Last week I was delighted to be invited to a tea party marking the Queen’s Jubilee at an obscure and slightly forlorn spot close to the Red Fort in Old Delhi. Our hosts were the residents of Grant Govan Homes, a voluntary organization set up in 1940 to provide a home for retired Anglo-Indians with no other means of support.
A few of us took cakes while the seven residents, most of whom remember British times and Partition, called us “my gel”, and chatted about their long lives and the sad circumstances which had brought them to the home. Although often abandoned by their families, and dependent on goodwill and handouts, they maintain strong links with the wider Anglo-Indian community. They are still the life and soul of the dances organized by The Gidney Club in Connaught Place; they love a Tombola and the occasional game of Housey Housey (an early version of Bingo). But they are fairly isolated and often lonely and are always delighted when someone drops in for tea.
Anglo-Indians are also attached to their cuisine, a unique blend of Indian and British dishes—with wonderfully evocative names like Army Camp Soup, Captain’s Country Chicken and Bengal Lancers Shrimp Curry. They also fully embraced the British sweet tooth, relishing Jam Roly Poly, bread pudding and caramel custards.
My contribution to the tea party was this Marble Cake, a firm Anglo-Indian favourite, in which two flavours of cake batter are swirled together before baking to produced a cute marbled effect. It’s basically an ingenious way of eating vanilla cake and chocolate cake at the same time—and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake
250g butter, softened (I actually found the one I made with Amul turned out better than the one I did with imported fancy French unsalted)
250g caster sugar
4 eggs mixed with 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
250g plain flour (maida), sifted with 1 tsp baking powder
3-4 tbsp milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
For the icing
100g soft, unsalted butter
200g icing sugar, sifted
The seeds of ½ vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
Line a loaf tin (24x12cm) with baking parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and caster sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. I use a hand-held mixer, but you could easily do this by hand. Next, add one egg at a time, along with a spoonful of flour (to stop the mixture curdling), and keep beating until smooth. Repeat until you have used all the eggs, then gently fold in the remaining flour. Mix well, adding a little milk until the mixture has a “soft-dropping” consistency—when you bang a spoonful of mixture on to the side of the bowl, it should drop easily (but not runnily!) off the spoon.
Now divide the cake mixture in two and put one half into a separate bowl. To one half, add the cocoa powder, along with a little more milk, and mix well. Put spoonfuls of the two mixtures randomly into the lined tin. When you’ve used up all the cake mixture, gently swirl a spoon through the mixture to create a marbled effect—don’t overdo this as you will lose the marbling pattern in the finished cake.
Smooth the top of the cake mixture and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. After about 30 minutes, you might need to cover the top of the tin loosely with foil to stop the surface of the cake from burning. When the cake is done, take it out of the tin and on to a rack to cool.
For the icing, mix together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla seeds until smooth, and when the cake is completely cold, spread it neatly over the surface.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com
Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns