Friday, December 12, 2014

Sri Lankan Christmas Cake


Sri Lankan Christmas Cake is is not your typical fruit cake.  Yes, it has some fruit and nuts, but it's got so much more rich and delicious ingredients that it's bursting with flavor.  A small piece is all that is required for any sweet tooth.  

My mother and I took this Christmas cake journey together.  I have helped her make this cake once before, but never quite paid attention like I did this time.  This time we did not simply follow a recipe that told us what we needed.  This time we created many of our own ingredients and then created our own version of this cake.  

The traditional cake has a few ingredients that are hard to come by in the US.  Even in Sri Lanka these ingredients are mostly store bought and never made from scratch.  So we created these ingredients with the raw fruits/vegetables found in the Asian grocery store.  The process took us a couple of weeks to get everything ready before we could actually put a cake in the oven. 

This is not a cake you can simply whip up together at the last minute.  This is a cake that takes some thought, patience and planning.   That's why this cake is served at a time that is so joyful and full of celebration.   Christmas is a time that things should slow down and you serve your family the best you can offer.  This Christmas Cake is a perfect way to celebrate the holiday season.


Chop and Marinate these ingredients:

1lb Pumpkin Preserve (recipe here)
1lb Ginger Preserve (or crystallized ginger)
1lb chow chow (recipe here)
1/2lb candied peel (orange, lemon peel no citron)
1lb unsalted cashews
1lb raisins
1/2lb golden raisins (sultanas)
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
1/4 tsp clove powder
1/2 cup Brandy
3Tbs rose water
2 Tbs honey
1 16oz jar plum jam
1 cup golden syrup (see recipe here

Cake Batter Ingredients:
1/2lb semolina (lightly roasted)
2oz all purpose flour
1lb unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
1lbwhite granulated sugar
15 egg yolks
10 egg whites (whipped)

Day 1: Use a food processor and chop the pumpkin preserve, chow chow, raisins, golden raisins and candied peel until they are small pieces (but not into a paste).   Then chop the cashews into small pieces.  Add all the ingredients together then flavor with the cinnamon powder, nutmeg, clove powder, cardamom powder, honey, golden syrup, plum jam, brandy and rose water.  Mix all ingredients together really well and allow to marinate covered in a cool dark place overnight (or a few days)

The day you are going to bake the cake:
1. On medium low heat, roast the semolina until golden color and fragrant.  Then sift with the all purpose flour and set aside. 


2. Separate 15 eggs and whip 10 egg whites until they reach soft peaks.  Set egg whites aside.   Note: Save those extra egg whites.  You can make freeze the egg whites, make an egg white omelet or even meringue kisses.

3. Use a mixer to combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then add egg yolks one at a time until fully mixed together.


Now you have all your ingredients ready to mix together for the cake batter:  

1. Marinated mixed fruit and nuts
2. Roasted semolina and flour (sifted)
3. Egg Whites whipped to a soft peak
4.  Creamed butter/sugar and egg yolks

 Mixing the Cake Batter: 

In a large bowl (this will make about 10lbs of batter) with a strong wooden spoon place the creamed butter/sugar and egg yolks. 

Slowly add a heaping cup of the marinated fruit/nut mixture and stir until combined.  Then  add a few tablespoons of the semolina/flour mixture and stir again until combined.  

Then follow up with a scoop of the egg whites and fold in.   Repeat by adding these three components to the cake one at a time and stirring well between each addition until all the ingredients have been used.

Preparing the pan for Baking:  


Heat oven to 300 degree Fahrenheit and prepare baking pan with 2-3 layers of parchment paper and apply some cooking spray or butter.

Pour batter into pan and place pan on a large baking sheet for stability as well as keeping the bottom from getting too dark.   Bake for 3-4 hours until cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean from the center. 

Note:  If top is becoming too dark, cover pan with foil on top to shield the cake.  Allow cake to set in a cool place overnight before serving.

 Serving and presenting the cake:
Cut into small squares (about 1-2 inch squares) and serve on a platter.   

They can also be individually wrapped in wax or oil paper.  Then wrapped again in Christmas wrapping and served.


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  1. I can see why it takes you and your mother to make this gorgeous cake. I'm looking at that last photo as I type this and want to reach in and take a bite. Then I'd have to even up the slice. :)

  2. I love learning about other cultures' christmas desserts :D This sri lankan version looks so dense and fruity!
    Perfect for tea time :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. WOW! That is so beautiful! And all those ingredients have my curiosity going wild!! Interesting bit - I thought only Macedonians used Semolina in their cakes! haha :))

  4. So many interesting and wonderful ingredients! I cannot begin to imagine how this cake tastes, but I would love to have a piece of it. What a beautiful labor of love. In a world of "30 minute meals", your cake stands as a testament to the true beauty of family, cultural heritage and the art of cooking. Incredible.

  5. This looks like it's worth all the time and preparation. Thank you so much for sharing your culture with us!

  6. Goodness...that's a work of art, Ramona. Very special cake for Christmas! Have a happy Christmas and a happy New Year. Thanks for everything. :)

  7. It's been so long since I had Sri Lankan Christmas cake! Wow - I am so impressed you and your mother made chow chow preserve and golden syrup to go in this gorgeous cake, Ramona! Your whole post on the process brought back memories for me - my dad used to chop all those fruits/nuts by hand before and reward himself with a swig of brandy! :)
    Merry Christmas!

  8. I couldn't find how big pan you use in this recipe? I'd like to try this cake!

    1. I actually made a huge cake recipe and divided this recipe to post here. I am not exactly sure what size cake pan to use since the recipe is divided. You may want to start with a 9x13 size pan and if you have remaining cake batter fill another 9x13 or an 8x8 pan. Good luck and enjoy. :)

  9. can we down size this recipe if so how.

    1. You can try to divide everything by half or a fourth and try it out.

  10. I live in Malaysia. I cannot find chow chow or the pumpkin preserve. Is there a website I can order from?

    1. I also have a hard time getting chow chow and pumpkin preserve in the States. I made my own and the recipes are linked next to the ingredients above. Hope they can help you make the needed ingredients for the cake.

    2. James Selva from MalaysiaFebruary 1, 2017 at 2:26 AM

      The pumpkin preserve and the chow chow can be ordered from this website :-

      Hope this helps.

  11. I made this cake out of curiosity. I love fruit cake but this one is very special. The entire house was filled with the wonderful scent of sweetness and spices. It is truly delicious and unlike anything I have ever made before. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. I usually make enough to give to all my friends who enjoyed it as much as I. This is a great cake and worth all the effort.

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