I know its way past the Christmas season but I am sure you will definitely agree that there is no particular season for enjoying a good fruit cake. Many of my friends after reading many of my Christmas and Christmas cake related blogs had asked me about the exact place where the cakes are baked and how it’s actually done. So finally I have decided to spill the bean once in for all so that you know the real mystery behind those delicious pieces of Christmas Fruit Cake.
There are actually two options when it comes to baking a Christmas cake, either you can bake them at your home in an oven or you can take the ingredients to a bakery to get them baked all at once. Some families who bake limited quantities of Christmas cake usually prefer to back them at home one by one.
There is both an advantage and disadvantage when baking cakes at home. The advantage being that you don’t need to worry about the shelf life and bake them once a batch gets over. Also, you can have varieties of combinations like for the first time you bake a rich fruit cake and then a walnut cake followed by a carrot cake etc. The disadvantage is that the taste varies in every batch thus it becomes a bit difficult to have a consistent taste.
Similarly, there is also an advantage and disadvantage when baking cakes at a bakery. The advantage being that all your cake for the season gets baked at a single time and you need not worry about refilling. The disadvantage is that you have a short window at the bakery to have all your varieties baked thus generally people usually bake only two varieties at a bakery. There is also a cost factor that you need to understand, day by day the charges of baking cake at a bakery is increasing thus you need to adjust accordingly.
Our family does both actually, we get our cakes baked at a bakery and my sister usually does the home baking part which are experiments of various varieties and types of cakes, muffins and other confectionaries.
I have already written a detailed blog (A Kolkata Christmas Cake Conspiracy) about the ingredients of a rich Christmas fruit cake in an earlier blog which I will not repeat here. So will go straight to the bakery part.
There are bakeries located at several locations across the city, we prefer Beck Bagan bakeries due to its proximity to our house. During Christmas season, the bakeries get booked one month in advance thus we usually book them end of November of by the first week of December. Once a booking is confirmed we are given a date and time when we need to come to get our cakes baked.
Last season we got our schedule on 18th of December at 7.30 AM. With all our ingredients packed in separate plastic bags and jars, we reach the bakery on time. It’s more of a tradition to never get a free mixing station, the bakery would surely give the same date and time to several of its customer and one needs to fight his way to claiming a mixing station.
- Finally, when you get one, the first this you do is to pour the sugar into the large mixing bowl. This way you sort of claim your spot.
- Butter is slowly added to the sugar and the baker using his hand mixed the butter and sugar till the sugar gets completely dissolved.
- Next, the baker will put eggs into the mixing bowl. We prefer country chicken eggs as these taste much better.
- Flour is then added to the mix and again the baker mixes it completely manually till a consistent paste is formed. This is the critical part as any undissolved lumps will result in globules inside a cake.
- Next Vanilla essence is added to the mix.
- The next process involves adding the dry fruits to the mix. We give raisins, murabba, cherry, mixed fruit peel, dry ginger, black currant and dried mixed fruit bits.
- Next is the turn for the nuts, we add cashew, walnut, pistachio and almonds.
- By now the batter is ready to be put into cake moulds. Choose your mould according to your preference. A good tip to the baker at the very beginning will ensure you get the desired moulds.
- Once the batter settles in the mould you need to place a name label on each of the cake. This is an important step as this way the baker knows who it belongs to once baked and also is an indication to someone when you gift them a cake.
- Before putting it into the oven the baker will count the number of cake mould used. This is not used to cost calculation but just for their record during delivery.
- Next, the baker puts the cake inside the wood heated oven. Though there are some new bakeries with electric over but we prefer the wood heated one as these have a better heat circulation.
- You need to stay for around an hour when the cake in inside the oven, this way the baker won’t be able to take the batter out of the mould and use it for their own supply.
- The baker will give you an estimated time when to come for the delivery. This is where the specialisation of the baker comes into place, he uses his judgement on the heat and the approximate time it would take for the cakes to get baked. No electronic tools are used but just the feel of the heat on the hand and by the sight of the cake texture.
- The baker calculates the cost of baking on the amount of sugar used. The price is calculated on per kilogram of sugar used and not on the number of moulds.
This is how a good old Christmas Cakes are baked in my city of Kolkata. This is actually a dying art form, many of the bakeries have closed down while some have converted to electric ovens. These bakeries still use mixing bowl which is a century old and baking in the same old wood fuelled mud ovens for decades.
By the way, now my mouth is watering, I have no option but wait till the year end for this year’s batch of cake.