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Who cooked up Kerala’s plum cake

  • Christmas
Dec 20, 2023
Double Matured Spice Plum Cake from Kochi – Beautiful Homes

The iconic Christmas cake represents the state’s cultural and cultural heritage

Christmas cakes, alternatively referred to as plum cakes, boast a storied history that adds to their festive allure. The decadent fruit cakes commonly linked with Christmas have their origins in Twelfth Cakes, traditionally consumed on Twelfth Night, marking the culmination of the 12 Days of Christmas on January 5th in the UK. However, the preparation of Christmas cake has evolved worldwide and is now approached in various ways. Italy boasts Panettone, France delights in 'bûche de Noël' (a chocolate log), Japan relishes a Christmas cake featuring sponge, cream, and strawberries, Norway celebrates with 'Hole Cake,' The Netherlands enjoys 'Kerstkrans' - Dutch Ring Cake, and Germany savors Stollen (a notable option available at SAPA in Mysore). India, too, has its unique historical connection to Christmas treats.

 

The roots of the plum cake can be traced back to England, where in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it was customary to observe fasting and refrain from various indulgences. On Christmas Eve, a lavish porridge was concocted to "line people's stomachs" after days of religious fasting. This porridge, referred to as 'plum cake' during that period, comprised oats, dried fruit, honey, spices, and beef, serving as a festive delight during the holiday season. In the early 16th century, the addition of new ingredients transformed the traditional plum cake, replacing oats with flour and introducing butter and eggs to the batter, resulting in a deep brown pudding. By the 19th century, the cake had earned recognition as a traditional English dish. In 1845, Eliza Acton became the first person to publish a recipe for the ‘Christmas Pudding’.

In England, raisins or currants were colloquially known as plums or plumb. The cake earns its name from the incorporation of spirit-soaked raisins in its preparation. The delectable plum cake made its way beyond England as the country began colonizing various regions around the world. In India, during the year 1883, Mr. Murdoch Brown, a British individual also known as Murdoch ‘Prabhu,’ managed the Anjarakandy cinnamon plantation. Seeking to have a Christmas cake baked, he approached Mambally Bapu from Thalassery, the owner of Mambally’s Royal Biscuit Factory. Although Murdoch had a limited understanding of the cake-making process, he asked Bapu for assistance. In the quest for French brandy, Bapu opted for local ingredients, utilizing a blend of kadalippazham (a local banana variety from Kerala) and cashew apple. Thus, the first Indian Christmas cake came into existence.

Mattanchère Spice Cake – Beautiful Homes

Mattanchère Spice Cake from The Pandhal Cafe in Kochi.

Several decades later, Chef Jose Varkey, the corporate mentor chef at CGH Earth, drew inspiration from the royal wedding cake of Prince Charles and Diana. He introduced an innovative double-maturing process, which he proudly dubs "The Living Cake." This technique represents an evolution of flavors that are carefully nurtured over time. The aromatic spices and handpicked currants used in this process are sourced from the spice market of Mattanchery, offering a culinary homage to the renowned spice market in Kochi. The Pandhal Cafe in Kochi infused this delightful creation, giving it the name "Mattanchère Spice Cake," also recognized as the matured plum cake.

Cake made using a double-maturing process – Beautiful Homes

The cake is made using a double-maturing process with aromatic spices sourced from the spice market of Mattanchery.

The spice plum cake from the CGH Earth Hotel’s kitchen – Beautiful Homes

The spice plum cake journey started from the CGH Earth Hotel’s kitchen.

“The artisanal Mattanchére Spice Plum Cake as it tastes today is a result of 4 decades of evolution of a recipe and process mastered over time. The precision in which we blend & mature the fruit is at the heart of the process. Mattanchére Spice matured plum cake is completely free of any preservatives and additives including any rising agents and not to forget this is a Transfat free cake. From being a regular fruit cake to what we now proudly call as ‘Double Matured Spice Plum Cake’ is a journey that started from the CGH Earth Hotel’s kitchen and is now part of the Pandhal cake shop is one of the most favorite nostalgic Christmas delicacy”. Shares Chef Jose Varkey, Corporate Mentor Chef, CGH Earth Hotels.

 

The cake's journey commences with the careful selection of fruits from specific vendors across India, ensuring an impeccable taste and texture. Each fruit undergoes meticulous hand-cleaning to preserve its inherent qualities. The mixture is slowly cooked in a bronze-warp vessel to maintain consistency, and this gradual cooking process prevents caramelization, safeguarding the essence of Mother Nature's bounty. Subsequently, the fruit mixture embarks on a maturing process in an air-tight drum, allowing the slow maturation to facilitate nectar formation. An impressive 57% of the cake comprises this matured fruit and nectar. The remaining 43% consists of trans fat-free butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, contributing to the creation of the perfect crumb. As the nectar matures within the crumb, the cake undergoes an additional round of maturation. Packed into tins, the cakes are stored in a dehumidified atmosphere, allowing the flavors to reach their peak. From the initial fruit mixing to the final baking in three-deck ovens, the entire process unfolds over 10-12 months, resulting in the creation of the Mattanchère Spice Cake from Pandhal.

 

In Kochi, the Pandhal Cafe’s 40-year legacy, Mattanchere Spice Plum Cake, is a sought-after Christmas delight and is available for delivery nationwide via Amazon.

 

Priced at Rs 1490.

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