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 in 2016).
And now, for the formal cake mixing scenario in Kolkata :
As usual, hotels in Kolkata hold their cake mixing festival each year and for some reason, I get invited. And, being the fearful bong that I am, sheepishly, I reach the places, attempt to hid from the camera and try to shoot few pictures. So, here’s few of my experiences.
Hyatt Regency Kolkata was the first cake mixing event for me this year and it was a grand event at their lobby level and you can check the glimpse here …
Next was Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata cake mixing event …
Holiday Inn event was next and less-privileged kids from an NGO were invited.
In Sonnet Kolkata, however, kids from CINI Asha were invited for their cake mixing. and minute care was taken that they enjoyed the show… Smile on their faces was something which will stay in my memory for a long, long time … Also, some innovative food like mutton Galauti on parantha were present for the guests and it was damn good.
And, if you have time, you can check my short interview at this Kolkata TV clip aired
Also, we have one Video Blog named Foodka and the christmas episode is coming shortly. The trailer can be seen here
So, enjoy the christmas season and bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome
I can be reached at [email protected]