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An Ode To My Mom’s Christmas Plum Cake

"The only dessert I would eat every day, for the rest of my life."
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I was in a convent all my school days and Christmas was the time when we were given the least amount of homework. I would participate in every Christmas play and sing in every carol competition every year. Wait, let me clear it out, it was not because I was a great actor or a great singer. It was just because I wanted to escape to miss as many classes as I could. Who knew my notorious want to bunk classes would with time morph into a love for the holiday season.

Today, as soon as winter nears, I gradually notice myself humming Christmas carols at random times of the day. Christmas cheer is in my blood and you can expect me to burst into Christmas carols at the top of my voice, even if Christmas is a few weeks away.

The only non-Christamas-y thing I am guilty of is my dislike for desserts. I hate desserts. Rarely anything sweet has ever made me want to go in for a second helping. The only dessert I would lose an arm and a leg for is the plum cake my mom bakes for Christmas every year. I do not remember even one Christmas when I have missed eating her legendary plum cake.

Winters in my hometown Ranchi are unlike the city I currently live in, which is Mumbai. In winter, you will see me wearing almost four layers of clothes (I represent Joey on Thanksgiving)  and sipping on hot coffee endlessly. On Christmas morning, my dad, my sister, and I can be found assembled in the living room with our collective gaze fixed on the kitchen door, waiting for the plum cake to emerge.

My mom is not very fond of us creepily staring at her for hours while she makes it. Even though she knows her instructions have never been followed, she threatens to not give us even a single piece of cake if we disturb her in the process of baking the famous plum cake. I don’t think I will ever know the recipe of the cake entirely because one thing my mom does not appreciate is any help from us as it leads to less help and more of a disaster.

Every year my mom wakes up at 6 am and plays the same playlist she has been playing forever and ever. I powerwalk to the kitchen which has flour all over the floor, but I will describe it as abstract art because my mom will disown me if I use the word messy. Then I encounter the tiny piles of fruits and dry fruits, carefully arranged in the order they are going to be added to the cake batter. Plums are the star of the cake, but my mom is a bit of a rebel, so she adds raisins, apricots, cranberries, and figs too. 

We patiently wait until the cake is out of the oven, and then comes the fun part. The only part we are allowed to be a part of is the glazing. We do it with all the dedication we have, and then brush the top with icing sugar, milk, and orange juice. We all know all the hardwork is actually my mother’s, but we are always grateful to say that we made it together because who wouldn’t want to take credit for making the yummiest cake we have ever had? 

Now the funniest and a little heartbreaking fact is that, even though this cake takes hours to be made for it to taste the way it tastes, it takes our family barely 15 or 20 minutes to wipe the plate clean – crumbs and all.

The cake-eating is punctuated with bouts of laughter, with Christmas carols as background score. My mom quietly sits in a corner with her slice of cake, eating it like the only sane person in the room, but the glint in her eyes and the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth is a tell tale sign of the pride she feels when she watched her family demolish her famous plum cake, yet again.