For years, proof of the pudding lay in the plum cake on Christmas, but bakers in Delhi say flavours ranging from cranberry, raisins, peppermint to even alcohol are selling like - you guessed it - hot cakes! This is one time though when many Christian homes swear by the sweet taste of traditional recipes.
"People have become very picky, they are not driven by the crowd any more. Personalisation and customisation of food items have made them vocal about their taste," said Sandeep, an attendant at Wenger's bakery in central Delhi.
"Earlier, plum cakes were the only option for Christmas. But now, different flavours are being tried a lot. The usual plain flavours have become outdated now, a Mix 'N' Match of different flavours is ruling this season," Manoj, an attendant at Maxim's bakery situated in south Delhi, told IANS.
Kishi Arora, the cakesmith at Foodaholics, reveals the popular flavours.
"Cranberry, berries, caramel, raisins, tutty-frutty, peppermint, cherry amaretto and tia maria are some of the flavours and ingredients which are catching up. Chocolate rules the chart, as it is considered the most preferred base," Kishi told IANS.
"Tia Maria is a coffee liqueur made originally in Jamaica using Jamaican coffee beans," she said. The bakers claim moist cakes are the most preferred cakes this season.
Kishi also revealed that alcohol is used widely in the preparation for Christmas confectionery.
"Rum, wine, whisky, tequila and vodka are a few of the alcohols which are used. Alcohol not only adds flavour but, more importantly, acts as a preservative. This means Christmas cakes made with the right amount of alcohol such as brandy, whisky or rum, last for months.
"Alcohol is added at two stages. One is before the baking and the other is soaked while baking, where the food item is soaked in alcohol," Kishi said.
And what is the right proportion in which it should be used?
"It totally depends on the customers' requirement. At times, they ask for quite a boozy cake, so we add two ounces of alcohol. Around 50-100 gm is common in the preparation of cakes," she said.
And what are the other food items popular this season?
"It's not just cakes, but a wide variety of food items are also sold, like cookies, puddings, fudges, cup cakes and brownies. The bread varieties include sweet bread, ginger, candy canes and marshmallow, among others," said Sandeep.
Catholic families traditionally prepare cakes at home and give a lot of importance to cleanliness and initial preparations.
"Like other communities celebrate and exchange gifts, Christmas is a very big festival for us. We try to make the most of it and gift the traditional goodies - a tradition being carried forward in our family for years," said Mary Pinto, a resident of south Delhi.
Explaining the cake preparations, Pinto said, "The ingredients (raisin, cashew nuts, cherries) need to be soaked in rum at least 15 days before starting the actual preparations. A powder of ginger, clove and cinnamon is prepared with a small proportion of vanilla essence and rum."
Pinto said sugar is not used in its usual form in these cakes.
"Burnt sugar is used. We pour the quantity of sugar that is needed into the vessel and let it melt and burn. This sugar is then used in the cakes," said Pinto.
As a word of advice, bakers say the final product should be stored in air-tight tins and wrapped in foil. They can last for months if kept in the refrigerator.Recipe 1: Chocolate Truffles
Makes: 25 truffles
Contains: 0.06 units of alcohol per truffle
Preparation time: 30 minutes
100 ml Baileys Hazelnut Flavour
150 g unsalted butter
270 g 66 percent dark chocolate
150 ml double cream
For the dip:
250 g of dark chocolate (min 66 percent cocoa)
250 g cocoa powder
Preparation: Break the chocolate into small lumps. Fill a saucepan with water, place a heatproof bowl inside (large enough so that it rests on the rim of the pan) and bring it to a sim.
Put the chocolate and butter into the heatproof bowl and melt them slowly. Do not stir, as this can cause lumps. When the chocolate and butter melt fully, take the saucepan off the heat and carefully remove the bowl. Whisk in the double cream and Baileys Hazelnut. Leave to set in the fridge for 2 hours.
Using a melon-baller, start scooping out the truffles - they should form the shape of a ball. Place truffles on a plate and leave to cool down in the fridge for half an hour.
When you're ready to serve, melt a further 250 g of (66 percent) chocolate in the same way as before, dip each truffle into the melted chocolate and then roll in cocoa powder.
Recipe 2: Fudge
400 gm sweetened condensed milk (1 tin Nestle Milkmaid)
1/4 cup sugar
150 gm mixture of cashew nuts/raisins/almonds
1/2 cup cocoa
50 gm unsalted butter
Preparation: Pour Milkmaid into a thick bottomed pan. Add butter, sugar, cocoa and nuts. Swirl gently on medium heat till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Pour evenly into a buttered dish and allow cooling and setting. Cut into desired shape with a cutter and toss in icing sugar.. enjoy!!
Happy eating and Merry Christmas!