From Bengaluru to Kolkata and Goa, we’ve curated the perfect holiday list if you’re looking for where to buy Christmas cakes across India. And as a bonus, here are little nuggets of their origins.
The mighty fruitcake, synonymous with Christmas cheer the world over, was a Roman invention that originated as an energy booster for ancient warriors. Made with dried fruit and nuts and mixed together with mashed barley, honey, and wine, it was the cake’s longevity that made it an ideal choice of sustenance for soldiers out to war.
Rome has since fallen, but the fruitcake has stuck around, true to its long shelf life.
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In India, the advent of the East India Company introduced the subcontinent to this delight, and the country today joins the rest of the world in serving up a slice every holiday season.
As Christmas arrives, this is the best time to secure your cake orders, or perhaps venture to a bakery before their stock runs out.
Here are eight locations that serve iconic fruit cakes that you must get your hands on:
1. Mattancherry spice mature plum cake – Kochi
A short journey of 10 km from the heart of Kochi will take you to the quaint town of Mattancherry, whose streets are steeped in history. A popular spice trade centre from the 20th century, most of the town’s stories are intertwined with food.
Mattancherry has a robust Jewish population, so Christmas celebrations are massive every year. And along with the occasion comes tasty food, including a multitude of cakes.
A favourite among them is the Mattancherry spice mature plum cake, which has been an inseparable part of the festive season for the past four decades.
The authentic spice cake is best served at Pandhal Cake Shop. “Infused with honey-soaked fruits and left to mature for months, the iconic spice cake is baked to a rich brown colour and then sealed to lock in the moisture, flavour and fragrance,” says its website.
Ingredients for the cake are sourced from far and wide early in the year. Pandhal Cafe has been mastering the art of cake baking for the past three decades.
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Buy the cake here.
2. Walnut cake – Kolkata
There is a long list of bakeries that serve fruit cakes in Kolkata, but a must-try among them is walnut cake.
These are incredibly moist, fluffy, and chocolatey cakes that are not easily available in all bakeries. Topped with a remarkably decadent fudge frosting, their exemplary taste and texture are well-received all over the world.
Started by Ubelina Saldanha and her husband Ignatius in 1930, Saldanha Bakery regularly sends parcels across the city. Their bestsellers are walnut cake and coconut macaroon, and their menu also includes British tea time cake, almond iced Christmas log, lemon drops and blueberry muffins.
“Saldanha is the only Goan-run bakery in the city,” said Alisha, who is the fourth generation of Ubelina and now runs the bakery, to Telegraph India.
3. Rich plum cake – Kannur
The Mambally family from Kannur, Kerala, is known for baking the first Christmas cake in India.
In 1882, a British man named Murdoch Brown came up to Mambally Bapu, the owner of Royal Biscuit Factory, with a request to bake a cake similar to the one he had brought from England.
Bapu, who went to Burma to learn the making biscuits, took the request as a challenge. Instead of French Brandy, Bapu used a local brew and made some other changes, which Brown thoroughly enjoyed.
Mambally Bakery has branches all over Kerala under different names. Almost all members from the later generations are involved in baking these delicacies.
4. Honey cake – Bengaluru
Naidu & Sons Bakery is an iconic eatery in Bengaluru that has been in business since 1888.
Even though the age-old bakery, which serves mouth-watering honey cakes and masala biscuits, was shut down in 1985, Naidu’s great-grandson reopened it in 2018 with a new name – Bangalore Connection 1888.
It was Naidu’s wife who learned to make bread from a British household where she worked, and taught her husband the art. He started selling bread near the Cantonment station after work. He also began learning new recipes and saving up to make a bakery of his own.
His specialities were western-style wedding cakes, jasmine cake, samosas with mutton kheema, Japanese cake, rusk-like ‘varachi’ and biscuits.
The honey cake, which comes in layers oozing with rich and natural honey, is still their star item and gets plenty of orders, especially during the festive season.
5. Vivikam Cake – Puducherry
Prepared using roasted semolina and pure ghee, vivikam cake is otherwise known as Pondicherry christmas cake. The speciality of this cake is that, like fine wine, it gets better with age and can be stored for weeks without refrigeration.
Sharing a piece of this with family and friends on Christmas eve is in fact a tradition of the town. The recipe is a Creole import and is baked by adding rum or brandy-soaked cashew nuts, raisins, candied fruits and citrus peels.
Auroville Bakery near Kuilapalayam village is a popular destination that serves this splendid cake. Unlike other pastry places, this bakery opens at 6.30 am everyday and closes at 5.30 pm, by which time most of their items have sold out.
6. Allahabadi cake – Allahabad
Have you ever spotted an ash-gourd candy in your cake? No, it’s not gross, but in fact goes well in the Allahabadi cake, which is a rich and spicy item that cannot be missed.
Prepared using petha (ash-gourd candy), locally-produced marmalade, pure ghee and a long list of spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, fennel, mace and ginger, the dessert will give you an instant festive kick.
Said to be born in the Anglo-Indian kitchens of Allahabad’s railway colony, this rendition of a traditional Christmas cake is truly Indian now.
Bushy’s Bakery is one of the busiest bakeries in Allahabad that serves this unique item all through the year. They first started baking these cakes in 1963 with a peculiar process of customers bringing their own ingredients and baking in front of them.
“We bake around three to four thousand or more in the month of December and to meet demands, the bhattis have to run 24×7,” Tariq, the current owner, tells ZeeZest.
7. Bebinca cake – Goa
Goa has a 500-year-old baking tradition and celebrates the amalgamation of local flavours and European cooking techniques.
The legendary bebinca is one of the best-known Goan confectioneries. It is a multi-layer cake baked one layer at a time over a slow fire, and uses coconut milk, ghee and jaggery. This mode of cooking originated at a time when there were no European-style ovens. Chefs used a clay oven for baking, and coconut husk and dried leaves for the fire.
This queen of Goan desserts can be relished in Mr Cafe, which has been running since 1922. The seven-layer cake is served at their Panaji outlet all through the year from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm.
8. Karmacha – Kolkata
This cake derives its name from the basic ingredient karmacha (Calcutta cherries) that is a lookalike of red cherries, but is in fact a sour kumquat dipped in red syrup.
It is made using karmacha, black raisins and mixed fruit peels, which are left to dry under the sun for a week. Other ingredients include cashew nuts, almonds, walnuts, petha and ginger. A pinch of garam masala is sprinkled in the mix to get the spice right.
Nahoum and Sons Private Limited Confectioners, located in Taltala, is a famous place to try the original, authentic cake. Founded by Nahoum Israel Mordecai in 1902, the place remains unique with its age-old ambience. But their menu is updated every now and then, with iconic fruit cakes, tarts, macaroons, and other classic recipes.
Edited by Divya Sethu
Where to Go For Christmas Cakes in Kolkata – Outlook Traveller, published by Outlook India on 22 December 2021.
Saldanha Bakery has stayed young for more than 90 years, published by Telegraph India on 18 December 2021.
How Mambally Bapu baked the first Christmas cake in 1883 in Kerala, published by The News Minute on 24 December 2021.
How a Bengaluru baker is keeping a 97-year-old family baking tradition alive, published by the News Minute on 20 August 2019.
How UP’s Famous Petha Landed In This Christmas Cake From Prayagraj, published by Zee Zest on 7 April 2021.
Indian X’mas bakes: Have you tried a boozy Allahabadi cake, Pondicherry’s vivikam or Goa’s baath?, published by Scroll.in on 25 December 2017.
A brief history of Christmas fruitcake and why it’s misunderstood, published by Scroll.in on 21 December 2021.
A brief history of Christmas fruitcake and why it’s misunderstood, published by Deccan Herald on 26 December 2021.