First it blitzed chocolate hearts on February 14, then it was American Chocolate Week in the third week of March, it's chocolate Egg Day today, and any time now it will be World Chocolate Day on July 7.
I know it's Easter because there are huge Easter Egg artworks outside my
favourite mall and the bookshops have amazing promos. I found an unread Barbara Nadel at a fourth of its price and to celebrate this 'victoire sur la vie cher', ate a dark chocolate egg studded with marshmallow bits like Faberge jools.
If you, like me, find delight in such secular and wholly enjoyable expressions of Easter, I have a little present for you: a chocolate cake recipe from 1933 that I wrote down years ago at Ahilya Bai Holkar's old home in Maheshwar on the banks of the Narmada, snug in the heart of India.
The book her descendant kindly let me copy it from was called 'Recipes Rare from Everywhere, Collected by Mrs Geoffrey Peto from her Friends in Aid of the West London Hospital Ladies' Association'. My notes say that these recipes were sourced from the chefs of great London hotels like the Dorchester, the chefs of the House of Commons and other London clubs, from assorted lords and ladies, and represented twenty-eight countries in all. The Great (Economic) Depression had seized the world then and while doing her bit to fund-raise for Samaritan work through the book, its compiler also appealed to readers to use Empire products wherever possible. Don't you think we should do that, buy Indian products as much as we can to support our own economy through these purse-pinched times?
As proof of good faith, here's the recipe for 'Chocolate Cake That Never Fails' from the Baronin von Haugh, Dresden (in Germany where they make china dolls - the American musical duo came later). So take '2 oz flour, 3 to 5 oz sugar, 6 oz grated chocolate, 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar, 4 yolks of eggs, 3 whites of eggs beaten and a pinch of baking powder. Beat the butter well, add alternatively sugar, yolks of eggs, chocolate (which has already been melted), and flour. Mix in last of all the beaten whites of eggs and the baking powder, and fill up a low baking tin (about 2 inches high) and bake from ¾ to 1 hour.'
Eat thy cake with joy, for "It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person."
(Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture)