures the Christmas spirit

With Diwali over, the Christmas cake mixing rings in the winter festive season

In a month’s time, the city confectioners would be filled with that intoxicating aroma in the air and lined with gift-wrapped fruitcakes . The nutrient-rich plum cake, however, is more than just a cake. The layers of dry fruits, dried fruits and warm spices along with a whiff of rum and other spirits go into its making in a manner that no other festive tiding can match.

Much before the cake is baked, it is the energy and enthusiasm of mixing various ingredients that ushers in the Yuletide cheer, says the Executive Chef of Courtyard by Marriott, Somasundaram Gopalakrishnan. The big hotels have converted the occasion into a publicity ritual, but the underlying essence of the cake mixing ceremony is also a reminder of the cross-cultural impact of celebrations. In a city like Madurai, children joyfully participated in the event, as seen at Marriot last weekend, whereas Claire Atkinson, a tourist from Norwich, UK, was taken in by surprise when invited for the cake mixing at Hotel Fortune Pandiyan.

“I have never participated in a public cake mixing event,” she says while lending a hand along with 30 other in-house and invited guests who roll up their sleeves to mix the liquor soaked ingredients. Donning the apron, cap and gloves, she asks her teenage son to take as many photos of the event. "This is one of the most beautiful memories I will carry back home. After all Christmas is about celebrating the love we share for one another," says Claire and adds that she soaked her cake ingredients back in January and now after she returns home, she would bake the cake a day before Christmas for her family to enjoy.

During the Sunday brunch at Marriott, families dining at the restaurant were also taken by surprise when the Assistant F&B Manager S Naveen Kumar gave a shout-out to all guests to join in the Christmas cake mixing celebration. Many kids present in the crowd jumped in to lead and bond in the festive cheer.

Twenty two kilos of dry fruits and nuts laid out in colourful heaps were rolled in on a wooden trolley. Whisky, rum, brandy, beer and vodka bottles were uncorked over piles of sliced, chopped and grated cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, raisins, red and black currants, glazed red cherries, tutti-frutti, apricots, figs, prunes and dry ginger chips with a dash of a special masala containing powdered cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Guided by their parents and the hotel staff , the children revelled in pure joy of camaraderie kneading the mixture that will yield 50 kilos of plum cake.

The process of cake mixing is believed to be the harbinger of good times, says Anu Abraham, the general manager of Hotel Heritage, who took the lead in the city this year and joined his staff and guests in true team spirit of cake mixing. Crushing, patting, flipping, tossing 60 kg of dry fruits and nuts like raisins, prunes, black currants, cherries, cashews, pistachio and almonds with 30 bottles of liquor flowing into the concoction, he says, the Christmas cake in beyond flavours and taste. “After keeping the mixture in a container, we add 750 ml wine every fifth day for enhanced taste. And to every kilo of fermented ingredients,1.5 kg of flour and 20 eggs are whipped in to bake 300 kg of plum cake in batches," says N.Tamil Vanan, the Executive chef.

While hotels involve the public, Chef Philip Abraham of Phil's Bistro stuck with his family and staff to mix 50 kg of dry fruits and 21 litres of brandy, rum and whisky. At the beginning of October itself, he stored the mixture in a big steel vessel in a cool room and will start baking small quantites of the plum cake from mid-November. He says he will bake nearly 150 kg of plum cake in batches. “My regular customers ask for it early as they send the plum cakes as gift," he says.

What was once a family affair is now celebrated with people to spread good will. Inside many homes, the ritual is still carried on with fanfare. Vichitra Rajasingh of Puppy's Bakery grew up watching her grandmother bake upto 100 kg of plum cake at home. “The entire house would be engulfed in the aroma of spices she used,” she remembers. Today, Vichitra bakes and sells her granny’s traditional recipe that contains no dry fruits. She adds only fruits including cherries, kismis, tutti-fruitti, orange peels and wets them in rum and sprinkles cake masala containing powdered cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.

"The measure of all the ingredients is important while baking a delicious plum cake,” she says and adds, "but above everything else it is the love for doing something for others that matters the most."

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:51:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/with-diwali-over-the-christmas-cake-mixing-rings-in-the-winter-festive-season-in-madurai/article29855411.ece

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