My Christmas Cake 😊

It’s Christmas time! There’s a Christmas tree everywhere – in malls, offices, even in our living rooms. December chill is succumbing to the fervor of festivities, parties are being planned, excitement around Santa or secret Santa – there’s something magical about Christmas!

And Christmas is not complete without cakes. When I was girl in Agartala, we would pick Christmas cakes from local bakeries, Laxmi Bakery and Sudipto Bakery, the leading bakeries then. The Christmas cakes were pretty basic, with some candied fruits and peanuts and a(supposedly) red cherry on top. The so-called cherry was Karamcha or Bengal Current sweetened in sugar syrup. I would go for that cherry (to my mom’s great displeasure) moment the cake was unwrapped. Both the bakeries are still thriving and have introduced many innovations in their cakes & pastries since.

Once I started baking, I would bake rich fruit cakes for Christmas. But this year I decided to bake a proper boozy Christmas cake. As I don’t like rum, I decided to replace it with brandy. The liquor shop guy suggested that I use Morpheus. As the name sounded grand and bottle looked fancy, I decided to go for it. It tasted quite good with hot water, honey and few drops of lemon juice (I had to sample it first before using it in the cake 😊).

Brandy soaked fruits

Next step dry fruits. I ordered raisins, broken cashews, walnuts and cherries online. I had some fruit candies (tuty fruity) lying at home. I chopped the cherries, crushed the walnuts and cashews, put raisins, tuty fruity and all the other dried fruits in a flat bowl and soaked them in brandy, just enough to lightly soak the fruit. I also added a heaped spoon full of apricot jam to the mixture. When I opened the lid of the bowl next morning, I found the dizzy fruits nicely soaked in brandy. I added a little more brandy to the fruits that evening and let it rest. The dry fruits should be left in liquor ideally for a week, I could manage only five days. Each evening I would check the fruits eagerly as they were swelling up in warm brandy happiness.

Though I came across many recipes, where they just simmer the dry fruits with booze, butter and sugar, pre-soaking the fruits for 5 to 7 days or more gives a better flavor.

On D day, Sunday the 22nd I embarked upon the task of baking Christmas cakes. I was little nervous, but the end result was quite satisfying. Here’s how I baked my Christmas cake…

Oven ready batter
  • Steps
  • Chop all the dry fruits and soak them in brandy or rum. Mix a heaped spoon apricot jam to it. Leave it for a week or more. Add some more after a few days as the fruits will soak up the booze.
  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150°C/130°C Fan/300°F). Line the sides and bottom of a deep round cake tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper (parchment paper) or foil paper. The greaseproof should be higher than the sides of the tin. It will keep the cake from becoming too dark around the sides and top. You can use deep cake moulds as well
  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and the spices. Sift the mixture
  • In a saucepan add softened butter and sugar (You may want to melt the butter & sugar and allow it to cool as it’s difficult to soften butter in winter). In a separate bowl beat 3 eggs. Now, add the beaten eggs to butter & sugar and beat till fluffy. Fold in soaked dry fruits and flour. Add lemon juice and honey.
  • Pour the fruit cake mixture very carefully into the prepared cake tin or cake moulds.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour 10 mins, by which time the top of the cake should be firm and dry and will have cracked a little. If you insert a cake tester into the middle of the cake it will still come out a little sticky.
  • Put the cake on a cooling rack Unmould it from the tin and wrap the cake well in a layer of greaseproof paper and then foil
  • You can store the cake for a couple of months well wrapped and in a cool dark place. If you want more boozy flavour you can feed the cake with 3 tablespoons more brandy/rum as soon as it gets out of the oven. Just pierce the top of the cake several times with a fine skewer, spoon over the rum and let it sink in.

The cake was quite a hit and there was complete Christmas spirit in the office. Abhishek baked red velvet muffins whole Manaswi surprised us with chocolate muffins.

Abhishek & Manaswi with red velvet & chocolate muffin

Ushering festive cheer with Greeting Cards!

Christmas cardIt’s Christmas time again and then new year, parties to plan and dos to attend!  As Tiya busies herself planning the festivities she suddenly remembers the Greeting Cards that used to be central to festive seasons and special occasions. Christmas, New Years, Birthdays or Diwali celebrations were never complete without greeting cards. Tiya remembers spending hours in Archies & Hallmarks stores browsing through the cards, carefully choosing the ones with the right image and text (needless to say very ornate most of the times) for each friend and relative. Then came the part where she would take out her best pen, address each one and write a few lines in each card before stamping the envelopes and posting the cards.

There was a greeting card for every occasion – festivals, birthdays, anniversaries, father’s day, mother’s day, teachers day and what not.  There were cards for friends, special friends, husbands and wives, for every feeling and mood, separate sections devoted to each. Tiya remembers spending hours in the card stores browsing through the cards. She would sometimes glance through the sections even when she didn’t need to buy one.  She fondly recalls giving and receiving carefully chosen cards to her friends and loved ones.  Tiya treasured the greeting cards people sent her, she would often take out the old cards and go through them again and again. The words (that seem a little silly now) meant so much then!Picture3

Then one fine day, before Tiya could even realise, the card stores were gone. People switched to e cards, GIFs and what not. Birthday wishes are sometimes just HBD, and Diwali and New Year wishes are mostly WhatsApp forwards. It seems folks today have no time for personalized greetings.

Tiya chanced upon an Archies store at the metro station recently and walked in to see if it bore any resemblance to the card stores of her childhood. Though the card section is far smaller now with only a handful of cards, she was happy to see them holding their own. May be this New Year she will send personalized cards to all her friends to remind them of the ‘good old greeting card’ days!