Christmas without cakes is akin to Shakespeare's Hamlet without the ghost. The Christmas cake pulls out all stops coming with yummy delightful red cherries, black currants, black and yellow raisins, plums, almond flakes, cashew nuts and fruit peels put together with the choicest spirits- all for a perfect cake to celebrate Christmas. So far the big names in the bakery business dominated the scene but unknown to most of us, small time bakeries readily bake Christmas cake with ingredients supplied by you.
Durga Charan Doctor Lane in central Kolkata is a non-descript, dingy alley far removed from the glittery and the frills associated with Park Street and its flagship bakery, the Flurys. After a few paces the single storeyed house you arrive at, looks equally shabby but just wait till the delicious smell of vanilla essence, caramel, butter waft in overwhelming your senses and you will know why people flock to the Dalia Bakery before Christmas.
It is not only a place where you can buy Christmas cake but you can actually get them to bake for you according to your wishes. You buy the choicest ingredients and they will charge only a small amount for baking that yummy cake which taste similar to homemade ones which your grandmother or perhaps even your mother baked a few Christmas back. “My customers come all the way from Kalyani, Chandannagore, Bardhaman and Sreerampore apart from Kolkata. They hand over the main ingredients comprising flour, sugar, butter, eggs, dry fruits, butter paper while we take care of the mixing and baking”, said Sk. Ekramul Haque, owner of Dalia Bakery. For the rest of the year, they are the mainstay for supplying bread to the city. Our next stop was at Taltala Market. This area is known to be the home of several bakeries among whom Kanchan, Leader, Kajal and Mini are quite well known. Sk. Reshmot Ali, manager of Kachan Bakery explained: “Bookings for reserving the baking slots start as early as December 1. And during the last 15 days of the year there is a mad rush. There is always a steady demand for cakes during this season despite increasing cost of sugar and other ingredients.”
Till a few decades ago almost every Christian home in the city baked its own Christmas cake based on the recipe passed onto them for generations. But now increasingly people prefer to get their cakes baked by these bakeries for convenience and perfection. “We get our Christmas cake baked from National Bakery located in Park Circus. The rich taste of the cake largely depends on the quality of fresh fruits, nuts and butter used to prepare it. Do drop by to enjoy some cake and wine during Christmas”, said Ripon Street resident and music teacher, Joel Braganza. The 80-year-old Saldanha Bakery located at 19 Nawab Abdur Rahman Street near Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road is another well-known establishment to source your Christmas cake. The Saldanha residence whose ground floor premises serves as the bakery is flush with orders for seasonal favourites such as rich plum cake, chocolate walnut cake and coconut macaroons.
“We produce up to 3,000 pounds of cake a day during this time of the year. We start baking at five in the morning and the work continues till about 10 am. The remaining part of the day is usually occupied with the cutting of fruits and packaging,” said Denzil Saldanha, owner of Saldanha Bakery. His customers mainly comprise the Christian community who purchase cakes in bulk to distribute them among friends and relatives. However, most residents of Bow Barracks still bake their Christmas cake at home. “Sharing is, as Charles Dickens' 1843 masterpiece, A Christmas Carol illustrates, an important part of Christmas and no guest visiting the Bow Barracks during the festive season goes back without having a slice of the Christmas cake”, declared Joseph Fernandes, a 73-year-old resident of Bow Barracks with a tinge of pride. So ring in this year's Christmas celebrations with a huge slice of rum soaked, dry fruit laden custom-made Christmas cake. Merry Christmas, folks!
Dalia Bakery:Durga Charan Doctor Lane (Near Entally Market)
Lily Bakery :Tollygunge Circular Road (Near New Alipore)
Luna Bekary :Ripon Square (Near Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road)
Saldanha Bakery :Nawab Abdur Rahman Street (Near Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road)
Kanchan Bakery :Taltala Lane (Near Taltala Market)
Leader Bakery :Taltala Lane (Near Taltala Market)
National Bakery :Near Park Circus Market
Mixing and baking charges :140 to 160 per kg
Duration of baking time :1 to 2 hours