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Sri Lankan Christmas Cake - Spice Voyager Recipe #2

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

This richly flavoured fruit cake is flourless and made in two easy parts

On Day One you steep the fruit in spices and brandy and five days later you mix in the other ingredients and bake it for an hour and half.

Here's what you need to start:

100 grams each of:

  • whole currants

  • whole sultanas

100 grams each of roughly chopped:

  • red glace cherries - try to use real cherries

  • glace ginger - the more syrupy the better

  • raisins

  • cashew nuts, unsalted and unroasted

  • mixed peel - the Sri Lankan version is thickly syrupy

  • candied pumpkin - again a local ingredient, substitute with candied pineapple

The fruit will expand by almost 50% during steeping, so choose a large bowl to add all the ingredients together with:

  • 6 tablespoons of brandy

  • the juice of an orange

  • 1 generous tablespoon of mixed spice

The Spice Mix

  • 1 large nutmeg without the covering (which can be ground separately for 'mace' but not used in this recipe)

  • 1 8cm length of (Sri Lankan) cinnamon. Where to get true Ceylon Cinnamon?

  • 17 cloves

Grind to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (There should be a little more than required for the recipe, keep this allspice mix airtight for another recipe. By the way, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon weighs 2.6 g).

TIP I made this cake again using Cinnamon Alba, the highest grade of cinnamon available anywhere in the cinnamon market, and the difference in aroma was dramatic. The flavour was richer - more 'cinnamony' - without actually being stronger. I'd recommend using this if possible, but don't put off trying this cake whilst you look for cinnamon alba - it's so delicious it will be gone in no time!

Mix all ingredients well, seal tightly with plastic wrap, wrap in a tea towel and leave to steep at room temperature for 5 days.


Here's what you'll need

Before you start:

  • pre-heat oven to 150 C

  • butter a 20 cm square cake tin, followed by 5 layers of butcher's paper and finally a layer of buttered greaseproof paper


  • 100 gms of softened butter

  • 50 gms of castor sugar (the Sri Lankan version calls for 100 gms, but I found this teeth numbingly sweet. Next time I'd even reduce the 50gm to 40 gm)

  • 100 gms of semolina

  • 6 eggs separated

  • 1 teaspoon of bee honey

  • 1 teaspoon of almond essence

  • 1 teaspoon of rose essence

  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence

  • grated rind of 3 limes

Beat the sugar and butter to a creamy consistency and add egg yolks one by one, then add the lime and essences.

Beat the egg whites to soft peaks

Mix the semolina into the steeped fruit

Pour the butter/egg/sugar mix into the fruit and fold through well.

Fold in the egg whites at the last moment, being careful not to mix more than necessary

Pour into the cake tin, bake in the middle of the oven for 1hr 30 minutes and test with a skewer.

Note: I added in a good extra slurp of brandy at this stage, and found that the extra moisture required another 20 minutes in the oven ... the butcher's paper lining ensured that the cake wasn't a bit overcooked.

Cool completely before turning onto a rack.

I've decorated mine with mangrove flower sepals from the lagoon here, studded with Sri Lankan cloves, and I store in the refrigerator for easier slicing.

Well, finally feeling festive, and celebrating with a nip of 'Rosetto', a spiced wine also full of cloves and cinnamon, made by the Rosarian Sisters from the little convent I visited a few weeks ago in Jaffna, at the northern most tip of the island ... but that's another story.

Happy baking,



I've discovered a company here in Sri Lanka who grows their own spices and exports vacuum-packed products around the world to individuals - lovely people to talk to, easy to communicate with and very responsive - ask for Mr Chandana who started the company and is passionate about spices.

There are 4 grades of Sri Lankan Cinnamon - Cinnamon Alba is the costliest and most refined of all, and I've used it in this crab curry.

Learn more about the fascinating history of Cinnamon

And if you love a good Biryani try out this recipe from Jaipur

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