Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Christmas & New Year cakes: Big business in Kerala

Can you guess the volume of Christmas and New Year cake sales in Kerala, India? Rs.25-30 crores during the season mid-December to the first week of January. This includes exports to USA where many expatriate Mallus long for the taste of Kerala plum cakes.

In the current season a Kerala hotel, Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel, Kovalam, has broken the world record for the tallest cake ever made. The height of this 2500 kg marvel is 29.1 feet. The giant cake is to be cut into 22,000 portions and distributed among the poor children of Trivandrum according to media reports.

Cake has a centuries old history. The word is believed to have its origin from Old Norse kaka of the Vikings. The European tradition of cakes was carried to different parts of the world, particularly by the British. Initially the expatriates in different parts of the Empire imported cakes from the home country.

In India this delicacy had a late arrival. It would appear that in 1883 December one Mr. Brown in Tellicherry, Kerala gave a piece of cake to Mampally Bappu who had started The Royal Biscuit Factory three years earlier and asked whether he could bake a similar one.

The Tellicherry baker took up the challenge. He analyzed the ingredients used in the sample by, I suppose, smell and taste, had a local blacksmith make the mold, and produced a cake for Brown. This was the beginning of the Indian cake industry according to the information that I have been able to gather. Will viewers who have more details on this subject please share them with the others?

It seems that Mampally Bakers of Tellicherry exported their products to several countries and perhaps for the troops as well, during the First World War! Even today the bakery is popular and is a must visit place for travelers to the historic Tellicherry Town on the west coast of Kerala.

I feel that this institution was responsible for the ‘cake’ part of Tellicherry being described as the place of ‘cakes, cricket and circus’.


Also see: Tellicherry, Cradle of Indian Cricket; Mahe River, English Channel?

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