Mumbai Food: Home bakers recall memories of cake-mixing
With a month to go for Christmas, cake-mixing season hits fever pitch. Four city home bakers recall memories of the age-old Yuletide tradition
Baked with love
Catherine Morris met her husband Anil Fernandes in Muscat when she was in ninth standard. Little did the baker know then that he would be taking over the oven during Christmas.
"The first time Anil sent his famous fruit cake home, my mother and I were spellbound, even though I didn’t like fruit cakes growing up. It’s a little bit of an acquired taste, you know?” she shares. At their home, not only does baking take up the month of December, but in effect, all year. Master baker Morris suggests soaking assorted fruits, which includes berries and citrus rinds, in rum for a year as it ensures a pleasant density.
"After I married Anil in 1995, my mother stopped baking cakes and the responsibility fell on him,” she recalls, adding that much of the coming month will be filled with rigorously mixing large portions of fruit cake batter together with the family — both for orders as well as for the purpose of spreading Christmas cheer among relatives and friends.
When asked if this treasured recipe — which Anil inherited from his land lady during his time as a paying guest in Bengaluru — had any role to play in wooing his lady love, his simple answer is, “I think I wooed her way before that.”
At Cate’s Comfort Food, Kalina.
Call 9167051165 (deliveries for orders over Rs 2,000)
An heirloom recipe
For established home-baker Alefiya Jane, her passion for food is directly related to memories of her loitering in the kitchen as a child and of sitting at a round table with the family making Christmas goodies.
It isn’t surprising then, that Jane’s fruitcake recipe is older than the 250-year-old ancestral home in Uttan. Even today, she uses the boiling method, wherein the ingredients are boiled and cooled for an hour before being baked to achieve a silken consistency. Though prepared with pre-soaked fruits, Jane suggests feeding rum to Christmas cakes, and especially so, if you like them boozy.
"The process had its charm. When I would return home for Christmas vacation, my mum would be pottering around the kitchen. She was the head chef and I was the sous chef. She taught me how to mix the batter and prepare the dry fruits in advance.
Then it would be testing time. She would watch over me while I mixed and folded the batter while offering instructions about what needs to be done. To me, cake-mixing is reminiscent of a special bond I share with my late mother and grandmother. Their essence is present in my work even today,” she says.
At She Bakes, Uttan Beach.
Cost Rs 1,800 (for 1 kg rich fruit cake)
The culture fix
Even though the holiday season doesn’t hold any religious significance for Gayatri Sarang aka Bombay Baker, whose foray into baking began with an easy-bake oven, growing up in New York meant Christmas was an annual, intrinsic affair.
“Christmas meant celebrations; my parents didn’t want me to feel left out, so we’d celebrate. It helped that their anniversary falls on December 25,” she recalls. For Sarang, it meant eggnog made by her friend’s mum, pumpkin pie from a tiny local bakery, toffee bark, and bags of Christmas tree-shaped sugar cookies.
The baker has created a Christmas croquembouche, an amalgamation of all the things she loved, as a homage to her vicarious experiences of seeing American families get together to mix cakes and churn out sweet surprises.
At Bombay Baker
Log on to email@example.com (only bulk orders for Mumbai)
The Jewish way
If any of you are fans of the popular ’90s television show Friends, and remember Ross’s concerted effort to try educate his son about Hannukah, a festival as important as Christmas during the holiday season, then ex-actor and now chef, Tara Deshpande’s interest in familiarising us with it’s culinary traditions will make sense.
Having met her Jewish husband, Dan Tennebaum, at a New Year’s Party in 1999 and being together for 18 years means Deshpande, too, has inherited recipes from her in-laws. This includes traditional baked goodies like soufganiyots, which are jelly-filled doughnuts, latkes or fried pancakes, quintessentially prepared with potato.
“The dish has become so popular that people are now experimenting with other ingredients, too,” Deshpande tells us. “Cake-mixing is the essence of the holiday spirit, which includes sweet memories, family time, and all the things that make that time special.”
From November 28
At Tara Deshpande Studios, Nariman Point.
Log on to taradeshpande.in
(for more details)
Mix it up
On November 25, 4.30 pm onwards
At The Sassy Spoon, Nariman Point,
Cake mixing ceremony:
On Tonight, 7 pm onwards
At FLEA Bazaar Cafe, Lower Parel.
Cake Mixing Ceremony:
On Nov 28, 5.30 pm onwards
At Oberoi Mall, Goregaon East.
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