November 14, 2015
The city of Kolkata has a European feel to it and it can be experienced as Christmas approaches. As the cake-mixing begins, the city becomes very European and that too in a unique way. This ritual has a social aspect attached to it and people have become enthusiastic about it, although the religious connotation is still the same. In the Christian community, this is a much anticipated event and the households gear up for this unique ritual.
Christmas is no fun without the time-honored Christmas cakes and making them is no quick and easy task — preparations begin months in advance for that. To mark the birth of Jesus Christ, Afraa Conclave here organizes cake-mixing ceremonies to spread the warmth of the festive season.
The Christmas Cake Mixing ceremony started long back in the 17th century and it announced the arrival of Europe’s harvest season. Plenty of fresh fruits and delicious nuts were produced and they were used as the main ingredients of the popular plum cake. A small portion was kept aside as many believed; it would lead to another year of great harvest. Slowly people in the major cities participated in this event and this small ritual transformed into a big event. But there are variations, in some families, it is a private affair and they don’t take part in the big event. They sit together and the dry fruits are soaked in rum or wine, to bring the flavor in the cake. The sweetness of the cake fills everyone’s heart with joy and the festival becomes more enjoyable.
The first step towards making the cake is the mixing process, formally called the Cake Mixing Ceremony. “It is a custom religiously followed the world over, and is said to be a forerunner of good tidings and happiness,” says Sumanta Chakrabarti, Corporate Chef of Ambuja Neotia Group.
There was a long table filled with fruit – raisins, black currants, candied peel, candied cherries, tutti frutti and nuts like cashews, pistachios and almonds in company with the all important ‘spirit of the season‘ in bottles – wine, rum and whiskey to soak the fruit with.
To set the ceremony off, we were each handed gloves, aprons and chefs hats. Freshly ground spices are also added and tossed till the fruits and nuts are well coated. Chef Sumanta blow the whistle to start the event and liquor bottles got emptied in one by one, and then large quantities of fresh juices and honey were also generously added to soak all the mixtures. Preserved ginger strips, fruits, raisins, assorted nuts, sultans, black currants, cherries and wines, rum, liquor, honey, fruit juice were mixed in by the enthusiastic participants bringing in the tantalizing aroma and the undeniable good cheer of Christmas. Mixing was ultimate fun and brings smiles to everyone face.
“This mixture will be sealed into large containers till couple of days before Christmas, with occasional stirring to ensure that the nuts soak till they are swollen,” Bakery Chef Debopam, explained.
The sugar content of the liquor and fruit juices help preserve the ingredients. Also, for the cold “Christmassy weather”, the plum cake is a perfect get-up-and-go food. In the time of Christmas people of Kolkata loves this cake so much that no tea or coffee is complete without a slice of this rich cake.
After the event there was a High Tea session in Afraa Deli and spending an hour with Chef Sumanta Chakrabarti was just amazing. We mostly talked about food and he shared his few experience with me and I was listening like spell bound, conversation with him was the best takeaway gift for me. This cake mixing ceremony not only infused fruits and wines, but also adds our emotion, goodwill, happiness, smile and early Christmas cheer.