A Punch Line In The U.S., Christmas Fruitcake Is Big In Calcutta

Sandip Roy at NPR:

Kanchan-cakes_custom-dca9f6bda9192db1e7ae4571e79468a8cfefab5c-s800-c85The British are long gone from Calcutta, but they left behind the fruitcake. The West jokes about indestructible fruitcake as the gift that keeps on giving, but Calcutta — the old British capital — embraces it. Around Christmas, bakeries set up counters just to sell these treats, which also are known as plum cakes.

Flurys, a legendary European-style tearoom, stays open all night on Christmas Eve, says manager Rajeev Khanna. He says the big draws are the old favorites: “It's the plum cake which has been marinated just last week of November. Dundee. Rum and raisin. Mince pie.”

In Goa, the former Portuguese colony, where the Saldanhas are from, Christmas still has a strong Catholic feel to it. But here in Calcutta, a far more mixed city, Christmas is simply called Boro Din, or Big Day. And it's universal.

Cake knows no religion. At Nahoum and Sons, the city's only Jewish bakery, a lady who gave her name only as Mrs. Maxwell waits in a long line as her grandson plays with a toy pistol. She says that despite all the fancy new patisseries in malls, she comes here every year. “Nothing to beat Nahoum,” she says. “You buy the same plum cake from somewhere else at a much higher price, you immediately find the difference.”

At Sheik Nuruddin's storefront bakery, there's a photograph of Mecca on the wall. But in December, you can rent his oven and his bakers for your own Christmas cake. The wood-fired oven turns out seven cakes an hour, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., says Nuruddin.

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