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The Man Who Baked India’s First Ever Christmas Cake

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First-Ever Christmas Cake

The thought of Christmas cakes is enough to make anyone’s mouth water. Be it the yumminess from Goa or delicacies from the local bakers, Christmas cakes are always a delicious slice of dessert heaven for a majority.
But only a few people know the history of these Christmas cakes in India. Believe it or not, its history dates back to the time as early as the year 1883, when it was baked for the first time. Yes, you read it right!
In 1880, in a small town named Thalassery located in North Kerala, in the southern region of India, there lived a man named Mambally Bapu. By profession, he was a businessman who used to ship bread, milk, and tea to the British troops residing in Egypt.
He got himself trained in biscuit making from Burma and had only returned from there to India when he decided he wanted to make baked goods more popular in India.
In those days, there used to be only one bakery in the country and that too was meant to only cater to the demands of the British. Bapu wanted his local Malayali folks to become more aware of baked stuff, like biscuits, buns, rusks, etc.
It was then that he decided to set up his own bakery, which in his traditional language, is known as a borma. Thus, that same year, he set up his own small bakery, with the name ‘Royal Biscuit Factory,’ and such was his dedication that he began to produce close to 40 different types of bread, biscuits, buns, and rusk, working round the clock.
However, it was in the year 1883 when he finally created history in the segment of baking, albeit unknowingly. A British planter named Murdoch Brown had just started his cinnamon plantation in Anjarakkandy and visited Bapu’s bakery with a rich plum cake in his hand, which he had bought from England. During his conversation with Bapu, he had asked if he could bake a cake similar to the plum cake he was holding.
Bapu was intrigued at one go and wasted no time in getting to work. Brown had given him a 10 minutes demo on cake baking basics and had also given Bapu a set of ingredients including cocoa, dates, dry fruits, etc. and advised him to use a French brandy for the Christmas cake.
However, Bapu believed in his own customization and wanted this interesting project to have his exclusive touch. So, he procured the mold for the cake from a blacksmith living in Dharmadam.
He assimilated the choicest set of spices from the Malabar Coast and added a tinge of Desi flavor to the preparation by using a local brew that was made using cashew apple and a variety of banana called Kadalipazham.
On the 20th of December 1884, Bapu had finally presented his cake to Brown, and the latter was so impressed by its taste that he asserted, it was ”one of the best cakes” he had ever had and went on to order a dozen more. History was created and Christmas cakes soon started gaining popularity in the years that followed.
As on today, descendants of Bapu are owners of popular bakery chains all across India, and receive orders from UAE and the USA as well, so much that in the month of December they don’t take any orders for birthday or anniversary cakes, just because their stocks are full to cater to the demands for the Christmas cakes.

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