Christmas- for a foodie like me, the term itself has got a separate smell, a separate taste. The smell of cakes roam around freely in Calcutta streets and the preparation starts some 1-2 months back with the cake mixing session and my story starts from this time of the year.
You think you know Kolkata ? Do you know, there are certain areas of the city whose sleeping habits change on a month-to-month basis ? While passing through these areas, our eyes somehow tend to close, we tend to take a deep breath and the floodgate of memories break open. Maybe, I am being a bit dramatic here, because the word “Christmas cake” does all of the above and maybe more to me. So, even my 6 year son knows, if I tend to leave house in the early morning somewhere around the christmas time, I’ll be walking around those dingy lanes and bylanes of the city and will be back with some of the yummiest cakes. Let me take you to the otherwise neglected Beckbagan area. During this cake-mixing season, this area is alive- alive like anything. For most of the anglo-Indian families, making and distributing cakes is a yearly ritual. But, making that huge quantity in the household setup is a bit difficult….. understood. And these old bakeries take the burden upon themselves. These families normally buy the ingredients and come down for the mixing and baking part. The mixing is still done in the old-fashioned way and the wood fired ovens (some a hundred years old) are put to taste. I’ve heard from the regulars that, the fully automated bakeries are looked upon as cheap variants and these wood fired ones give the real taste.
If you just come down, please be assured you won’t be entertained. On the first visit, you need to make an appointment and take the timing. Next day, come down with the ingredients and hand over the the master, and relax. He knows how to do it- watch his/ their magic. Be ready to face the hustle and bustle and experienced ones say ” be ready with some change- you never know when you’ll need them… “. These cakes are not for boys, but for men. like a matured woman, they are full bodied, strong and can survive for a few weeks, even months. The primary reason being, the fruits and nuts are dried before mixing for days, even weeks and any water content is just not allowed. These families preserve it for months and relish it.
Let’s come down to the output now. As I said, it’s like a matured woman- to be made love with, not to flirt with. These cakes are normally heavy (much heavier than the ones we see in the market) and the taste is rugged – fluffiness is not encouraged. In one normal household, normally 4 varieties are made. The lighter variations are made using country eggs, while the heavier variations (with more varieties of dry fruits and nuts are added). Few are made using cinnamon flavoring, few are made with more kismis. If you want a more detailed description, please check the following video (at the house of Subhadip Mukherjee).
Marzipan walnuts and chocolate coins were also offered to us, but not home made. They were procured from the legendary Nahoum’s (probably the only Jewish cake shop in town). The old gentleman behind the counter is a real sweetheart and whenever I go, I’ve never come out without a small gift packet. You may also check my shitty mobile-shot video here.
But there is another side of the cake mixing session- the posh, plush parties hosted in the big hotels. As an yearly ritual, these hotels, invite the prominent personalities in town to attend the event and mix the fruits and nuts with the spirit and liquor and basically to have a good time.
But, this year, we’ve witnessed something different in the Aauris Hotel, instead of inviting loads of celebrities, they’ve asked all their internal team members to attend the event. And basically why not ? These are the people who runs the hotel and manages the brand. So, they are the ones who should be attending the celebration. Off course, as part of the media team, we, food bloggers were invited also and along with the cake, a nice hamper was given. The fruit cake, which we got, surprisingly had a distinct taste. It’s a bit different from the usual. It was like those homemade cakes from Anglo-Indian family cakes, the same hardness, heavy-bodied texture, same aroma- I was simply bowled out. This Christmas fruit cake from The Bakery, Aauris is definitely recommended for the brave, adventurous ones.
The next session, that we were invited, was at The Stadel. Now, being a resident of Beliaghata and this being very near to my place, I love this one. And these guys were the first one who’ve invited me to witness a cake mixing session few years back- sentiments do work sometimes….. The event was followed by a sumptuous buffet lunch and the wine counter was never empty. and basically, who doesn’t like to attend a poolside fun party ? The cake was supported by their sister concern , CremeCup , which is an online bakery startup who specializes in egg-less cakes.
Comments and critics welcome.
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