Plum Cakes for the Christmas Celebrations in Hyderabad

Winter is here in Hyderabad, and many of us are looking forward to the year-end festivities. For food lovers, Christmas celebrations kick off a week of enjoying sumptuous food culminating all the way to the New Year. A special cake that marks the Christmas festivities along with the Christmas tree and singing of carols is the humble plum cake, rich in fruits and nuts and soaked in alcohol. The dark colour and the enticing aroma beckons you to this cake even before you actually taste it.

Plum Cake actually is a misnomer, most cakes do not even have plum or prunes in them. The cake originated in seventeenth-century England where initially it evolved from porridge with the addition of butter, flours as well as eggs. Raisins, grapes, and currants were also important ingredients of this cake.  No yeast was used in it, instead, the air was whipped in to raise the cake.

Over some time, the cake became identified with the Christmas all over the British colonies and then other countries of the world. The Christian community in India often bakes the cake at home, with usually the preparations of soaking the fruits and nuts in alcohol starting a few weeks before Christmas. The inclusive nature of our society has resulted in many other communities embracing this culture, and enjoying this festive delight during the winter season. The recipe of this essentially fruit and nut cake differs from place to place. But all of them usually have a variety of dried fruits, nuts soaked in rum or brandy, along with flour, eggs, butter, and sugar.

Hyderabad has many bakeries as well as home bakers who prepare and sell plum cakes during these festive times. While few households still prefer to bake their own cakes, some from the new generations buy their Christmas cakes from bakers who are reputed for this item. Earlier John’s Bakery in Abids used to be the go-to place, but unfortunately, they have downed the shutters.

Subhan Bakery at Nampally, which is known more for its Dum Ka Roat and Osmania biscuits sells plum cakes all around the year for the last seventy years. But during Christmas, their sale of these cakes jumps threefold. As per Syed Irfan, the owner of the bakery, the plum cake was among their first products when they had started this bakery at the present location. Though Christian customers love this product during Christmas, there are a sizeable number of persons from other communities who indulge in these too.

 PVN Sastry who runs Mama Mia Italia, a popular pizza outlet in Sainikpuri has been making     authentic English Christmas cakes for the last few years. His cake has raisins, black currants, cherries     & dates soaked in rum, as well as natural cane sugar and blackstrap molasses. He takes pride in the fact that he uses only natural and nutritional ingredients in his cake and has a large clientele especially among army personnel in Secunderabad. They do plum cakes only for the two months around Christmas. The cakes have abundant fruits and nuts and are mildly boozy.

One place which has been making waves in the city, not just for its plum cakes but even for its other bakes like Banana Walnut Cake and brownies is Trio-la Patisserie. Located at Bowenpally, they have four more outlets in other parts of the city.  They also have some excellent fudgy brownies, like Hazelnut Nutella, Oreo Salted Caramel. Double Chocolate, Choco Chips and best of them all Red Velvet.

Talented home baker Nandita Kundu Goswami of Tastyslop is known for her rich plum cakes. Apart from that, she does healthy bakes, like a keto-friendly non-alcoholic Almond Flour, and Oats plum cake and an Oats, Carrots and Raisin Cake. These cakes are nice and moist and are available from her throughout December.

So, what makes a good plum cake? As per Nandita, the quality of ingredients used as well as sticking to the process ensures that your plum cake is in demand.  She feels that recently there has been a surge in customers who are looking for a non-alcoholic version too.  Supriya Bedi Sikka, whose rum-soaked plum cakes have been a hit feel that development of flavor in the cake over a period of resting as well as the proportion of fruits and nuts play a role in the ultimate taste of the cake.

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 15th December 2018.

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