Christmas comes calling
On a cloudy November evening, the guests and staff at the Taj Malabar Resort & Spa had gathered for the cake mixing ceremony.
On a cloudy November evening, the guests and staff at the Taj Malabar Resort & Spa had gathered for the cake mixing ceremony. The hotel has been celebrating the traditional cake mixing for almost 36 years. The mounds of exotic and dry fruits displayed on a grand patio was a sign that Christmas is near. Executive chef Meril Antony Aricatt and his team carefully piled up 1,000 kg of goodies on a long table.
The ingredients would be mixed together to make around 3,000kg of cakes, with each cake having aound 200 to 300 grams of fruit and dry fruits in it. The hotel will use the mixture — flush with red sultanas, raisins, black currants, walnuts, raspberries, plums, ginger chips, orange peel, candied fruits, dry cherries, dates, figs, cranberries, apricots, prunes and varieties of nuts soaked in brandy, rum and flavoured with homemade spices and red wine — to make the special plum cake, plum pudding and the special Christmas night gateaux.
Cake-mixing ceremony at the Taj Malabar Resort & Spa
“A real fruitcake is sinfully rich in real fruits soaked in wine and rum, nuts, honey, and complex spices. As Xmas and New Year approaches, it is time for us to prepare this special mix and create one of our special wonders yet again,” said Meril. The ceremony, which was put on hold for two years due to the pandemic, witnessed fewer guests this year.
“The cake mixing ceremony is a major event at the resort. This elaborate mixing process is what gives the cake its unique flavour, aroma, and texture. We mix the nuts and fruits and keep them immersed in wine and liquor for more than a month,” said the chef, who has been working at Taj for over 27 years.
Detailing the process, Meril said after some vigorous mixing, the sloshed dry fruits are carefully put away in bins and sealed to rest till a week before Christmas. The containers will be turned once every fortnight to allow the liquor to coat all fruits.
“Making a rich fruit cake in the 18th century was a major undertaking. The ingredients had to be prepared carefully. The fruit had to be washed, dried, and destoned. Sugar had to be pounded and sieved after being cut from loaves and butter had to be washed in water and rinsed in rosewater. Eggs need to be beaten for half an hour. Yeast, or barn from fermenting beer, had to be coaxed to life. Finally, the cook had to cope with the temperamental wood-fired baking ovens of that time. No wonder these cakes acquired such mystique,” says Meril.
Did you know?
The cake mixing ceremony is celebrated as a ritual to ring in the joy of the Christmas season. The practice of making cakes with dried fruits, honey and nuts may be traced back to ancient times and food historians agree that fruitcake (as we know it today) dates back to the Middle Ages.