What Makes a Sri Lankan Christmas Cake so Special?

Christmas Time is almost here!  | ©  Gary Spears / Pexels
Christmas Time is almost here! | © Gary Spears / Pexels
Photo of Orana Velarde
Sri Lanka Hub Writer30 October 2017

Christmas in Sri Lanka is a big celebration! Catholic families celebrate with a mixed dinner of Sri Lankan classics and some fusion dishes like the memorable Sri Lankan Christmas cake. This is no usual fruit cake. After Sri Lanka adopted the Christmas cake tradition from the British, they added their own twist. If you are a Christmas cake fan, the Sri Lankan version will blow your mind. The ingredients are really only available in Sri Lanka but can be recreated with ingredients from an Asian supermarket. Merry Christmas….cake!

Here are the amazing ingredients that go into a Sri Lankan Christmas cake. The first part is the marinade which should sit for a couple of days before it’s baked. After it’s baked, you can wrap it up tightly in wax paper and foil until Christmas time! Lots of people say that the best time to make the cake is in August so that it has time to age. Some people like to pour brandy over it every few days to keep it moist until December. When it’s time to open up and serve, the cake is cut up in small delicious pieces and wrapped in colored foil to give as presents to friends and family.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lakpura/15985525789/in/photolist-qmzZTB-pGg4Rr-qmsUWA-pG2QJS-dJLdFk-qmtvo3-qCRXLe-qmsUXh-s73wJ6-7F6F3e-4iJKWq-aSGA7a-dQWVeE-spoHQb-vXqSan-srdE4W-sPBgkT-roRnZK-dU43Zj-rsBiai-4fHJqz-9MC6Yz-ryTJGT-wbgrgk-qCRXjH-yo5YZa-GGAYdQ-bc6nfz-7whN9M-bc6nYK-Q5SfkP-xssrey-wwjU85-xssrhj-wwjU9h-wwjU8W-hB9E68-ijLsvD-GqUhvQ-szxDmy-t4KPVe-tc7nyA-uoBLP8-vp82nB-urTBKV-tdNz1f-xbD6sE-xngk9Z-QYA2aR-yqZTzL | © Amila Tennakoon / Flickr

For the Marinade

Dried fruits and nuts

Many Christmas cake recipes have plenty of dried fruits and sometimes nuts. The Sri Lankan version uses pitted dates, preserved cherries, raisins, sultanas, dried orange peel and unsalted roasted cashew nuts. All these are processed really small but not turned into a paste (although some will argue that as a paste it’s much nicer). When its almost Christmas time, all the supermarkets have a special section where all these ingredients are readily available.

Jams and preserves

For consistency and smoothness in the cake, there are three kinds of preserves used to marinade the dried fruits. Pumpkin preserve, ginger preserve and chow chow preserve (also known as chayote). All three of these need to be made Sri Lankan style. All these are added to the fruit and nuts and mixed well.


Since Sri Lankan Christmas cake is a fusion of European fruit cake and Asian influence, it wouldn’t be complete without the spices. Powdered clove, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg are added to the fruit and preserves to give the cake a distinctive Sri Lankan flavor. All Sri Lankan cooks will tell you that if must be original Ceylon cinnamon and not the European kind.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cinnamonvogue/7133360985/in/photolist-bSmkGv-gNNg2k-cNXkmG-di5SVJ-ps5vMZ-cNXkfN-dA6XDb-d5xGg5-dXSosJ-cNL7NA-paS1So-dAMCti-oKcgUV-Dcqzv-osGw6j-63k5b6-Nb9ZVD-hReRiN-EtmquX-kRf8wo-x55jz5-kRezDV-kRfLCs-kReB24-kRfKJJ-kRfKxS-kReACD-kRhJrD-kRhHTK-kRgWF2-kRgWwp-kRgWWT-kRfvBL-kRenf6-kRfwyA-kRdz38-kRdzpk-kRfvNC-kRfwY3-kRemdg-kRdxeP-kRfvsh-Rw2sWb-KyABsV-KrFgC2-JCbzAZ-JCbzPp-KyACic-QnnhBD-KyAB24 Ceylon Cinnamon is unique and special. Do not replace with any other! | © Cinnamon Vogue / Flickr


To properly marinade the ingredients for the cake, you need some liquids and syrups. Golden syrup, arrack, rose water, brandy and honey are the usual liquids added to the Christmas cake marinade. Golden syrup is a type of caramel with lemon essence and arrack is a coconut liquor from Sri Lanka. These ingredients will moisten up the fruits and jams for a few days before it’s all ready to bake.

For the Bake

Dry ingredients

Not all Christmas cakes use semolina in their recipe, but Sri Lankan Christmas cake sure does! When it’s time to bake, the cake needs semolina, flour and white sugar mixed in to bind the fruits and turn it in to a cake batter.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/146050965@N05/30931383252/in/photolist-P8iqBf-kYo1q2-izkGWG-izks5t-izkFym-izm6xx-izkPJS-izm5fc-izkNdL-izkCaC-izm39D-izkALW-izkkyc-izkjLR-izkjcz-izkZ6e-izkYDc-izkGrA-izkwRS-izkwgo-izkvzy-izkv2u-izkeUX-izkUUP-izkUhr-izksRs-izkTdc-izkB65-izkpwb-izkodj-izk7iK-izkuRm-izkjEs-cJfm9s-b9Dzyi-b8XEtp-aLSvNi-ajHXsr-aeoWQL-9i1r3t-7yEZCY-7sczXE-7raVRJ-7qYRTE-7qgwnY-7qgweC-7pPBJs-7gNPbX-7gyCDX-5MFqxG Baked cake ready to pack and let sit for a few months. | © haikugurrl / Flickr

Moist ingredients

Last but not least, the cake will need butter and lots of eggs. The eggs are separated and the egg whites are beaten to peaks and the yolks are beaten to a smooth paste. It’s important that the eggs are beaten separately and to the proper consistency for the Christmas cake to have the right texture. Once everything is mixed, put into a suitable cake tin and pop straight to the oven!

If you would like to make your own Sri Lankan Christmas cake, here is a great recipe from a home cook that has tried all Christmas cakes and loves Sri Lankan cake best!

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