Make Ahead

Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

December 10, 2012
5 Ratings
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • Makes Three 9x13 inch cake pans
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

What You'll Need
  • 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 one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups brandy (plus more for drizzling)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  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 cashews. 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 two days and up to a week.
  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. Taste the batter and see if the flavors are to your liking, now is the time to add more spice if needed.
  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 and edges of the cake begin to separate from the pan.
  7. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 30min and then remove from the pan.
  8. Drizzle the cakes with additional brandy (it will take about a cup each, they need to be very moist) and let cool completely. Wrap the cakes tightly with wax paper and plastic wrap and store for at least a three weeks before serving. (The cakes can be kept for a year in an airtight container. And you can keep on drizzling the brandy to keep them moist!)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • luvcookbooks
  • QueenSashy
  • hgreen37
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.

5 Reviews

hgreen37 December 25, 2020
Making this recipe for my Sri Lankan fiance :) I'm on step 2 and just realized that your ingredient list calls for a pound of cashews, but then there is no recipe step where the cashews come into play. What do you do with the cashews?
QueenSashy December 25, 2020
It should read "Chop sultanas, raisins, candied fruits and fruits from the preserves into small pieces. Add the cashews." I have just updated the recipe. I hope that he will like it.
hgreen37 December 26, 2020
Got it. Thanks so much for the quick response, I got it just in time!
luvcookbooks December 13, 2014
Oh my! I have candied fruit soaking in rum and port to make Carribean black fruit cake. Yours next!
QueenSashy December 13, 2014
Oh my! I would love to try yours!