Make Ahead

Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

December 10, 2012
Author Notes

For years I firmly believed that I had tried every single variation of the Christmas cake possible. Light, dark, moist, dry, British, Scottish, Italian, Serbian… That was, until I met my Sri Lankan husband. I would have never thought that the richest, the most decadent, the most interesting and the most delicious Christmas cake of all would come from Sri Lanka. Being a commonwealth country, Sri Lankans inherited Christmas cake from their British rulers, but then turned it into something quite unique, by adding exotic spices and native fruits. For several years, our cake would arrive promptly before Christmas, a tiny precious piece of it, wrapped in a foil and neatly packed by my in-laws. We would strive to keep it for as longs as possible, taking a bite after dinner every night and then fighting over who gets the last piece. Once I decided to make my own cake, we underwent extensive research to locate and source all ingredients. I collected dozens of recipes, borrowed a little bit here, and a little bit there, and created the one I now use every year. I also eliminated the commonly used icing glaze, to let the taste of the cake shine through. The exotic ingredients can be now found in several of Sri Lankan online groceries (we order from and Kapruka USA. For the folks living in NYC, the ingredients can also be found in Sri Lankan stores on Staten Island). Beware, it is gigantic; putting it all together, the recipe yields three 9x13 inch cakes. At least we do not have to fight over the last piece anymore. —QueenSashy

  • Makes three 9x13 inch cake pans
  • 1 pound cashew nuts, finely chopped
  • 1 pound sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 1 pound raisins (such as jumbo flames)
  • 1 pound candied cherries
  • One 16oz jar Sri Lankan ginger preserve (or 14 oz candied ginger)
  • One 16oz jar Sri Lankan chow chow preserve (which, by the way, is not the same as Chinese, so do not substitute)
  • 8 ounces Sri Lankan pumpkin preserve
  • 1/2 pound candied orange peel
  • 1/2 pound candied lemon peel
  • 1 pound butter
  • 1 pound semolina
  • 24 egg yolks
  • 12 egg whites
  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  • Zest of one lemon, finely shredded
  • Zest of one orange, finely shredded
  • Juice of one orange
  • Juice of half lemon
  • 3 tablespoons rose water
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups brandy (plus more for drizzling)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
In This Recipe
  1. Open the preserve jars and drain the fruits from the syrup.
  2. Chop sultanas, raisins, candied fruits and fruits from the preserves into small pieces. Add the orange juice, lemon juice, brandy, half of the rose water and half of the vanilla extract. Mix well and leave in a jar for at least one day and up to three days.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks. Add the orange zest, lemon zest and remaining rose water and vanilla extract, and continue to beat until combined. Add the semolina, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and mix until well combined.
  4. Transfer the batter to a large bowl, add the brandied fruit mixture, and stir well until fruits and nuts are dispersed evenly throughout the batter.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold the whites into the cake batter.
  6. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line three 13x9 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Turn the batter into the pans and bake for about 3 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (Depending on the oven, the moisture level of your batter, etc. it might take longer, even up to 4 hours.)
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30min and then remove from the pan.
  8. Drizzle the cake with additional brandy and let it cool completely. Wrap the cake tightly in aluminum foil and store for at least a week before serving. (The cake can be kept for a year in an airtight container. And you can keep on drizzling the brandy to keep it moist!)

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Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.