You know it is the Christmas season when the jingle bells sound and for several city hotels, the mood is set as soon as the traditional cake mixing ceremony starts.
For hotels, it is a cake and a game rolled into one.
Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel, Sarova Panafric, and Tamarind Tree are some of the hotels that recently invited guests to the joyous cake mixing ceremony.
Large quantities of liquor, wine and honey poured over dried fruits, nuts, powdered grains, fresh fruits, and spices are mixed using hands, a tradition that dates back to the 17th Century.
The fruits are laid out and then spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg are sprinkled into the mix. Next comes alcohol, which is poured on the mixing table. People then mix this up as the dough changes colour.
The soaked mix is put into jars and left for a few weeks for the fruits to soak up the alcohol to give a moist, juicy, delectable cake.
At Crowne Plaza, the team was led by Executive Chef Brahmanand Singh, who plated a host of nuts with a variety of alcohol for the rich mix of the cake which will be cooked later.
Tamarind Tree’s fruit cake had 11 types of fruit nuts such as cashew nuts, macadamia, almonds, glazed cherries both green and red, mixed peels, raisins —dried grapes, sultanas — a variety of dried grapes, and walnuts, all in different measurements.
Then came in the seeds; sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower which were mixed with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to add flavour to the cake. Honey was added to act as a sweetener.
Robai Wamoto, Tamarind Tree Hotel Executive said alcohol is introduced into the mixture before it is left to ferment for 40 days.
They put beers, spirits, brandy, wine, whisky, and rum which are used to give the cake different kinds of flavour as well as act as a preservative.
For Tamarind, they use Jameson, Bacardi, Viceroy, Malibu, Captain Morgan, Vodka, Rums (Myers), Bombay, KWV Ruby, Red Wine, Kenya Cane and White Wine.
“We use 40 litres of alcohol while the mixture of the nuts and seeds totalled 75 kilos,” said Chef Wamoto.
The fermented mixture is then mixed with unsalted butter, eggs, flour, baking and margarine before the cake is prepared, she says.
The 40 days given for fermentation is to allow the fruit nuts and the seeds to fuse.
She explains that the cake is a traditional fruit cake made up of 70 percent fruits.
“If the mixture is not fermented for 40 days it will not have the same flavour. This one has that nice, fruity flavour. If you also don’t put enough fruits then the taste will not be the same,” she said.
After the fermentation, she points out, the whole mixture will not be baked but will be divided into portions depending on orders.
Chef Wamoto adds that after fermentation, the potency of the alcohol would have drastically reduced and evaporated even further during baking making the cake safe for children and those who do not tolerate alcohol.
If one wants to prepare one kilogramme, for instance, use eight whole eggs, one kilogram of flour, 500 grammes of butter, 500 grams of the mixture, and 500 grammes of margarine.
This will then be baked for like 45 minutes at a temperature of about 160 degrees Celsius. After it has been allowed to cool, explains the Chef, one will decide whether to ice it or save it as it is.
“This is a tradition we have had here for the past four years now as part of our festive celebrations. The baking will start on December 20, 2021. The baked cake will be served to our guests, children’s homes, suppliers, and our staff,” says Chef Wamoto, who started as a casual cook at Tamambo and grew to become a junior sous chef at Sarova Salt Lick for two years.
“I then joined Sarova Whitesands in the same position for another two years before Tamarind Tree Hotel came calling as executive chef,” she says.
Tamarind Tree’s Nairobi General Manager John Musau said the preparation of the giant cake has been a tradition for welcoming the festive season.
The cake is baked just before Christmas and served to customers visiting the hotel, with 50 percent of the proceeds used to support different children’s homes in Nairobi.
“We use the event to set the mood for the festivities. It has been a tough year with Covid-19 and so let us enjoy. We have decided to lighten the mood by creating hope that all is not lost and we want every customer and client to come here and enjoy,” says Mr Musau.