Baath Cake, also called Baatica, is a traditional Goan cake made using fresh coconut and semolina. It is usually baked to celebrate festivals like Christmas and Easter, forming a popular part of the traditional ‘Consuada’ or ‘Kuswar’ (festive sweets shared between families, friends and neighbours). Mildly sweet, with a moist crumb and rich flavour, this cake is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.
A unique feature of Baath cake is that the cake batter, filled with a considerable amount of butter and eggs, is allowed to ‘rest’ overnight. However, we’ve adapted the recipe to cut down on the amount of butter and eggs, allowing for the cake batter to ‘rest’ for just three and a half hours. The cake is often flavoured with cardamom (elaichi), nutmeg or vanilla. Our version of the Baath Cake, flavoured with saffron, cardamom and rosewater, is truly delectable, whether baked for a celebration or even as a teatime treat.
“And that’s how the kingdom was saved by the brave pirate!” said Filip, triumphantly waving his toy wooden sword in the air. “What are you laughing at? I’m the brave pirate! I have far more important things to do than to play with you!” he cried, watching Isabel giggling on the floor. Annoyed with his little sister, Filip swung his cape behind him and stormed out of the room. “You’d best be careful with that tablecloth Filip,” warned Ayah (nanny), referring to the ‘cape’ that the boy had tied around his neck. “We wouldn’t want the white lace to tear, would we?” she said, lighting the evening lamp in the children’s nursery. But the children were already out the door, racing down the corridor, their laughter bouncing off the stone walls of the villa.
Ayah, the old nanny and general housekeeper of the Carvalho home, would light the kerosene lamps every evening. It was almost like a ritual for her, walking around the vast rooms, making sure that everything was in order. The only other household staff milling about the house at this time would be the Raandpin (cook), preparing the children’s supper in the kitchen. Their father, Dr. Carvalho, having visited his patients for the day in the neighbouring villages, would usually return home late. The children were happy to spend the weekends with him, including him in their charming games and revelry. Life was fairly peaceful and Ayah, who’d been serving the family for nearly forty years, considered this place her home.
Lighting the last lamp in the foyer, she gazed at the painting hanging on the wall above. What a beautiful portrait it was, glowing now in the gentle light of the lamp! One of the most talented painters in Goa had been commissioned to paint Dr. Carvalho and his wife, as they looked on their wedding day. Ayah smiled, remembering how grand the wedding had been! They’d had to employ extra staff from the village nearby to help with the preparations. The villa had been filled with relatives who’d travelled from near and far to attend the wedding. There had been a simple service at the local Church, followed by an elaborate banquet at the villa for the young couple.
Memories are strange beings in themselves, creeping upon us in the most unexpected moments. The memory closest to Ayah‘s heart was of helping to dress the bride on the morning of the wedding. She’d been a nanny to the bride herself, having watched her grow from a small girl into a beautiful, young woman. How she’d sparkled, in her white lace wedding gown, gossamer veil and the famous Carvalho pearls, as the winter sunlight shone through the windows. She’d looked up at Ayah, her beautiful dark brown eyes filled with happiness and hope for the future. Ayah couldn’t remember having seen a bride more beautiful than her lovely girl.
“Come have some Cha (tea),” called out the Raandpin from the kitchen, bringing Ayah out of her reverie. Smiling wistfully to herself, she walked down the hallway to the kitchen. The aroma of freshly made cake greeted her, as she sat at the long wooden table. The sweet cake batter, filled with fragrant coconut and semolina was placed in a special tin that fit inside a traditional clay oven. The oven was placed on the chul (stove), a heavy plate covering its mouth. The cook used a pair of well-worn tongs to stoke the burning kolso (coal) set atop the heavy plate. The cake prepared in this timeless way would be ready by the time the children were hungry.
Ayah poured them cups of piping hot Cha, overly-sweet and with a touch too much milk, just the way they liked it. “Do you remember how Martin was locked inside the garden shed all through the wedding?” said Ayah, remembering how the poor, old gardener had somehow managed to lock himself in by mistake. “Oh yes! And we’d all been wondering why he wasn’t at the Church for the wedding service!” said the cook, laughing as she shared some Pão (bread) with Ayah. “Poor Martin. We had to have the boys from the village break down the heavy door, do you remember?!” she said, shaking her head and dipping a piece of the Pão in her Cha. They shared their bread and Cha in silence, each of them lost in their own memories. They’d served this family for so many years, every corner of the villa was filled with stories.
The evening sunlight cast longer shadows across the kitchen wall, when the children suddenly raced down the marble staircase and into the kitchen. “Baath! Look Isabel! We’re having cake for supper!” exclaimed Filip, as the cook carefully lifted the warm cake out of the stovetop oven. “You won’t have any if you don’t eat your meal first,” said Ayah, serving the children some fish curry and rice. “We haven’t even had a tiny taste of the cake yet,” said Isabel, looking up at Ayah with big brown eyes. “You can both have some after you’ve finished your meal,” said Ayah, smiling as she noticed that every passing day, the little girl seemed to resemble her lovely mother more and more. When one loses someone very special, Fate always seems to find a way to bring them back to us. The children enjoyed their evening meal and dessert, chatting excitedly all the while about the day’s adventures. The Carvalho villa would always be filled with beautiful memories and stories, no matter how dark the twilight shadows sometimes seemed.
(Makes one 9-inch round cake)
- 1 cup fine Semolina (Rawa)
- 2 cups fresh Coconut scrapings (lightly packed)
- 3/4 cup Milk
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 2 teaspoons Rosewater
- 1 teaspoon Cardamom seeds (Elaichi)
- A pinch of Saffron strands
- 2 large Eggs
- 2 heaped tablespoons Ghee (Clarified Butter)
- 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- A pinch of Salt
- 3 heaped tablespoons All Purpose Flour (Maida)
In a pan, gently heat the milk over low heat. When steam begins to rise from the surface of the milk, take the pan off the heat (do not wait for bubbles to appear at the edges of the pan). Add in the saffron strands, cardamom seeds and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar crystals completely. Mix the semolina and freshly grated coconut into the milk mixture and allow the semolina to soak up the warm, sweetened milk. Stir in 1 teaspoon of rosewater, cover the pan and let the mixture soak for three and a half hours.
Preheat the oven to 170*C/325*F/ Gas Mark 3. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake tin with a few drops of oil and line the bottom with baking parchment. Give the semolina mixture a good stir with a spatula or wooden spoon. The semolina would have softened and soaked up most of the initial liquid. Gently stir in the all purpose flour, salt and baking powder, ensuring the dry ingredients are well incorporated into the semolina mixture.
Melt 2 heaped tablespoons of ghee and keep aside. In a wide bowl, beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon rosewater until they are very fluffy and have nearly tripled in volume. Gently fold the beaten eggs into the semolina mixture, alternating with the melted ghee. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin, smooth the top of the batter with a spatula and bake for 40-45 minutes. To check if the cake has cooked through, insert a toothpick into the centre of the cake. The cake has baked completely if the toothpick comes out clean. If crumbs cling to the toothpick, bake the cake for another 5-10 minutes. Switch the oven off and leave the cake in it for 5 minutes. Then take the cake tin out of the oven and leave it on the kitchen counter to cool. After 10 minutes, gently run a knife along the sides of the cake and turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve or store the cake in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Story Notes: Our stories, set in the early 1900s, are entirely fictional & inspired by childhood tales, local legends and books.