Step one in this Sri Lankan Christmas cake involves gathering the ingredients – with the preserved chow chow (choko) being the toughest. It’s a fairly unique product and is stocked at Sri Lankan stores for about $5 a jar. I also found it at an Indian shop. If all else fails, I reckon you could substitute the same weight of preserved quince in syrup, or another firm fruit. Glacé pineapple was next on the list. I’d happily eat glacé fruit all year round, but custom seems to decree that it only be available (apart from cherries and ginger) at Christmas time. A number of store owners told me they’d 'be getting it in for Christmas". Seeing as it was the second half of November, I did wonder what they were waiting for and finally tracked some down by mail order.
Put all your fruit and nuts into a big bowl – a really big bowl, like the stainless steel ones I was talking about a couple of posts ago. Having creamed the butter and sugar, I then added it to the fruit mixture, along with the spices and semolina, rather than the other way around, as there’s no way it would fit into the bowl of my stand mixer. Stir well to combine and start dreaming about how good this fruit-packed cake is going to taste. Same deal with the egg whites – you’ll need to stir them into the mixture in a couple of batches. Remember to use a metal spoon when folding in egg whites, so that you’re 'cutting" through it rather than bashing it into submission.
Line your cake tin carefully. Since the cake will be in the oven for three hours, the baking and brown paper prevent it from burning. Usually, a lazy cook like me would skip this step, but I decided to play by the rules for once. To pour the batter into the tin, I needed to enlist Mr Ed’s help, as it was extremely heavy and I didn’t want to drop the lot by trying to keep the paper out of the way, while holding the bowl, whilst also scraping out the mixture with. Doing so would mean I'd need three hands. Thankfully, Mr Ed was highly motivated by the promise of fruitcake to come.
Although the cook time is 3 hours, my cake was ready at about 2 hours and 10 minutes, which made me a little nervous, but it was certainly firm and the skewer came out clean. I left it to cool completely and then wrapped it in marzipan – using warmed jam instead of egg white. The result? Seriously, the best fruit cake I have ever eaten. Wonderfully moist and with a really great fruit-to-cake ratio. The nuts are finely chopped so you don’t get big pieces of almond (or, ugh, Brazil nuts) interrupting the fruity pleasure, and I didn’t stop at one piece. I wrapped the remaining three-quarters of the cake tightly so that the flavours could develop further before Christmas. Well, best laid plans"¦ the cake has been devoured already. Good thing I’ve got a panforte in the pantry.
Are you a fruitcake fan? What’s your favourite – light, boiled, dark?
Editor, SBS Feast