Julia Child in Delhi – Jolly Sabherwal’s X-Mas Cake, Vasant Kunj
The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One way to salvage this cursed year (boo boo 2020!) from becoming a complete annus horribilis is to make Jolly Sabherwal’s super-yummy Christmas cake for Christmas Eve today.
“I have already made it four-five times since last week for friends,” she says, beaming, on the WhatsApp video from her first-floor flat in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj.
At 70, the Kerala native is a familiar figure in the city for having been a longtime manager of a much-loved bookstore. She would be always sighted in one of her gorgeous saris (she has 100 saris!).
This year, too, Ms Sabherwal is determined to dress in one of her “christmassy saris” for the midnight mass, though it will be held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. She will attend it with her husband, Anil. They have a love story going back to Bombay in 1974, when Anil, a lieutenant in the Indian Navy, broke his right leg and was admitted to INHS Asvini, the naval hospital, where he was looked after by a “sister-in-charge”, a lieutenant in the Indian Army, who was Jolly (then Thomas), a fresh graduate from the College of Nursing at Armed Forces Medical College in Pune.
“It was as a nursing student that I learned baking this cake in the hostel mess with other girls.” The next decade was spent perfecting the recipe. It’s now here for you to bake.
Jolly’s yummy Christmas cake recipe for a 2.5 kg cake
Plain flour – 500 gm
Butter – 500 gm
Sugar –500 gm
Eggs – 1 dozen
Currants – 250 gm
Sultanas, raisins, figs, cherries, orange peel – 100 gm each (cleaned and chopped finely; ideally soaked for a month in rum/sherry)
Candied ginger – 50 gm
Almonds, cashews – 100 gm each
Chopped mixed spices (cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg) and shahjeera – 2 tea spoons each
Grated orange and lemon rinds – 1 tea spoon each
Caramel syrup of 250 gm sugar
Vanilla essence – 2 tea spoons
Baking powder – 2 tea spoons
Sieve flour with mixed spices and baking powder. Whisk butter and sugar till creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Add flour and mix well. Stir in the caramel and all the other ingredients. Line the baking tin with butter paper. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for one hour. Then reduce to 150 degrees and bake for another half hour. Cake’s ready.