How to make the season’s best version of this Christmas staple, where to buy it from and telling factors around a good slice — we answer them all
Nilgiris, a supermarket founded in 1905 across Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore and other locations, has upheld a traditional Christmas celebration with its signature plum cakes. Representation pic
Yes, rich plum cake is a marker of the season. But let me ask you this, where the hell are the plums? Then again, what’s in a name when you’ve got raisins, seedless dates, black currants, cherries (or karvanda disguising as such), and finally, mixed peel which we won’t get into because that’s another story of papayas swapped
Plum or no plum, the cake remains the pièce-de-résistance when it comes to the festival’s baked spread. Cashing in on this trend nearly six years ago, a South India-based grocery store, Nilgiris, known for its legacy plum cake built an entire December marketing campaign around the nostalgia of their store-bought cake to cement itself as the festive synonym for the younger generation. Tapping into core memories of parents and grandparents buying beautifully wrapped bakes, the store promised a memory-evoking bite and punched customers right in the feels. But ultimately without good cake, you would have no good campaign, and theirs is a heavenly bite.
Pics Courtesy/Bonnie’s Bakery
Over time, gourmet offerings have sprung up across high-scale city bakeries and by chefs. But, as with this leading grocery store, the custody of the traditional recipe rests firmly in the hands of home chefs who have been making, perfecting and selling plum cake to loyal customers for decades. One of them is Malad-based culinary teacher Cora Soares, whose tryst with the rich plum cake began over three decades ago when she decided that the spirit of the season lies in making one’s own plum cake instead of purchasing it. Soon, she began extending this joy to students and has taught Christmas goodies, breads, pastries and other treats to over 100 students in the last 15 years. She says, “When you make it at home, you know the ingredients going in. Substitutes like margarine and lard are a big no-no.” Along with quality ingredients, skills, technique and crafting according to traditional taste define the cake. And you can bank on the fact that homemade plum cake, with more fruit than flour, is a rather wholesome and chunky bite as compared to the consistent texture of its bakery-bought avatar. “After trying a few recipes, I zeroed in on one of my recipes and have stuck with that. For me, cooking is a passion and a stressbuster. When I feel like punching someone, I decide to make a cake and cool down,” Soares reveals with a chuckle.
Finally, before the wizard returns to her kitchen kingdom to bake magic, we probe her to clear another doubt. What is the difference between rich fruit cake and rich plum cake? Don’t be ridiculous is the tone, “They’re the same” is her answer.
Get your cake, soon!
Rich plum cake and light fruit cake from Simone’s
COST Rs 1,200 and Rs 1,000/kg
Decorated rich plum cake from Zola’s
COST Rs 1,300/500 gms and Rs 2,500/kg
Rum plum cake and East Indian Christmas cake from Kris’s Den
COST R600/bar and Rs 1,400/kg
Decorated plum cake from The Cake Palette by Zainab Rampurawala
COST Rs 400/400 gms
CALL 8380090875 (Delivering from Lonavala to Mumbai and Pune)
Rum fruit cake (with jaggery powder) from Every Aroma by Reshma Mane
COST Rs 1,400/kg
Traditional British fruit cake from Black Vanilla by Sharon
COST Rs 1,750/750 gms
Classic plum cake by The Blue Mango by Shweta
COST Rs 1,499/500 gms
Pic Courtesy/Scoop Shape Bake
Plum cake by Scoop Shape Bake (eggless)
COST Rs 1,450/500 gms
CALL 9820869312 (delivery to Mumbai, Pune and Lonavala)
Rich fruit plum cake by Bonnie’s Bakery
COST Rs 1,200/kg
Rich plum cake
. 150 gms butter
. 3 eggs
. 1/2 tsp baking powder
. 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
. 1/4 tsp cake spice powder
. 130 gms powdered or castor sugar
. 150 gms maida
. 30 ml caramel syrup
. 1/f tsp glycerin
. 1/2 tsp caramel colour
. 75 gms cherries and mixed peel (not tutti frutti) each
. 100 gms raisins
. 50 gms back currants and seedless dates each
. 4 tbsp rum (optional)
Chop all the fruits and mix them with the rum. Set the mix aside for two days. In a bowl, mix maida, baking powder, chopped fruits, and spice powder. Grease and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the whites with essence to a stiff froth. Cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks till light and creamy. Add the beaten egg whites to this batter. Add caramel syrup and glycerine, and mix well. Fold in the fruit and flour mixture until mixed well. Pour the batter into the tray and bake at 180 degrees centigrade for 45 minutes or until done.
Tips, recipe courtesy: Cora Soares
Bake it right:
1. Beat the eggs well for a light and fluffy cake.
2. No one likes the smell of eggs in sweet treats. Add vanilla essence to the egg white when beating it in to avoid the eggy smell.
3. The fruits shouldn’t settle at the bottom. They should rise with the batter and be evenly distributed. Mix the batter well, and when poured into the tray, dab it gently, don’t bang it while settling it. This will turn the cake dense and the fruits will sink.
4. Don’t open the oven door within the first 30 minutes of baking, or else the cake will fall flat. Let it do its job to rise.