CHRISTMAS AND CAKE
Plum cake, Pan De Pascua or Galette Des Rois”, these words are commonly heard from all parts of the world when December and Christmas come knocking. From cakes having themes on Santa and the reindeers to simple baked rum and plum cakes. It’s a mouth watering treat for everyone.
Christmas doesn’t tend to feel the same without it. Christmas cake takes on many forms with recipes, passed down for generations from its very humble beginning to grand tiered ones. It has evolved greatly from boiled plum cake to the rich fruit cake. Are you aware about its history, let’s take a glance.
Christmas cake is an English tradition which started as plum porridge. Porridge has an origin which dates back to the beginning of Christianity. After a day of fasting, people ate porridge and celebrated Christmas eve. Gradually, dried fruit, spices and honey were used as additive to the porridge to make it a special dish for Christmas. But the porridge became stiff with all the fruits and spices, as it was tied in a cloth and dipped into a large cauldron of boiling water to boil it for many hours. It eventually turned into Christmas pudding.
Around the 16th century, it became popular to add butter, replace the oatmeal from original recipe with wheat flour and eggs to hold it together better. These ingredients made the pudding into a boiled plum cake. This cake would still have been as it is until richer families who had ovens at home to bake added dry fruits with marzipan, an almond sugar paste. This cake became known as ‘Christmas cake’.
It is quite interesting to note that originally, the cake was not eaten on Christmas but on Twelfth Night (twelfth day of Christmas, which falls in January), the Epiphany. Thus it was known as Twelfth Night cake. Sadly, British Queen Victoria announced that she felt it was inept to conduct such an unchristian and rowdy celebration and Twelfth Night was banned as a feast day in 1870’s. This brought a decline in popularity of the twelfth night cake but with gradual increase of Christmas festivities, Victorian era bakers who lost revenue , baked fruitcakes and decorated it with snowy scenes or Italian romantic ruins for Christmas parties in December not for Twelfth Night feast in January . So the cake was eaten in and around Christmas.
These days there are quite a variations in Christmas cake as it can be made in different ways such as soaking in rum, brandy, whiskey or for the vegan its eggless. The shapes of cake can vary too,with frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or plain. It can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy, leavened, unleavened and more. Christmas marks a way to enjoy more cakes. Either you bake it or buy it to eat it or share it.
Coffee Bytes brings the recipe of traditional plum cake from our expert pa nel Asha Mohapatra who has a rich experience in the food industry
• Brown Sugar – 1 kg • Butter – 1 kg
• White Flour – 1 kg
• Baking Power – 4 level tbspn
• Vanilla Essence – 2 bottles
• Eggs – 1 kg with shells (Then break and separate)
• Dry fruit – 2 kg (Chopped in very small cubes)
1. Kismis – ½ kg
2. Orange Peel – ½ kg
3. Murabba – ½ kg
4. Tuttifrutti – ½ kg
• Brandy – 1 cup optional
Dry fruits cut into small pieces should be ideally soaked in Brandy/ Rum/Whiskey a month before baking the cakes.
Procedure for 5 big cakes (approx):
• Beat butter and brown sugar using hand whisk or electric beater till smooth and creamy.
• Separate out egg white and the yolk from eggs.
• Add egg yolk slowly to butter and brown sugar mix and beat it again. Separately whip egg whites until it gets light and fluffy.
• Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder slowly and 1 cup at a time. Add Vanilla essence.
• Drain the mixed chopped fruits with 2 tbsp of the flour and keep aside.
• Put the dry fruits and stir well. Fold in egg whites slowly into the mixture.
• Pre-Heat oven to 1500C. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking brown paper/ butter paper or if in a microwave dish line it with butter.
• Put grease proof paper into baking tins on three sides. Approx 6 tins of ( 300gm-500gm) for the amount given in recipe .
• Pour the cake mixture into tins and cover the top with a hole in the paper at the centre.
• Bake it for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
• Prick the cake with a fork or toothpick to see if its done.
• Take out the cake from oven and let it cool completely. Serve it immediately or slice it and store in an airtight container.