Sri Lankan Christmas cake is a cake filled with dried stone fruits, cashew nuts, pumpkin preserve also known as melon candy then topped with marzipan. When you make Christmas cake at home, you know its ‘beginning to look a lot like Christmas” I am about to give you THE BEST RECIPE, when I do a claim like that, I don’t just say it for the sake of saying it!! I am saying it with a lot of authority.
Sri Lankan Christmas cake and my childhood
Many of you might not know but my mum is Burgher, for those who don’t know who burghers are they are an ethnic group that are descendants from Dutch, British and the Portuguese. Many people had mixed marriages during this time, and the burger community grew and until today it exists. Growing up with a mother who is burgher and father who was a Colombo Chetty, I got to experience the best of both worlds. I grew up being the unpaid labourer for my mum during Christmas making love cake, Christmas cake and all the other sweets for Christmas, how can I forget my mum’s home-made king coconut wine 🙂
My mum had a tradition of making all these sweets and distributing it to the neighbours and friends but especially the non-catholic households. During the Sinhalese and Tamil new year, Buddhist household gives us all the traditional Sri Lankan sweets and we give them all Christmas sweets during Christmas and this custom is carried on by generations and generation by my grandmother and my mother, now it is my time to carry on that tradition.
After a few years, we started to bring Christmas cake from Hilton. why??? first of all my dad worked there second it was the best Christmas cake in town!!! I can hand on my heart say it was. but my dad would just bring a block of Christmas cake, which we then cut into pieces and wrapped like a gift. so we can distribute it to any visitors who come during Christmas time as well.
I still remember how we used to wrap 200-300 pieces of Christmas cake each Christmas. Year on year the numbers grew!!! we would set up a production line in front of the television. My brother would wrap the cake in the tissue paper, my mum would then wrap it in the wrapping paper and I would tie the ribon. Years ago I hated the task, but it was the most fascinating task for my mother and now I understand why. Getting all your children involved to wrap these beautiful Christmas cake is a memory that I will cherish forever.
Year on year our wrapping skills improved and it’s fair to say, we kind of copied the Hilton Colombo’s way of wrapping cake hah hahaha it was so much easier and did not require tape to hold it together. Until now, 11 years have passed me leaving home, and I have not wrapped Christmas cake for 11 years, but I still remember the technique of wrapping. If you want to find out the technique, follow me on Instagram where I show you how to do it.
Is Sri Lankan Christmas cake same as normal Christmas cake?
No, it’s not. There is a lot of similarities, but it’s fair to say Sri Lankan Christmas cake has no flour just semolina to hold it together and we also add a lot of candied fruits that don’t exist internationally, but you can buy these candied fruits in any Sri Lankan grocery store. Also, it’s so rich, with brandy, rose water, cashew nuts, which are all very Sri Lankan ingredients but the concept of Christmas cake is pretty much the same in any country, a rich mix of fruit, mixed with very little cake batter.
How long in advance should I make Christmas cake?
Christmas cake gets better with time, so make it at least 5-6 weeks in advance. There is a 5 process step that needs to be followed. The fruits need to be soaked overnight, don’t skip this step. I actually soak it for about 2-3 days. you can do either, some even soak them for 2 weeks. and hotels soak them for 1 and a half months. Depending on the time you have available, just 2-3 days should be sufficient. Also once the cake is cooked, you need to brush with brandy every 2 days until the day you wrap the cakes in wrapping paper.
Can I do a non-alcoholic version of the Christmas cake?
I come from a catholic background where we enjoy alcohol very much, so for me without brandy in a cake, its not a Christmas cake. so no I wouldn’t want to even give substitutions as it wouldn’t taste the same without brandy.
But since many have now requested what can they substitute brandy with, the next best thing is apple juice. I have never ever tried it with apple juice, so I am not sure what it will taste like but it will definitely work.
What is the best alcohol to put in a Christmas cake?
Definitely brandy, it doesn’t matter which brand.
Can I do an eggless Sri Lankan Christmas cake?
This cake recipe is pretty similar to Christmas cake recipes out there, but this recipe is actually passed down from my mother adjusting and tweaking it along the way. There is egg in this cake for a reason, and remember the eggs is what binds the cake together because we are not using flour, its just semolina. I don’t want to even do an eggless cake and destroy this beautiful rich cake by altering ingredients.
How do I wrap Sri Lankan Christmas cake?
I am not sure where this tradition comes from but I believe we are the only country who wraps Christmas cake the way we do, all others make it as a cake and serve it as cake. Maybe we just like to make it extra Christmasy and wrap it like a present. But one other benefit we get by wrapping is, you can keep the marzipan and the cake moist without the marzipan drying out as the marzipan will dry out if kept for a long time outside. so once you add the marzipan you need to wrap them quickly at least in the tissue paper.
Firstly wrap it with tissue paper or oil paper
This step is important because the cake itself is sticky, so the tissue paper will keep its stickiness and that oiliness inside without leaking into the wrapping paper
I use foil wrapping paper and glass paper to wrap the cake and tie a bow on the top
This is to present the cakes well and beautifully
When can I add the marzipan layer on the top?
Don’t add the marzipan layer if you are not planning to wrap it straight away. Remember the cake needs to be brushed with brandy every 2 days, so when you are ready to wrap the cakes with wrapping paper, then brush brandy first then add the layer of marzipan and cut into pieces and wrap it.
How long can I keep Christmas cake
In-room temperature up to 3 months, due to the alcohol, it will preserve the cake. In the fridge up to 1 year.
How to cut Sri Lankan Christmas cake?
This cake is hard to cut unlike the Christmas cakes that have flour, so getting neat slices of cakes are nearly impossible. But the good thing is, the cake can be moulded, so when I wrap the cake I make sure it is a beautiful square piece that is tightly wrapped, so it retains its shape. When cutting, use a damp cloth to wipe the knife between each cut to cut neat squares. My cake slices are 45mmx45mm pieces.
Can I make my own marzipan for the Sri Lankan Christmas cake?
The best is to buy it from the store because marzipan is usually made from raw egg white. You can also make it with corn syrup but I haven’t tried that method. When you make it with raw egg whites you cannot keep it for a long time hence why it is better to buy already made marzipan as the store-bought marzipan will not include raw egg. But if you cannot find marzipan then make your own, there is a lot of recipes on the internet, they should work fine as the recipe everyone has is pretty much the same. But if you do use raw egg then make sure to serve the cake within 3 days of covering the Christmas cake or you can also just serve it plain.
Sri Lankan Christmas cake ingredients
For those who live in Australia, please refer to the pictures below on where you can find the ingredients, which brands and shops. For those living in Sri Lanka, I remember when I was small my mum used to buy all her fruits from cargills, they set up a small Christmas hut which sells all Christmas dried fruits by the kilo. For the rest living in other parts of the world, I believe the below information will be helpful when sourcing ingredients.
From a speciality Sri Lankan shop
Melon candy/ pumpkin preserve/ puhul dosi
From any retail shop in Australia ( Coles, woolworths)
Candied ginger, raisins, sultana. semolina, Jam, glace cherries and all other staple ingredients listed in the recipe. I prefer to use Jam made in Australia as it is less sweet than the Sri Lankan strawberry jam.
How to cut the fruits for the Sri Lankan Christmas cake?
The fruits will need to be chopped not minced. They need to be chunky and that’s the way it is supposed to be. Refer to the recipe carefully and see how the fruits are cut, the below pictures will help to see the size of chopping.
You can also check my other Christmas recipes
Watch how to make Sri Lankan Christmas cake recipe
Step by Step recipe how to make Sri Lankan Christmas cake recipe
Sri lankan Christmas cake
- Cake mixer
Dried fruits ( Step 1)
- 250 g Sultana
- 100 g Raisin
- 125 g Ginger preserve or candied ginger chopped
- 125 g chow chow chopped
- 250 g glace cherry or macerated cherries chopped
- 200 g Brandy
Semolina & Butter mix (Step 2)
- 250 g Butter Unsalted
- 200 g Semolina
Egg yolk mix (Step 3 )
- 500 g White Sugar (The quantity can be reduced to 400g depending on the sweetness of the candied fruits)
- 13 Egg yolks
Spices and flavouring
- 14 g Almond essence
- 14 g Vanilla essence
- 2 tsp Rose essence
- 3 tsp Mixed spices
Final ingredients (Step 4)
- 40 g Golden syrup or bees honey
- 200 g Strawberry jam
- 400 g Cashews chopped
- 400 g Pumpkin preserve also known as melon candy or puhul dosi chopped
- 7 Egg white Beaten to soft peak
- 250 g Ready to roll marzipan
- Enough brandy to brush on the cake
How to preheat and line the trays
- Preheat oven to 150C ( conventional) Line 2 baking trays (25x25cm) with 3 oil paper ( this is to prevent it from burning on the bottom)
Soaking dried fruits (Step 1 + half of the spices and flavouring)
- 2-3 days prior to making the cake, into a large bowl place raisings sultanas ( do not chop these), Chopped ginger preserve, chow chow, glace cherries. add half of the vanilla essence, half of the rose essence, half of the almond essence and half of the mixedspice and reserve the rest to add into the cake batter directly.Finally, add the brandy, mix well with a spoon. cover with cling wrap and leave aside Note: if you have 2 weeks to soak the fruits then do so, but 2-3 days is totally fine.
Semolina & Butter mix (Step 2)
- Add semolina to a pan and toast it on a low heat for about 5-6 minutes until it is toasted and has a slight brown colour like sand
- Place the toasted semolina to a bowl while it is hot and add butter and mix well with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. leave aside
Egg yolk mix + remaining flavouring ( Step 3)
- In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment add the egg yolk and sugar and mix well until fluffy and creamy, you will see the mixture is lightly pale colour and has doubled in size. leave aside.
- Add the remaining spices and flavourings ( allspice, almond esssence rose essence, vanilla essence) and strawberry jam to the soaked fruit mix ( Step 1) from this point everything needs to be folded by hand
Step 4 ( Mixing all components)
- Into a large bowl add the semolina mix (step 2), egg yolk mix (step 3), soaked fruit mix (step 1), golden syrup, cashews, pumpkin preserve and fold with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. (do not over mix)
- In a clean mixer with the whisk attachment place the egg whites and beat until soft peaks are formed, finally fold the whisked egg whites gradually to the cake mixture
- Pour the mixture into the prepared trays (please note this cake will not rise as there is no baking powder, so don't fill it 3/4, fill it to the top)
- Bake in the preheated oven for 2h – 2 hours and 30 minutes until it is cookedAll ovens are different if the top of the cake looks like it is getting brown too much after 1 hour, cover the top with foil and return to the oven.
- Once fully baked, While it is hot brush barndy on the top using a brush. Leave the cake in the pan until cooled down
- Once cooled take it off the tray, store it in a tightly wrapped container and every 2 days brush it with brandy
- When you are ready to wrap the cake, brush it with brandy and add a layer of marzipan on the top ( Roll out the marzipan to 1mm-2mm thickness) Cut the cake into square pieces (45mmx45mm) and wrap it with tissue paper and wrapping paper straight away.