Traditional Sri Lankan Love cake recipe, made with love and made for loved ones. This is one cake that we can truly call Sri Lankan. This cake is specially made during Christmas time, rich in cashew nuts and puhul dosi also known as pumpkin preserve, Sri Lankan spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, rose water. It’s just so rich & flavourful that it gets quite addictive once you eat it.
My Mum’s Secret Sri Lankan Love cake recipe
As a child growing up, this is one cake my mum made every Christmas and no one, in my opinion, no hotel, no relative, no catering business could beat her love cake. Am I bias because she is my mother? hmmm, maybe but I also truly understand flavours and can tell you when a love cake is good. Its made with so much love, that even when I make it, I still feel something is missing, and that’s my mothers love that goes into this cake.
Until today when we go home for Christmas, I would ask my mum to make me a huge batch of love cake to take back overseas so I can eat:) although I tell her I am going to distribute it with my friends, I end up eating it all hah hahaha she still thinks I give her love cake to people but how can I when it is soooo good.
I still have memories of my mother making this cake, I wait eagerly till the end to lick the bowl and the batter, mind you my mum’s love cake was loaded with brandy, no wonder I was happy as a kid always hahahhaha. She would start the process about 1 week in advance by hand cutting, not chop!!! but hand cutting the cashew nuts to tiny pieces, then she would hand-cut!!! not grate the lime rind, but hand-cut into tiny pieces.
Then the puhul dosi is also hand cut and she makes a huge batch so you can imagine how many kilos and kilos of cashews, puhul dosi and lime rind gets hand cut. To be honest, I don’t have time to be hand cutting, I simply chop them roughly and grate the lime, probably that’s what’s missing in my cake, that love and passion she puts into her love cake.
When I asked my mum to give me her recipe, she decided to give me new information every time I baked the cake and when I complained that it was not like hers, she would tell me bits and pieces that she would do to get a perfect love cake. So I ended up making 5 cakes to get the perfect texture. Well she is very protective of her recipe and I am about to give you that secret recipe.
Sri Lankan Love cake history
We all eat love cake but do we know where it really comes from? it is said that this cake was an invention when the Portuguese colonised Sri Lanka. The Portuguese men at that time did not have Portuguese women to marry, so they married the Sinhalese and Tamil women which was the two largest ethnic groups at that time, which was also encouraged by the government in that era.
It is said that this love cake was born as a result of the Sri Lankan women trying to win the hearts of the Portuguese contenders.
We know this cake is an influence by the Portuguese because of the puhul dosi used, which is actually a fruit originated from Portugal. But Sri Lankan women in that era made this cake using of all the spices and nuts that were popular in Sri Lanka and loaded the cake with rose essence, almond essence, cashews and all the spices like cinnamon, nutmeg which was very popular in Sri Lanka making it a bold and truly Sri Lankan cake.
Because this cake was an invention of the Sri Lankan women trying to win the hearts of its contenders, the name ‘love cake’ was born. Just like love, its sweet, its delicious, its rich, its highly addictive, it is fragrant and intoxicating therefore the cake definitely lives up to its name.
Traditional Sri- Lankan Love cake recipe ingredients
There are a million recipes on the internet and millions of ways to do this cake. While respecting everyone’s recipes passed down through generations. There are few ingredients that are compulsory in a Sri Lankan love cake. They are:
Puhul dosi ( pumpkin preserve) this is non-negotiable
Cashew nuts – Very important
Flavour essences like vanilla, almond and rose water
Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg which now comes in a packet called allspice or mixed spice
Different ways to do traditional Sri- Lankan Love cake recipe
Now I have seen, tasted many recipes and some may not use puhul dosi, for me this definitely needs to be there, the taste is not the same without it.
Some recipes are dry and have a butter cake-like texture; that’s definitely not what you want. it needs to be rich, heavy, gooey in the middle and chunky. A little bit of a crusty and burnt top is exactly what you need to expect.
Follow my recipe to the T and I can guaratee, you will end up with a super delicious intoxicating and highly addictive love cake.
How long in advance to make traditional Sri Lankan love cake?
Now the love cake definitely gets better with time, but unlike the Christmas cake, it cannot be kept for a long time. I make my love cake around the 15th of December, and keep it until the middle of January. But I also use brandy in my love cake, which helps with the shelf life.
How to store traditional Sri Lankan love cake
Store in a cool dry place away from sunlight for up to 4 weeks in room temperature covered in an airtight container. Add oil paper on the top and bottom, so it stays moist and doesn’t dry out. I have actually stored mine for even 2 months, but all climates are different so 4 weeks will be ideal. Don’t refrigerate as it will not be the same.
Sri Lankan Love cake with pumpkin preserve
There are different names for pumpkin preserve, melon candy, puhul dosi. Make sure to buy the one that is dry, not the one that is soaked in syrup. Many countries have this available in speciality Sri Lankan shops. I have heard that in some countries it is hard to find it, I have also seen amazon or eBay sell them as well, just do a quick google search and I am sure you will find it.
Can I make a eggless traditional Sri Lankan Love cake
No, you cannot, I am sorry to disappoint any of my readers, substituting ingredients from an authentic love cake recipe will not be the same, and I don’t want to destroy this beautiful cake by giving alterations
Can I make the Sri Lankan Love cake without alcohol?
I get this question quite often, although, for the Christmas cake, I have given a substitution, for this love cake I don’t want to give a substitution. it’s just not the same without the brandy. Also, alcohol is what is going to preserve the cake for a long time and that gooey moist centre. I will at some point trial this version of the love cake without brandy, but not this Christmas.
Check out my other Christmas food recipes here
Watch how to make traditional Sri Lankan love cake recipe
Step by Step recipe how to make traditional Sri Lankan love cake recipe
Traditional Sri Lankan Love Cake Recipe
- Cake mixer
- 225 g Semolina
- 225 g Butter Unsalted
- 28 g Rose essence/ Rosewater
- 400 g White sugar
- 12 Egg yolks
- 1 Lime rind grated
Flavouring and Spices
- 2 tsp Allspice/Mixed spice
- 28 g vanilla essence
- 28 g Almond essence
- 3 tbsp Beeshoney or golden syrup
- 360 g Puhul dosi/ Pumpkin preserve/melon candy Chopped
- 300 g Cashew nuts Chopped
- 70 ml Brandy
- 120 ml Milk Fresh
- Line one 25x25cm square baking tray with 3 baking sheets. Preheat oven to 150C (Conventional Oven)Make sure to use a tray size similar to the above dimensions, because the height of the cake is very important to get the correct texture.( This recipe will fit in one square tray size of 25cmx25cm)
Step 1 (Semolina & butter mixture)
- Add semolina to a pan and roast it on a low heat for about 5-6 minutes until it is lightly roasted and has a slight brown colour like sand, take it off the heat and let it cool down
- Place the roasted semolina in a bowl add butter & rose essence and mix well with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. leave aside
Step 2 (Egg yolk and sugar mix)
- In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment add the egg yolks, sugar and mix well until fluffy and creamy, you will see the mixture is lightly pale colour and has doubled in size. finally, add the lime rind, mix well in a low speed and leave aside.
- From this point, everything needs to be folded by hand, Add in the semolina and butter mixture into the egg mixture ( Step 1 +Step 2) and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Add mixed spice (Allspice), bees honey, brandy, pumpkin preserve, cashew nuts, vanilla essence and almond essence, milk and mix well, until well mixed
- Beaten egg white is optional (6 egg whites) some people may be used to the cakey texture of the love cake, if you prefer to do it that way, you can add the egg whites at last but I actually like the chunky and gooey texture, but it is chunky and is not compact therefore a little difficult to cut. depending on your preference, you can add egg white or omit it.
Baking the cake ( A crucial part of the recipe)
- Pour the mixture into the prepared lined baking trays and bake for 1- 1 and a half hours until the cake is cooked. If the cake becomes brown halfway through place a foil paper on the top to stop it from browning and bake the required amount of time. * Do not over bake the cake, then it becomes dry, check the cake every 10 minutes when 1 hour is passed. It is ok to slightly under bake the cake and off the oven and leave it inside the oven, it will bake a little bit more for the heat in the oven and cool down over night. My cake, I covered it after 1 hour with a foil, then I bake for another 20 mins ( 1 hour 20 mins in total) leave it overnight to cool down inside the oven. Every oven is different, so make sure to check the cake often.Slightly under baking will ensure the gooey and moist centre.
- Once cooked, take it out of the oven let it cool inside the tray before cutting into desired pieces. The cake tastes better after 2 days of baking.