An indulgent treat packed with raisins, dried fruits and nuts soaked in wine and enriched with a subtle flavour of cinnamon and spices; the delectable, rich plum cake is not just a dessert but a memoir of the spirit of Christmas, family gatherings and warmth. The cake is a visual delight with a shiny brown crust while the fruits and nuts dispersed lend a visual contrast with their white, dark brown, black and deep red colours. The soft and dense texture broken occasionally with crispy nuts and soft fruits, a deep sweet taste and an aroma of wine make the plum cake an irresistible dessert.
Somewhere during the medieval periods in England, there was a tradition to abstain from indulgences and observe a period of fasting a few weeks before Christmas. This practice is intended to balance the body for the overindulgence during Christmas. And then, to prepare the body for a gastronomical affair on Christmas, a thick and dense porridge made from oats was prepared and consumed on Christmas Eve. Dried fruits like plums, prunes, figs and honey, were added to the batter. The mixture was then tied in a muslin cloth and slow-cooked in water for hours till the porridge thickened into a fudge-like consistency. The dense fudgy concoction was also known as the cannonball.
Over time this dish evolved as more ingredients were added to it. In the 16th century, oats was replaced by flour. Later butter and eggs made their way to the porridge mixture, changing the taste and texture. As time passed, wealthy families in Europe started baking the mixture instead of boiling it. They also added spices to the dough. Interestingly spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves were a symbol of culinary affluence in Europe during that period. And thus the traditional porridge transformed into the current form which is plum cake.
Across the World
In the 19th century, British officers working in colonies began to bake cakes for their Christmas celebrations with their families. News about this inspired their relatives back in Britain started to send them plum cakes with wine and presents for the family. And thus the exotic rich plum cake made its mark connecting families across different continents.
Journey to India
In 1880, Mambally Bapu, a trader from Thallaserry, who learnt the art of baking from Burma, established Mambally’s Royal Biscuit Factory. Bapu produced an array of baked goods, including 40 different types of biscuits, rusks, bread, and buns which gained fame.
During the Christmas season of 1883, Murdoch Brown, an English man and owner of Asia’s largest British cinnamon plantation approached Bapu. He presented Bapu with a plum cake from Britain and requested him to bake a similar cake for Christmas. Brown also gave Mambally a demonstration of all that he knew about baking along with ingredients like dates, raisins, and other dry fruits. He suggested using a French brandy from Mahe.
However, Mambally whipped up his own reinterpretation of the plum cake, adding an exotic twist by swapping the French brandy with a local infusion of kadalippazham (a variety of bananas) and cashew apples. And he commissioned the cake mold from a blacksmith in Dharmadam for the perfect shape. Murdoch loved Bapu’s creative rendition of the rich plum cake that he ordered a dozen more cakes. Thus the first set of Christmas cakes was made in India, opening a new era in the culinary landscape of India. Mambally blended international influences with local flavors creating an Indian tradition of Christmas cake-making.
Quintessentially Exotic Rich Plum Cake
Fast forward to the present, baking is as much about tradition as it is about innovation. The exotic rich plum cake from Hot Cakes perfectly encapsulates this spirit. Every time you relish this luxurious plum cake, it’s not just a culinary delight that you’re experiencing, but a storied legacy that’s been handed down through generations. So, when you take that next bite of this lush and aromatic masterpiece, bear in mind- it’s not just a slice of cake you’re enjoying; it’s a piece of an enduring story.