‘C’ is for the Christ child born on Christmas Day. ‘C’ is also for all the cakes baked for Christmas Day.
From watching my mother bakes varieties of cakes, to baking them myself, to now watching my daughter successfully try her hand at all sorts of cakes at Christmas; this is one festive tradition that seems well set to last.
Certain things have changed along the way- my father used to patiently sit with a bowl of egg-whites and a fork and beat them till they were stiff, whereas I’d avoid recipes that required separated egg-whites beaten till they formed peaks, but my daughter goes about separating egg yolks from the whites with an enviable insouciance and whirrs them up with our trusty hand- mixer.
My mother would collect recipes by carefully cutting them out from different magazines, I’d jot them down hastily on whatever scraps of paper were at hand and my daughter saves links and videos!
I may be outclassed in the kitchen at baking time during Christmas but one thing that I still get to make is the Christmas Cake- aka the plum cake or the rum cake without which our cake platter would be incomplete. That’s a privilege I haven’t yet surrendered to the next generation.
In this era of Buzzfeed videos and dozens of their ilk, all showing us how to whip up the most complicated recipes in a matter of minutes, it’s very reassuring to know that I can still do something my way and have it turn out well.
When I see the glistening brown crystals of the demerara sugar sprinkled over the yellow cubes of butter, waiting to be whizzed into a fluffy mixture, it makes me feel like I’m in my comfort zone.
Next step: to make the caramel, which at one time used to be intimidating but is now actually fun! As the spoon glides through the thick, glossy paste, I breathe in the aroma of burnt sugar and all I want is to pour it into the batter and watch how it magically turns the creamy yellow into golden brown.
The best part of making this cake is when the fruits go in. They have been soaking in rum for a month, along with cinnamon and other spices which makes for a heady mix of scents and taste.
The flour has to be sieved and clouds of the cocoa powder mixed with it waft around and add to the mess that is a part of the festive baking tradition. Nothing matters because…it’s Christmas!
Everyone hovers around as the final mixture goes into the cake tin which is then gingerly placed into the over. Which is followed by taking turns to peer anxiously through the glass as the batter follows its’s gradual process to turn from a gooey mix to a rich dark brown beauty. Meanwhile the entire house is beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!
A perfectly turned out cake does much to inspire confidence in one’s culinary abilities. Christmas is over and I will have to wait another year to make this. But I will always have the memories of the cakes of Christmases past to know that- I can do it. Every time!