With Christmas quickly rolling around , hotels all over Kerala are competing in showcasing the best of cakes that they produce .
Cake mixing has become a celebratory event across India nowadays. It is not the home-baked cakes and muffins and pastries one is talking about. Or the tarts and the chocolate cakes one buys at cut-throat prices across the counters of prettily decorated cake shops. Cake-mixing is an event unto itself and brings people together in fun and frolic surrounding one of our favourite delicacies – The Christmas Cake.
Christmas is not complete without the traditional Christmas cake, and making it is no quick and easy task – preparations begin months in advance for that. To mark the birth of Jesus Christ, swanky hotels here organise cake-mixing ceremonies to spread the warmth of the festive season. People from different walks of life come together for such ceremonies and though it began with the Christians, it has now spread out to touch people belonging to all communities that make it a secular celebration to participate in and enjoy.
Cake mixing is a ritual that follows a definite process of putting the elaborate ingredients together, mixing them and then waiting till the mixture is ready for baking. The christmas cake is then distributed to friends, family and relatives. It has its own history and over time, has become an inseparable part of our culture and our Christmas celebrations. Cake-mixing is a harbinger of good tidings and happiness. The history of the event of cake mixing dates back to the 17th century in Europe.
The ceremony also marks the arrival of the harvest season. During this time, lots of fruits and nuts were harvested and used in the making of the traditional plum cake. The stirring ceremony is part of an age-old Christmas tradition of cake mixing and one making wishes for the New Year. The ingredients of the festive fruit cake are mixed with wine and liquor in advance so that the ingredients can develop its aroma and taste. Originally a family affair, it is for many years now celebrated within organisations to spread camaraderie and goodwill.
Some stories go that the cake mixing ceremony was born after World War II and was later shaped by flour mills that had a surplus of four. Others say that it was brought into popular culture in the 1930s traced back to a surplus of molasses and not flour. Cake mixing however, is poles apart from cake baking which happens much after cake mixing is done.
According to an expert, cake-mixing is a must for his eatery every year. The ingredients that go into the cake mixing do not include just flour, sugar and eggs. The mixing takes place with cinnamon, clove, mace, rum,, brandy, whisky, wine, honey, golden syrup, raisin, black raisin, cashew, walnut, almond, candied fruit, cherries, black currant, dates, figs and prunes to make a very rich cake.
A leading hotel in Thrissur, Hotel Joy Palace, is taking the lead in celebrating cake-mixing ceremony with much fanfare. The staff at the only five star hotel in the city, decided to begin the preparations for the traditional Christmas plum cake, much ahead of others. To spread the cheer and warmth of the festive season, they organised a stress-free gathering and invited people from different walks of life to take part in the traditional cake mixing ceremony. The event was elaborately arranged complete with colourful balloons all over, to set a jolly atmosphere. A beaming executive director of the hotel Jain Joy led the guests, particularly city Mayor Ajitha Jayarajan, in-house guests and a few other well known citizens.
Plastic gloves, tissue aprons and Santa caps were distributed to all and everybody moved towards the long steel table on which the ingredients were kept. The 100 kilos of chopped, grated and sliced dried fruits were not just heaped on the table but were laid out in a colourful combination.
The old and the young rolled up their sleeves and got into the joyful mood of treasure hunting and mixing the ingredients more vigorously. As pairs of hands crushed and patted, flipped and tossed, pressed and overturned the dry fruits including the omega-3 rich walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts, pistas, dates, yellow, dry and black raisins.
Accompanied with lots of cheering, fives litres of imported red wine was gradually added to the mix. “While the fruits will add an element of natural sweetness, the richly dark colour and the intense flavour will come from the liquor added,” briefed Mohammed Rawfudeen, Corporate chef . “It is best to do the cake mixing at least two months before Christmas so that all the flavours, aroma and textures get appropriate time to soak in and mature,” he continued.
After about an hour, the sloshed dry fruits were transferred into four huge airtight drums. The mixture would be taken out on 15 December - that is 72 days after the mixing -- and added to the dough to bake delicious plum cakes in moulds of 500 gm and one kg.
From experience, he says, the Heritage cakes would be the real plum cakes, properly matured, blackish in colour and a little bitter in taste. If done properly, these cakes can even be preserved for a year, he says.
While the hotel will take customised orders and sell on kilogram weight the plum cake for Rs.650 during the Christmas season, all their in-house guests will get to eat it free. This year from the mixed and preserved ingredients of about 400 kg the staff expects to bake 1200 to 1500 kilos of plum cake.