‘Tis the season again! Of lit up streets and Christmas trees, the sweet hum of carols and the lingering aroma of mulled wine wafting through every neighbourhood. It’s the season of celebration, joy, laughter, love and a time for togetherness. And what better accompaniment for all these sweet delights than some good old, rum-soaked, Christmas cake? Here’s a list of iconic Indian bakeries for your Christmas feast. Some of these date back to the pre-Independence era!
Saldanha Bakery, Kolkata
A small, Goan family-run business, the Saldanha Bakery was started by Ubeline Saldanha and her husband, Ignatius, nearly a hundred years ago. Back then, Ubeline, who was a passionate baker, would pack her patties, cakes and pastries in little black boxes with 'Saldanha' written on them, and 20-30 men would cart them around Calcutta. Today, their granddaughter Debra Saldanha runs the business. She is gradually reintroducing all the goodies her grandmother once baked, putting Saldanha back on the Christmas map of Kolkata. Come November and December, the bakery is bombarded with orders for their famous Christmas cake - known as the Rich Fruit Cake. When the season rolls around, you will find long queues outside the bakery with patrons jovially chatting with each other, waiting for the cakes to finish baking in the Saldanha ovens. The bakery has garnered its reputation through word of mouth and the bakers know their customers by name. Each item is made fresh to order. Sometimes people have to place their wedding cake orders months in advance.
Mambally’s Royal Biscuit Factory, Kerala
The story of this Kerala bakery begins in 1880 when a business, Mambally Bapu, decided to set up his own bakery in Thalasserry. Three years later, Bapu was introduced to a rich plum cake by a British planter. Using that as a diving board, he came up with his own version (of what some say became India’s first Christmas cake) using a dose of a local brew with cashew apple and kadalipazham bananas. Ever since that day, Thalasserry became a hub for Christmas cake enthusiasts and Bapu went on to open more bakeries in different parts of the state. Every year, Thalassery is flooded with Christmas cake orders from expats around the world, to the extent that a lot of the bakeries only stock these boozy treats and don’t accept other orders for the month.
Thom’s Bakery, Bengaluru
If you’re feeling nostalgic, or in the mood to experience the old-world charm of baked goods, might we suggest a trip to Thom’s Bakery? Established in 1960, Thom’s features not only desserts, but also a collection of delightful savoury goodies like patties, samosas, and their special in-house bread. The star of the show, however, is their rich and decadent plum cake. The bakery has an adjoining supermarket with a wide selection of international goodies like pasta sauces, milkshake powders, cheese and candies. Be sure to grab a loaf of their milk bread on your way out and don’t forget to gorge on the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate eclairs while you wait!
Naidu Bakery, Bengaluru
PV Kuppusawmy Naidu fstarted his eponymous bakery in 1888 in Shivajinagar, Bengaluru. They were known for their butter and masala biscuits, honey cakes and elaborately tiered wedding cakes. The bakery lived through three generations and nearly a hundred years before taking hiatus and returning in 2018 with Naidu’s great-great grandson, now a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, who rechristened it as Bangalore Connection 1888. Bangalore Connection 1888 specialises in not only the old bakery hits like butter and masala biscuits, but also in more contemporary confections like cheesecakes and mousse.
Nahoum & Sons, Kolkata
Kolkata’s famous Nahoum’s bakery was established in 1902 in Hoggs Market (today New Market), and specialised in chocolate, marzipan and fudge. Their Christmas cake, also known as the Rich Fruit Cake, is one of their oldest standing items and can last up to three weeks in the winter. They were even served as a celebration treat during Republic Day at Raj Bhavan for many years. Nahoums is Kolkata's only Jewish bakery that still remains, as does its original teakwood and glass display cases that give this bakery its old-world charm.If you plan on getting a cake from Kolkata's favourite bakery this holiday season, make sure to go there with patience and time on your hands as the line can be ridiculously long but completely worth the wait!