In Kolkata, we denote a season by a few food items and winter here definitely means Christmas cake. There are multiple bakeries and confectioneries within the city churning out fantastic varieties of Christmas cakes- with alcohol, without alcohol- numerous types. But the story of Christmas cakes go back a long way and was unlike the food that we enjoy today in the name of a Christmas cake. And this post is more of a tribute to that story.
Where did it start?
In around the 8th century, people used to believe strongly in the phrase, Fast before you feast. They actually used to follow Jesus Christ’s example of fasting for 40 days, before his public ministry. And to celebrate December 25th properly, they used to fast from 15th November till the Christmas eve. It is also called “Philip’s Fast” as it begins after the feast of St. Philip the Apostle in the Byzantine calendar. the fasting used to be quite rigorous.
According to one Orthodox church, “The first period is November 15 through December 19, when the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil) is observed. There is dispensation given for wine and oil on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Similarly, fish, wine, and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. The second period is December 20 through 24, when the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, fish, wine, and oil) is observed. There is dispensation given for wine and oil only on Saturday and Sunday during this period. “ And after the fast got over, the celebration started. And thus the celebration for the Christmas eve started.
The christmas cake as we know today, was not the same when it started.
And you may definitely ask me, why am I talking on the Christmas rituals? What about the Christmas cake? The Christmas cake as we know today, was not the same when it started. Just around some 400-500 years ago, a thick meaty porridge with very little dried fruit was made on the Christmas eve. Was the purpose to serve the fasting souls come solid food? We don’t know. But what we do know that English Christmas cake (if I may take the liberty of calling it so) started as a plum porridge. Gradually dry fruits, honey were mixed and it turned into a Christmas pudding. In around 16th Century, Oatmeal was taken off the recipe and flour, egg and sugar started getting used. Rich families started using even Marzipan. And the Christmas cake, as we know today, evolved.
The first Christmas cake evolved in the 17th Century and was more of a bread-like stuffed with expensive dried fruit, nuts, candied peel, and wine and served as part of the Twelfth Night celebrations. But it was Mrs. Breeton who came up with the first ever documented recipe for Christmas Cake. So nobody really cares today, if it was more of a gingerbread variety?
Traditionally, Christmas cakes are made well in advance. Many make them a month before and keep them upside down in an airtight container. And from small holes, brandy or sherry is poured in the holes every week, until Christmas. This is called “Feeding the Cake”.
But what are the variations?
The classic Christmas cakes come in many variations- light, dark, with marzipan, with sugar glazing, multiple options. The traditional Scottish Christmas cake, also known as the Whisky Dundee, is very popular. It is a light crumbly cake with currants, raisins, cherries and Scotch whiskey. Other types of Christmas cakes are apple creme cake and a mincemeat cake. The apple cake is made with apples, raisins, eggs, cream cheese and whipping cream. The mincemeat cake is made with traditional mincemeat or vegetarian mincemeat, flour, eggs, etc. A mincemeat cake, once steamed, can be called as a Christmas Pudding. The last day of Christmas is called the twelfth night and comes on the 5th of January. And on that day, the 12th night Cake is baked with almonds and covered in Marzipan.
But we are in Kolkata …
All said and done, Kolkata is something different when it comes to the Christmas here. The cake is special. Loads of dry fruits, booze, chocolate and many other things go inside. But what makes a good Kolkata styled heavy Fruitcake ? Let’s find out from Rahul Arora, who’s successfully running Bon Appetit Cafe and Paranthewali Gully.
The christmas listing …
|Sl.||Hotel Name||Contact Number||Christmas buffet Price (pp)|
|1||Park Hotel – The Bridge||+91 33 4004 9000||2495/ 1995 (without alcohol)|
|2||the Vedic Village||98300 25900||1499 AI (without alcohol)|
|3||The Taj Bengal||(033) 66123939 / 66123302||Cal 27 dinner on 24th – INR 3200 per person (Selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages) / Cal 27 Brunch on 25th – INR 3200 per person (Selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages) / The Grill by the Pool dinner on 24th – INR 4500 price person (Selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages)|
|4||Oberoi Grand||(033)22492323||Christmas eve dinner by the pool at 4500 (without alcohol) & 5500 (with alcohol) / Christmas eve dinner buffet at 363 at 4000 & Christmas Brunch at 363 at 5000 (with alcohol)/ 4000 (without alcohol)|
|5||The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata||9007728074||Kids carnival 1450 for one parent and 1 kid and extra parent 700 & 850 per kid / Brunch and Dinner at 2250 & 1100 (kids), Christmas breakfast at 750 at The Bakery,|
|6||The Gateway||8436367049 / (033)66660000-3133||1699 (without alcohol) / 2299 (with alcohol)/ 850 (kids)|
|7||JW Marriott||Press Note – Christmas & New Year at JW Marriott Kolkata|
|8||Westin Kolkata||Press Note – Christmas Celebrations at The Westin Kolkata Rajarhat|
|9||ITC Sonar||The set menu across all the outlets are priced at INR 2999+Tax for food and soft drinks per person which can be upgraded to Gold beverage package at INR 999+Tax and Platinum package at INR 1499+ Tax for the beverages.|
|10||The Stadel||9874140712||2000 AI (with 1 beer/ wine/ mocktail/ cocktail)|
|11||Hyatt Regency Kolkata||9874539628||The set menu at La Cucina at 2500+ Tax / Brunch at 2100 (without alcohol) & 2400 (with alcohol)|
|12||Swissotel||9073399244||Brunch at 200+ Tax without alcohol & 2500+ Tax with alcohol|
|13||Novotel||8584077005||Christmas Kids party- Kids 499 AI , Adults 799 AI / Dinner 1709 AI (alcohol a La Carte) / Brunch 1449 & 1649 (with alcohol) & 750 AI for Kids|
And finally, for some more stories, here’s a pic from The Economic Times, done by my friend Anirban Bora … and my two cents.