If you see large quantities of this dark brown cake studded with slivers of nuts and flakes of fruits, on a bakery shelf, you can safely assume Christmas has arrived. But in Tuticorin, like the salt and the sea, the plum cake is an all-year-round facet of the city. Yet that does not make it any less special. In fact, it is customary for many residents to have a slice of cake at tea-time, on most evenings.
Baked in a traditional firewood oven that has turned out thousands of pastries over decades, the cake has a subtle sheen which glistens near the edges, the colour of burnt caramel. But slice in slowly, and a world of crumbly, moist wholesomeness opens up, enhanced only by tutti frutti, strewn generously like multicoloured jewels.
A sprinkling of dried figs, sliced walnuts, diced cherries, and a scoop of dates give the cake its unmistakable fruit-and-nut flavour. But the plummy sweetness is balanced beautifully with a hint of cinnamon and cardamom, making the Christmas cake, a cake like no other.
Much like wine, the cake tastes better as it ages but it is recommend you polish it off within a fortnight- that is if you can resist temptation and make it last that long! The mixing and baking of the rich plum cake is steeped in centuries old tradition that celebrates a season of genial cordiality. So anytime you are looking for some cheer, pour yourself a glass of home-made wine and slowly savour a slice of the rich plum cake- watch your blues melt away.
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