Can you believe that 2021 is also almost over? Most of us have erased 2020 from our calendars (and memories) and 2021 too wasn’t that great either. From how things unfolded at my end, I’d say 2021 was rather better than 2020. Post the second lockdown (and my complete vaccination) I ventured out (taking all precautions). My work from home setup was moved to Lucknow for a few weeks, followed by a trip to Saputara and eventually landing back in Hyderabad. Another interesting that happened was my Staycation at Novotel HICC. It was a wonderful experience at the property where I had dined a few times earlier.
Fast forward to last weekend, and I was again at the same property. Why? The title of this blog post gives it away. I was there for the season’s first Christmas cake mixing at Novotel HICC. I was invited to be a part of the festivities, do some cake mixing, some grape stomping followed by a special scrumptious buffet. Since this was my first experience, it deserves a blog post 🙂 So read on to find out what cake mixing is all about and my experience.
Christmas Cake Mixing – The tradition
Christmas is the last festival of the year. The entire world – especially the west – goes into the holiday frenzy mood that goes on till the first week of the new year. The birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated with great pomp and glory. As kids, we always waited for Santa to visit us and give gifts. However, when I moved to Goa, I learnt a lot more about Christmas. The setting up of crib, attending midnight masses and even hopping homes singing Christmas carols! Another tradition that I learnt was Christmas cake mixing.
The practice of cake mixing dates back to the 17th century and is believed to have originated in Britain. It also marks the arrival of the harvest season when a lot of fruits and nuts would be harvested. And these were the main ingredients of the cake. The tradition started from families where it was an occasion for a get-together. Today, hotels across the globe organize cake mixing events to spread the warmth and kick off the Christmas celebrations. Even in Hyderabad, almost all the hotels organize Cake mixing events, and this time it was Novotel HICC to be the first one to do it.
What goes in a traditional Christmas Cake?
Traditionally it started with plum porridges which were prepared on Christmas eve. By the 16th century, it is believed that the ingredients were replaced and wheat, eggs & butter was added resulting in a cake. For Christmas, nuts, dry fruits and spices were added to it thus giving birth to the Christmas Cake. The Christmas Cake is prepared well in advance and hence the cake mixing sessions take place at least a month before. The idea is to ensure that the nuts, dry fruits soak the aroma and flavour.
One of the main ingredients of a Christmas Cake is alcohol. From Brandy & Rum to Whisky, go in large amounts to keep the cake moist and flavourful. Essentially a Christmas cake is a fruit cake that is fed with alcohol to keep it moist and give it a longer shelflife. Hence if you are ever having a Christmas cake and are a teetotaler, do confirm the ingredients. I am a teetotaler, however, this cake mixing event at Novotel was something that I wanted to experience. Please understand that I’m not promoting the consumption of alcohol in any manner through this post. The idea is purely to tell you about the Christmas cake mixing tradition.
My First Christmas Cake Mixing Experience
Luckily it was a Sunday and the event was scheduled to start at noon. The Cake mixing was to be followed by Grape Stomping and a special brunch. Like always, Maharaj reached early and headed straight to the restaurant. I was surprised that many staff did recognize me – even with my mask on – from my staycation a few months ago.
The event was to take place on the lawn where a small stage was set up. The stage was surrounded by tables decked with nuts and dry fruits along with bottles of alcohol and sugar syrups. There was also a play area set up for kids to enjoy. All the hotel guests were invited too.
The event started with the arrival of Mr Manish Dayya, the General Manager at Novotel HICC. He was accompanied by the group chef Kailash Gundupalli and Chef Satya Pandari. We all were provided with caps, aprons and gloves before we started with cake mixing. Kids were called on to the stage first to pour in the dry fruits and nuts and mix them.
After that, it was time for us to join in. We topped it up with more nuts and dry fruits and poured in a lot of alcohol. A lot. It was probably my first time with so much alcohol around. Soon the air was filled with the pungent aroma of the liquor as we mixed everything. It was a new experience and with so many people around, it was great.
This was followed by the Grape stomping session. A large wooden crate was first filled with black grapes and topped with tons of ice cubes. We were provided shoe covers before we got them. We again had the kids start the proceedings followed by us. Kids enjoyed it a lot, as they kept going in and out of the tub.
I was reluctant to go in but eventually decided to get in. It was slippery so I had to take caution, but once inside, it was relaxing – for a while. The ice cubes gave the chills and the tingling feeling as I stomped the grapes and grooved to the music. This would be preserved and used to make wine that would be served along with the Christmas cake.
So how was my first cake mixing experience? It was amazing. Not only the event, but it was all about people coming over and spending quality time. I had a great time interacting with people and contributing some calories towards making the cake and wine 😉
Merrymaking Brunch at Food Exchange Novotel HICC
It was late in the afternoon, that the festivities were over and we decided to feed our tummies. Food Exchange at Novotel HICC was the venue for the Merrymaking brunch. They had set up live chat and starters counters along with a bar outside. The bar served some exciting cocktails and mocktails and the Virgin Mojito was spot on. For starters, we had Paniyaram, Vol-e-vonts, spring rolls, Chaat and pizza. The Paniyaram was good, but the accompanying chutney was better. Vol-e-vonts were done nicely too. Chaat could have been better though :/
The merrymaking buffet was a huge spread inside. From salads to soup, main course and desserts, there was food all over. I went in for a bowl of my favourite Dal Makhni, a serving of Bharwan Aloo and Kofte along with Garlic Naan. It was a satisfying meal. The Bharwan Aloo taste pretty good, slightly on the sweeter side but the salty Garlic Naan complimented it well. I also tried rice, curd and pickle which was heavenly.
On to the desserts, I tried the assortment of pastries, Gulab Jamun, Ras Malai, Apple Jalebi and ice cream. They even had a counter for stone ice cream that was super busy. We also requested Ginger Ale to complete our meal. A special shout out to Chandu for making our experience a great one. He was there during my staycation as well.
One of its kind experience
I’m so glad that this happened and I got to experience my first Christmas cake mixing. It was wonderful to spend time with some amazing people and staff from Novotel HICC. They’ve become like a family to me now. I can understand that not many of you can relate to this experience, however, if you get a chance, do experience Christmas cake mixing. And no, it’s not mandatory for it to happen in a hotel. It has been a family affair since the very beginning, so if you have some Christian friends, ask them and join in the festivities. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
So that’s all from this blog post about my first Christmas cake mixing experience. I hope you found this insightful. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, Tweet to me at @Atulmaharaj, DM on Instagram or Get In Touch.