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.






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (756 votes)

It's important to follow the instructions for lining the tin to prevent the cake burning during the long cooking time, which ensures the cake is cooked through. 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

Cook's notes

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 160°C (140° fan-forced). 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 (it's important not to overbeat), 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 (see Note about suggested baking paper addition) and bake for 3 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake is firm to touch. 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. Although the Chow Chow preserve is traditional for a Sri Lankan Christmas cake, pumpkin preserve available from Sri Lankan food shops and selected Asian food shops may be substituted. 

• Rosewater is available from Middle Eastern food shops and selected supermarkets.

• To prevent the top of the fruit cake from browning too much during the long cooking time, place a square of baking paper over the top of the raw cake batter before placing in the oven. This also helps to keep an even surface on top of the cake to make icing easier.

As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 17, pg 66. This recipe has been edited slightly since publication. 

Photography by Alan Benson.