Customs and traditions allow us to preserve important ancestral history. Unique, individual stories, wisdom and in this case recipes, passed from generation to generation. As Sri Lankan migrants, my parents continue to pass on their significant heritage to their children, and at important celebrations of the year where family gather, recipes like Sri Lankan Love Cake remind us of where it all began.
This traditional Sri Lankan cake was inspired by the Portuguese from the 1500’s. As the name suggests, Love Cake was originally made to win the heart of an admirer. It is made from cashew nuts, semolina and candied winter melon/squash called puhul dosi (pumpkin preserve). Exotic spices and floral essences create a fragrant, sweet, spiced cake with a soft chewy inside and a crunchy crust.
There are many different variations to Love Cake, with each Aunty insisting her recipe is better than the other! Practice is also another requirement. Don’t be alarmed if you do not succeed the first time. Adjusting ingredients or oven temperatures may be necessary.
In the recipe below, I have used a bain-marie of water to create that soft chewy centre. By placing a tray of water at the bottom of the oven, the moisture stays within the cake and doesn’t dry it out.
Happy Christmas Baking…
Sri Lankan Love Cake
Makes: 2 rectangular baking trays
Prep Time: 30 mins (Eggs need to be at room temperature)
Cooking Time: 2 hours 15 mins
450g butter, softened
650g cashew nuts (pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped, keeping some larger pieces. Do not blend to a powder consistency)
12 egg yolks (at room temperature)
7 egg whites (at room temperature)
700g caster sugar
500 g preserved pumpkin (puhul dosi), finely chopped or pulsed in a food processor
2 tbsp almond essence
juice of 1 orange
rind of 1 lemon
2 tsp nutmeg, ground
2 tsp cardamon, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp clove, ground
Preheat oven to 160°C fan forced.
Grease two rectangular cake tins and line with foil and then baking paper.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.
Combine the softened butter and semolina together in a separate bowl using your fingers. Add this to the egg and sugar mixture in thirds, beating to combine.
Transfer mixture into a very large mixing bowl and using a wooden spoon incorporate the nuts, pumpkin preserve. Then add rosewater, almond essence, honey, juice and rind, stirring well. Add remaining dry spices and mix.
Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and gently fold through the egg whites into the cake batter in two batches, do not over beat mixture. The egg whites will loosen up the mixture.
Pour batter into prepared cake tins.
Place a large tray of water on bottom oven shelf.
Bake the cakes at 160°C for 20 mins on middle oven shelf.
Reduce heat to 150°C and bake for a further 2 hours and 15 minutes.
If the cake is browning too quickly, cover with foil.
Once cooked and brown on top, remove cakes and allow to cool in trays before transferring. Cut into rectangles or squares when cool.
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