Saturday, 23 January 2010

Pat a Cake-The Tradtional Christmas Baking of North India

Dear friends with my housekeeping,hospitality and entertainment
responsibilities I 've been slow in my blogging lately, but I have plenty of photos and posts in store.
The cold weather has also played spoilsport. The past 2 days have been better with the sun reluctantly creeping out after mid-day.Otherwise our parts have been enveloped in a thick freezing pall right out of John Carpenter 's mystery movie 'The Fog '
Around Christmastime I wrote about the bakeries where one can get their traditional Christmas cakes baked ,which are really rich fruit cakes , the British introduced to India. Very similar to the famous Yorkshire pudding.
This is the way the North Indian Christians like their Christmas cakes. Wedding cakes are also prepared in the same way-rich fruit cake with marzipan or cashew and sugar icing etc.
Earlier this month Sonia went to order some cake to take with her to Lucknow and I went with her to take photographs.

Pat a cake, Pat a cake, baker's man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Pat it and prick it and mark it with a 'B',
And put it in the oven for Baby and me

Bushy the Baker ( so nick-named because of his thick Muslim beard) is famous all over India for his exceptional Christmas and wedding cakes.(People have taken his creations overseas too) His forefathers were bakers for the Firangi Sahibs and Memsahibs.Bushy has passed on and his sons now carry on the family business in their small bakery cum house. Let me add here that most bakers in India are Muslims (perhaps its the usage of eggs).

Here is a wedding cake being iced at the bakery.

No matter how expensive they are, one cannot imagine a wedding without them.

Somebody 's cakes have been retrieved from the wood burning huge furnace like oven. The large ones can weigh up to 2 pounds with all the rich ingredients. Since several people are having their cakes baked at one time, they place slips of paper with numbers and their names written on them into the cake tins, so that they can be recognized and counted when they are done.
The oven with one of the bakery employees. Its like a hot burning cave.

A large tub to mix the batter in. People take their own raw ingredients (flour, sugar, butter etc) to the bakers and they mix everything for them.You can get your un-iced cupcakes, coconut cookies and macaroons baked here too. You pay for each kilogram of batter mixed.

The baker daily supplies buns, biscuits (salty cookies) pizza base, cakes ,flapjacks and bread to shops, outlets homes and cafeterias they bake their stuff on the side. And if you are feeling peckish while waiting for your cakes to be baked (it can take several hours as you have to wait your turn -like a doctor 's waiting room) , you can buy his treats to refuel yourself.

Some more of the wedding cake and buns.This is the marzipan layer. They cover it with icing sugar and decorations.

The round cake could be for a birthday or some celebration.
You can see one of the workers briskly mixing the cake batter.Its all done by hand...pounds and pounds of batter - no machines involved here. Of course in the modern/commercial/industrial bakeries machines are used -but this is an old fashioned traditional place.
Numbered and marked cakes out of the oven.
Suppose I am getting 10 cakes baked , I will put my name and numbers 1-10 into the cake tins,so that I can identify and count them later on.

This gentleman is watching over his batter mixing. The cakes are put in steel trunks and carried home. You can see one on the side.You can also bring your ingredients in the trunks.
During Christmastime these bakeries become places of social gatherings an mingling.As folk from different churches and areas come together for their baking. Greetings, gossip and news is and ingredients compared. All this is needed to while away the hours.Sometimes your cake enters the oven around midnight and you can go home, rest and come back the next day to collect it.
Here are samples of pizza base ready for the shops.
I hope you found a little excursion to Bushy 's interesting. When I told them that I was going to share about them with the whole world through my computer, they were very pleased and gave Sonia a small discount.LOL.
Namrita has also ordered a few ready made fruit and walnut cakes to take home with her. I may get some more photos.
I really enjoyed sharing this with you.

16 Fertilize my soul:

Sharodindu said...

Thank you very much for sharing the story.

Once i was there inside a local bekary in Kolkata and I was surprised with the fact that a single piece of cacke needs a lot of hardwork from mixing the ingredients to backing them under strick watch and so on...

the post is simply great!

Do find some more time and let us have some more such great post :)

David Edward said...

now I want to bake bread

Kathryn said...

How fun, Amrita! Thank you for sharing. They must do most of their business at Christmas time. But they are busy enough the rest of the year with folks wanting things baked?

I'm curious, is this traditional Indian fare, or did it come into being with the English occupation?

Crown of Beauty said...

I have just read your two most recent posts...good write up and lots of interesting pictures!

Loved reading about the bakery you featured. They must be doing brisk business especially at Christmas!

Am sure the cakes are delicious!

Well, hoping and praying you are fine, and that the cold spell is now getting more tolerable where you live.

Praying for you and thinking of you this morning...


Olde Dame Penniwig said...

How I love those Indo-European-style cakes! The MARZIPAN layer has me very interested...what a fascinating outing, Amrita... I enjoyed it for a piece of cake!!!

Grayquill said...

Did I see right? The cakes and breads are placed on the floor?
That surprised me - doesn't the baker have any tables? His poor back.

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

That's the traditional way of baking cakes and cookies. Those ovens are very messy and quite hard to maintain compared to modern day metal ovens. But the results are quite different. There is a different taste for cakes and cookies baked in traditional stove ovens. Thanks for the post. God bless you always.

Mercenary of Christ said...

Thanks for stopping by my site. I should be posting more. I fell out of the flow. I have many friends from India, and I always enjoy hearing more about the customs.

David Edward said...

smiling at you today and at your beautiful and informative blog

carolyn said...

Oh, thank you for sharing this! I would so love to see it in person, but it's almost as if I were there!

Amrita said...

Dear Mercenary for Christ,
Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting.

I enjoyed your though provoking posts.I am a foot soldier in The Army too

Hi GQ, I know its kinds alarming to see stuff on the floor.But their trays and equipment is clean, they walk bare foot, its a dust free enviroment

Amrita said...

Hi Penni I think the marzipan layer is made with almond paste, for a cheaper covering one can use cashew paste.

Amrita said...

Hello David, I can smell your fresh home baked bread.

Dear Mel, the old fashioned way is better than the mass produced and industrial products. You can 'customize ' it according to your taste and pocket

Hi Carolyn, must try making naans the way you did

Donetta said...

Good Morning Amrita
This was fascinating.
I hope that your having a wonderful week. The things are so different there.
Here one would loose the license if the bare hand were used.
The cakes on the floor would call a fine upon you.
So amazing how culture differs

Robin said...

"a hot burning cave"-wow.
thanks for sharing this with us:)

Felisol said...

Dear Amrita,
Thanks for the Bushy's excursion.
I am impressed by the way this bakery is managed.
My compliments!
From felisol