Tag: Asian baking

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.39: Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.39: Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

It being that time of year, I was casting around for a Christmas cake that was suitably exotic for this blog, but still had that fruit-laden richness for cold winter evenings. To my surprise, the one that leapt out at me was a recipe from Sri Lanka, which makes something that’s recognisably in the English Christmas Cake tradition, but softer and moister. The ever-reliable sbs.com.au provided the recipe.

What distinguishes the Sri Lankan version is a hefty dose of chow-chow preserve (other Sri Lankan touches are the addition of rosewater and cardamom). Chow-chow is a fruit with many names: choko, chouchou, mirliton, chayote; it’s roughly the shape and consistency of a quince, with a bright green skin reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple. I couldn’t find the preserve locally, but the fruit was readily available in Indian or Caribbean stores, of which we have plenty in London, so I made my own preserve, which wasn’t difficult. (Admission: I did leave mine on the stove for way too long, so it crystallised on setting: this didn’t seem to damage the cake overly.)

Traditionally, you would cover the cake with marzipan and hard icing. That’s too much sweetness for me, so I just made the fruit cake. I also left mine relatively soft and gooey, which is really delicious, at the expense of being tricky to cut. You may want to leave yours in a bit longer than I did.

The chow-chow preserve

Starting with this recipe, this made enough for two cakes. You may want to halve the amounts.

  • 1.1 kg chayote (3 fruits)
  • 1.5 kg sugar
  • 380 ml water
  • ¾ tsp salt
  1. Peel and chop the chayote. 
  2. Put everything into a preserving pan and cook until the fruit is soft and the syrup is thick. You probably want a sugar temperature of around 105℃ – I went well over that.
  3. Cool, and put into sterilised jars until needed.

The cake

  • 150g unsalted cashews
  • 150g unsalted almonds
  • 200g glacé cherries
  • 500g chow-chow preserve
  • 150g glacé pineapple
  • 240g raisins 
  • 240g sultanas 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom 
  • ½ tsp ground cloves 
  • 1 tsp rosewater (see Note) 
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 60 ml brandy 
  • 250g unsalted butter 
  • 385g caster sugar 
  • 6 eggs
  • 180 g semolina flour
  1. Preheat oven to 140℃ fan
  2. Line a cake tin with baking paper (these quantities work perfectly for a fairly tall 20cm x 20cm tin)
  3. Chop the almonds, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
  4. Chop the cashews, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
  5. Halve the cherries (if they weren’t already bought that way
  6. Chop the pineapple and chow-chow preserve so that the pieces are smaller than half a glacé cherry. How small you want to go is up to you.
  7. Put all fruits, zest, spices, rosewater and brandy into a large bowl and mix them up.
  8. When the nuts are cool, add them also and mix
  9. Chop the butter into small pieces and cream it with the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer
  10. One a time, separate the eggs, adding the yolk to the butter-sugar mix and incorporating it, and reserving the white in another bowl.
  11. Combine the egg yolk/sugar/butter mix with the fruit-nut mix, add the semolina flour and stir until evenly spread.
  12. Beat the egg whites until soft but not hard, fold into the mix.
  13. Spoon the mixture into your lined tin, pressing it to the edges to smooth out any ruffles in the baking paper.
  14. Cut another square of paper and place it on the top: this will stop the cake drying out
  15. Bake for around 3 hours, or more if you prefer a less gooey cake
  16. Cut into three or four rectangles
  17. If you want, ice with marzipan and hard icing.