The Christmas cake is a December highlight that brings the family together for sharing laughter, memories and warm family stories.
In our family home, work for the Christmas cake begins more than a month in advance.
After dinner, the family sits around the dining table to cut dry fruits; the raisins are left to soak in rum, and the various ingredients are mustered together, which was most often difficult to find in a small town when we were children.
Whatever couldn't be found, our father would buy when he picked us up from boarding school for the winter holidays.
At one time, we had an oven with a dome like top that mummy would put on the gas stove.
In the cake would go, it's marvelous aroma drifting through the garden and she would check if it's done by dipping a knitting needle into the cake.
That oven is still there somewhere in our home like many old things that we grew up with.
Later on, mummy alone could not handle the demand for cake that was required for the batches of guests that would arrive home every Christmas.
So, for many years now, the cake ingredients -- maida, ghee, dry fruits, even the eggs – are taken all the way to Patna, 75 odd- kilometres away.
Mummy and my cousin, Sunny Bhaiya sit there for hours as the bakerywala puts the cake batter in several moulds and places it into the giant tandoor. The cakes came out baked beautifully golden brown, on its surface bearing a name tag so that the cakes don't get mixed up with all the others who congregate to get their own cakes baked.
The cakes journey back home in cartons.
For many years now, the cakes are stored in my brother's old boarding school trunk that once used to carry his clothes with pictures of Tom Cruise etc on its inner top lid. On Christmas Day, pieces are cut and served to guests or wrapped in aluminium foil and sent to those who can't come.
Last year, the name tag on the cake was that of the youngest child, Aaron, in the family born only a few months ago.
This year, our family did not get any cake baked because of the death of mummy's eldest sister.
We will miss our lively Baby Aunty who ate more than her share of Christmas cake undeterred by her insulin-administered diabetes and enjoyed the Christmas season. Merry Christmas Baby Aunty!
This is our simple cake recipe and to us it is the best Christmas cake in the world.
Please note: All this mixing and beating is done by hand by the staff at the bakery and put into individual moulds. It is then put into the giant baker's oven.
The ingredients can be adjusted according to your own family's requirements. This is for our large family and the above quantities have been used for years.
Image: Mokiko/Creative Commons
You can send us your favourite party recipes too. Write in to us at email@example.com (subject: Party recipes) with your name, hometown and any interesting details about the origin of the recipe, along with a photograph if possible. We'll publish the best preparations right here on Rediff.com and in India Abroad.