Thursday, 23 July 2020

On Baking Chocolate Cake from the Landour Cook Book

Many moons ago, a century shall we say, Mussoorie saw an influx of missionary families every 'hot season.'  Mothers would arrive first, trundling up the ghat to Kincraig in Mussoorie and on up to Landour.   The ladies would take their children out of boarding from Woodstock School and then a month or two later the fathers would join them for a few weeks of R&R.

In the late 1920's the "Reading Club" requested Rev. Parker, the then principal of Woodstock School to build a Community Centre, The building was erected in 1928 catered to the lively summer community, complete with a library and meeting rooms.

The Reading Club of Landour Community Center held weekly meetings there and created a Cook Book, sharing favorite recipes and also giving guidance on substitutions for foods and flavorings not available in Landour, and for cooking at high altitudes.  (From: The Landour Community Centre Cookbooks: From the 1920s to the 1960s and the present)

That Landour Cookbook lives on.  The Eichers in Lamtaput have a well-worn copy which has travelled with us over the past 2 decades from Jharkhand to Thane to Lalitpur and is now being used in S. Odisha.   We used our copy this evening to bake a chocolate cake.  Two actually!

Needless to say, our copy has seen better days.  The cake section (used the most) is rather rich with stuff having spilled on it from eons of open book, measure stuff, whisk it around, splatter...

I am rather fond of the Chocolate Cake recipe by Alfie Campbell.  1 1/2 cups of cold water!  I always wanted to know why we are asked to mix in cold water... and why not milk for this recipe? Anyway, I follow the instructions, and have to say that this recipe has done us well over the years.  This evening a doubling of the ingredients by yours truly resulted in two lovely cakes which are cooling now.

The cover of our Landour Cookbook is special to me, because on one of my parents visits to us (probably when we lived in Thane) my Dad noticed that it was in a poor condition, and he took it on himself to repair it.   And so using some cardboard that he recycled from a file, Dad patched it the veteran copy we have, and wrote "Landour Cookbook" on it with permanent marker.  Almost everytime I see his handwriting I remember him.

Everything fades.  Time slips away.  But we are blessed to live in the now / eternity.

As the needle has now ticked past 12 am, another round of late night baking is over.  A week from tonight we will be preparing for our Asha leaving in the morn for her flight to Mumbai and then Chicago ("so Gott will und wir leben").  This cake one of the many small things we do to prepare for another shift in life.

Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside
Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed, thy hand has provided,
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Our humble cookbook has helped stitch another thread in the vast tapestry of meaning.  S.D.g.


  1. Love and prayers to all of you brother!

  2. How are you? Thinking of you. With all our love and prayers.Your blogpost is great and informative.Miss all your hospitality in Lalitpur.

  3. Loving the cake and thanks for sending some in between