Try something different this Christmas with a Sri Lankan-style dessert. The addition of chow chow (choko) preserve is what makes this cake so moist. For best results, after cooling the cake in the pan, wrap it, still in the pan, in plastic wrap, and store in a cool, dry place for 6 weeks to allow the flavours to develop and increase the cake’s moisture.
225 g (1½ cups) raisins
240 g (1½ cups) sultanas
150 g glacé pineapple, chopped
200 g (1 cup) glacé cherries, chopped
495 g jar chow chow preserve (see Note), chopped
2 tsp each orange and lemon zest
150 g (1 cup) unsalted cashews, toasted, finely chopped
160 g (1 cup) unsalted almonds, toasted, finely chopped
60 ml (¼ cup) brandy
250 g unsalted butter, chopped
385 g (1¾ cups) caster sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp rosewater (see Note)
180 g (1 cup) fine semolina
1.5 kg store-bought marzipan (almond icing)
icing sugar, to dust
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
You will need a 20 cm square cake pan and brown paper for this recipe.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Place all the fruits, chow chow preserve, zest, nuts and brandy in a large bowl. Stir to combine, then set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition, until just combined. Add fruit mixture, spices, rosewater and semolina, and stir to combine. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks, then fold into cake mixture in 2 batches.
Grease and line a 20 cm square cake pan with a double layer of brown paper, then a double layer of baking paper. Spoon mixture into pan and bake for 3 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover with a damp clean tea towel and cool in pan. Trim edges and cut into 4 x 5 cm-wide logs.
Knead almond icing by hitting it with a rolling pin until softened. Pinch off small amounts of icing and use to fill any holes in cakes on all sides.
Divide remaining icing into 4 even pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll out on a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar to 3mm thick. Cut into a 19 cm x 21 cm rectangle and brush with egg white.
Place a cake log lengthwise along the long edge of the icing closest to you, then roll away from you to cover in icing. With hands dusted in icing sugar, run your palms along sides to remove lumps or creases. Repeat with remaining logs and icing. Cut into slices.
Makes 4 x 5 cm x 20 cm logs
• Chow chow preserve, from Sri Lankan food shops and selected Asian food shops, is a fruit preserve of chokos in a sugar syrup.
• Rosewater is available from Middle Eastern food shops and selected supermarkets.
As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 17, pg66.
Photography by Alan Benson