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Visit India’s most iconic bakeries making traditional Christmas cakes

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Not all plum cakes are created equal — some are redolent with warm notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, some have a touch of honey, and some boast a cornucopia of dry fruits from across the world. Travel with us through iconic bakeries across India to sample time-tested, local Christmas cake recipes. And yes, they deliver.

PANDHAL CAKE SHOP, CAFE AND DELI, KOCHI 

Pandhal Cake Shop in Kochi was originally founded as the Pandhal Restaurant on MG Road, Kochi, in 1984. If you are looking for more variety in the Kerala style, or a spice forward Christmas cake, then the Mattanchère Spice Matured Plum Cake(₹1290 /900 gm tin) brings the  aroma of a heady spice mix that wafts into the air as you tuck into the tin.  Jose Alex Mathew, Cluster Head, Pandhal Cafe & Deli and Pandhal Cake shops, explains, “ Ours is a matured plum cake because we start our process around January, with dried fruit including prunes, a variety of raisins, candied orange peel, figs, dates and the iconic Mattanchère (ancient center of spice trade) spices such as cinnamon and cardamom, soaked in honey for close to 9 months, to make this moist Christmas cake that is shipped across India and overseas, to last up to 5 months.” 

The cake shop also offers a Christmas hamper (₹4500) that includes the Mattanchère spice matured plum cake, plum pudding (steamed), mincemeat fruit pie tarts (medley of dried fruit with almond slivers, candied ginger and citrus enveloped in a shortcrust base), almond and hemp trail mix and cashew sable cookies while the Holiday hamper (₹8000) includes most of the items from the Christmas hamper along with Noix De Muscade (nutmeg), pista biscotti and an apple cinnamon preserve. The individual items are available for purchase as well. 0484 405 2172, 92880 22120

The cake at Mambally’s Bakery
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

MAMBALLY’S BAKERY, THALASSERY, KERALA

The Mambally family is credited with baking the first Christmas cake in India. Mambally Bapu, started  ‘Mambally’s Royal Biscuit Factory’ in Thalassery in 1880, selling over a 100 varieties of biscuits, bread and buns. In 1883, he made the first cake, based on a sample handed over to him by Murdoch Brown, a British estate owner who lived nearby, in Thalassery (formerly Tellicherry). When Murdoch tasted the cake, he ordered a dozen more, and the rest as they say, is history. Today, the Mambally Bakery run by Prakash Mambally, hailing from the famliy’s fourth generation, says preparation begins during the last quarter of the year. “We use rum-soaked dry fruit like raisins , sultanas, candied peel, dates, figs and walnuts for about two months and then the cake is made using ghee. Cakes are sold per kilogram at ₹700 and the bakery churns out over 500 kgs during the season.” This year we are setting up a system for home delivery via courier,” informs Prakash. 9895012578/04902344578

VAS BAKERY, MENGALURU

Vas Bakery on Bendore Church Road in Mengaluru, Karnataka, has seen generations of families celebrate Christmas since it was founded by Immanuel Vas in 1905. Now managed by the third and fourth generation of Lester Vas and his family, the bakery has a selection of its finest Mangalorean Kuswar (sweets and savouries made at Christmas). “We start our Christmas preparation around the middle of November, soaking fruit like sultanas, raisins, candied fruit peel, ginger flakes and sweet pumpkin or ash gourd. We use many of these ingredients for our Christmas pudding as well. Our bestsellers are the rich plum cake (₹800/kg) and the regular plum cake is half that price,” explain Lester Vas and his wife Joyce Mary Vas.

The plum and praline tart at Vas Bakery

The plum and praline tart at Vas Bakery
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The bakery sells over a 1,000 kgs of cake through the season, along with local staples like roce cookies and kedio. The former are fried cookies made of flour, coconut milk, eggs and sugar, and the latter uses flour, sugar, butter and coconut milk to form little balls of dough rolled out on a comb, resembling little worms ( keedis, in Konkani). Nevrio, much like the Diwali favourite gujiya, is made in Mangalore with a filling of dry fruit encased in a half moon dough pocket and fried, “ while we have many older customers nostalgic for guliyo, which are dough balls made with rice flour and sugar and are difficult to chew. For our younger customers, my son Len has curated items like the Yule log, chocolates and some cookies, so we have a good mix of kuswar for everyone.” Vas Bakery ships out its sweet and savouries in small, medium and large sizes with Kuswar boxes available between ₹100-₹1,000 and are shipped pan-India. 7259022925/9482478967

JOSEPH BAKERY, MAPUSA, GOA

Started in 1938 by Jose Braganca, Joseph bakery is teeming with customers who relish their Christmas specials. Jesuinha Monica Braganca and her husband Antonio Bragaca diversified their menu from bread and buns in the mid 1980s and now they offer a wide variety of sweets and savouries. “Our bestsellers are  Batika, a variety of Goan Christmas cake made with semolina , sugar and coconut; Doce De Grao, a Goan fudge made with chana dal, sugar and coconut; Bolinha, Goan cookies fashioned out of semolina and coconut; Dodol, a rich dessert made with Goan rice flour, coconut jaggery and coconut milk; and we also have Pinagre made with roasted Goan rice flour and coconut jaggery that are shaped like croquettes,” explains Monica.

Cakes at Joseph Bakery

Cakes at Joseph Bakery
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Like Mengaluru’s Kedios, Goans do make kulkuls and kormolas of flour, sugar, butter and coconut milk, as well as nevrio, with both a dry fruit and a coconut filling. “ Our marzipan is made with Goan cashewnut and is a big hit at Christmas as well,” says Monica. Since most of the Goan sweets are made with coconut, “fluctuating prices mean the rates change every year. We take orders on request for different weights,” she concludes.9823522132

BAKER STREET, PUDUCHERRY

Founded in 1788,  Klugesherz, a family business in Soultz-les-Bains, in the north eastern part of France was helmed by Jean-Luc Klugesherz and his wife Véronique, the eights generation of bakers to carry forward their Alsatian tradition. On their travels to India, they discovered new flavours and combined them with original recipes. In 2008 they teamed up with Alain Phan and Lutz Bergerhoff to open a shop in Puducherry, Baker Street‘.

Chocolates at Baker Street

Chocolates at Baker Street
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Today, the company has Francopondicherienne Ejilmady Ramaradja, who worked as a baker-pastry chef in France for two decades, and brings a conscious confluence of French technique and Indian flavour profiles to the bakery. At Christmas they bring a cornupoia of French items at different rates by piece such as the Pain D’Epise (a cinnamon, almond cookie), eggless cookies, macarons, cashew chocolate and almond cookies, as well as the local favourite rava cake, dry fruit cake, marble cake, and carrot cake, all available for delivery. 9944850001

BUSHY’S BAKERY, PRAYAGRAJ

A Christmas cake with Agra petha (ash gourd soaked in sugar)? If you’re wondering where you can find this unique combination, Bushy’s Bakery at Kanpur Road, Civil Lines, is a neighbourhood favourite at Christmas. Started in 1963 by Mohd. Haji Jumerati is now managed by Aslam Khan, and everything in the quaint bakery is done the old fashioned way. “The USP of our Christmas cake is the homemade caramel, that gives the cake its rich colour. We source our petha from a seller across the road, as well as marmalade from a store in the neighbourhood. All the cakes are made with a garam masala using nutmeg, mace, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and we made our cakes with ghee, baked over a woodfire oven,” explains Khan. Sold in two sizes- half a kilogram at ₹350 and 1 kg at ₹Rs 700, the cakes are made to order and shipping charges are borne by the customer. “ Our cakes can last for months on end without losing their moisture,” adds Aslam.  The Christmas spirit at Bushy’s is kept alive as the bakery bakes cakes for families in the area, “everyone marks their dishes with their names and brings the ingredients to us. We mix and bake them and they pay  a baking charge,” concludes Khan. Ribbon cake, walnut cake, coconut cookies and muffins are also popular at the bakery.8840244988 



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