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The traditional aroma

Anila Kurian, DH News Service, Dec 8 2017, 10:53 IST
Homemade holiday Fruitcake with nuts, fruits and spices. Almonds, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom on the table. Traditional English pastries. Christmas. New year. Selective focus

Homemade holiday Fruitcake with nuts, fruits and spices. Almonds, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom on the table. Traditional English pastries. Christmas. New year. Selective focus

Christmas is on the doorstep and it's time to bring out the decorations and make your home look like a magical place. But of course, no celebration is complete without food and this time, it's all about Christmas cakes.

The process of making these cakes takes weeks or months, starting with the soaking of fruits, raisins and nuts and finally mixing it with spices before it goes into the batter.

Many home bakers in the city have already begun their preparations. Dorothy Victor, a home baker says, "It's been a couple of weeks since I soaked my fruits and raisins. The baking will begin very soon."

It's become a family tradition for Dorothy to bake these cakes every year. She usually as family members coming over during this festive season. "It's not going to be too grand as I lost my father this year. But Christmas is the most joyous celebration of the year and we all look forward to it," she adds.

So what makes Dorothy's Christmas cakes so special? She says with a smile, "My secret ingredient is lots of love."

For self-taught baker Jeyadra Vijayselvan, the preparation for this year's plum cakes began last year. She says, "I usually soak the dried fruits in alcohol a few months before Christmas the previous year so that the flavour will soak in very well by the time I have to a bake it. Closer to Christmas, I take them out and add the spices to it and it's ready to go in the oven."

Jeyadra isn't someone who follows the traditional recipe. "I've felt that those cakes usually dry up and crumble as soon as you try to cut a piece. I've improvised on that so when you cut through the cake, you'll get a beautifully smooth slice," she explains. She also makes panetonnes which were the first Christmas cakes ever made.

"The true origin of the bread/cake can be found in the Middle Ages when people used to celebrate Christmas with a bread richer than the one they ate every day, so they would add raisins and oranges. Not many in the city know about this recipe, and I hope they will find this interesting," says Jeyadra.

Adding a little twist to tradition is home baker Rebecca and her daughter Tresa Francis. Tresa says, "I don't soak the dried fruits in advance like many bakers. I just pressure cook them when I'm about to bake so that it becomes soft and easy to make. My mother, on the other hand, bakes almost 500 kg for a company; but she makes date and walnut cakes and carrot cakes."

Rebecca says, "A friend of ours asked me to make these cakes once and since then, I end up making a lot of it for his office. These cakes don't require any soaking but the fruits need to be cut and kept ready for baking. It takes about two weeks to finish the whole
cake."

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