Growing up, Christmas was the most awaited festival. We waited eagerly for school vacations, get to attend parties with Santa Claus handing out gifts and eat the most amazing food. I remember my parents taking me to see the tallest Christmas tree at Hotel Oberoi, in Mumbai back then. There would be ginger bread houses and most of all, my favorite cake. We get to witness the cake mixing celebrations, the thrill of getting the ingredients for the Christmas cake mixed together in a big bowl when invited to a friend’s home.
Times have changed. Weeks before Christmas have always been a family time where everyone met up on the joyous occasion and get to soak all the dry fruits together along with the spirit with us not being allowed swigs though. Now with every hotel/restaurant catching on with the trend, it’s fun to get your hands dirty, with gloves though. To mix a lot of fruits, dry fruits and the likes in a huge vat along with alcohol. Yes it’s the Christmas cake mixing ceremony which commences around this time, approximately six weeks before Christmas.
Considered to be fun and also have religious significance, there is a lot of preparation which goes into the process. During the erstwhile times, an era long long ago, the cake mixing ceremony was a family affair. But the ‘inns’ which also did them in their premises considered their guests to be family, so they too were included as part of the ceremony. Fast forwarding to this century, it has now become a modern-day camaraderie as part of ushering in the Christmas spirit.
Cashews, almonds, walnuts and other assorted dry fruits along with candied ginger, prunes, raisins, tutti fruttis, glazed cherries and whole lot of other items are all the ingredients which go into the cake mixing. Not to forget are the freshly ground spices and cinnamon sticks. All these in the vat and then comes the ‘spirit of the season’ – the rum, whiskey, wine and brandy to soak the mixture in.
To kick off the ceremony all the ingredients are emptied into a vat or a basin. Once all of them are in, next come the alcohol, bottles and bottles emptied one after another. Next is the fun part, where donned with gloves, everyone can soak their hands in and using their muscle power get to work on the mixture.
The fruit is then placed in casks to soak in all the liquid and mature which can then be used for cakes and puddings. Ideally most of it is used during Christmas, but also some portion of it is left for longer duration, almost up to a year. So with the onset of the Christmas spirit, now to wait patiently for that “gulp” delicious plum cake to be baked.
Come December and below is the recipe you can create with the aged produce that you had kept locked off in a corner of your house, patiently waiting on till Christmas to get the perfect little Plum Cake.
1 ½ Cups – flour (Maida)
1 Cup – Pre-soaked Fruits in Alcohol.
½ Cup – Tutti Frutti, Walnuts, Pecans, Almonds and other assorted dry fruits.
2 Cups – White Sugar
1 Cup – Butter
½ Tbsp – Cinnamons, Cardamoms, Cloves, Saunf powder
1 Tbsp – Each of Baking Powder and Vanilla Extract
A pinch of Salt and Nutmeg Powder
- Mix all the soaked fruits and dry fruits with 1/2 cup of flour and keep it aside.
- Take the flour and sieve through along with salt, baking powder and the spice powders.
- Mix the butter and 1.5 cups of sugar together. Beat them lightly till they blend completely. Add eggs one by one and keep beating. Add vanilla essence and keep folding in flour mixture. Fold gently all the ingredients and add the mixed fruits. Keep the entire mix aside for few minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
- Heat pan and add the remaining half cup of sugar. Mix it till dark brown. Let it caramelize to a perfect brown. Add some water to make a perfect caramel syrup. Keep stirring until ready. Cool it.
- Now after the caramel syrup is cooled, add the mix to the cake mix and gently fold. I have also tried using the maple syrup last time to give it a beautiful taste and it worked.
- Fold all the ingredients together and pour it into the greased cake pan.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes at least. I do check if the knife inserted comes clean. Keep checking on it after 35 minutes.
- You can let the cake cool. Decorate with fresh fruits, cherries, icing sugar, cream or just eat as it is.
So how many of you people are going to be baking a delicious Christmas cake? Do let us know in the comments section. Until then here’s a video of the cake mixing ceremony at Olive Bistro Hyderabad.