Sri Lankan Love Cake
(two hours, including baking time; serves dozens)
Some say this Portuguese-derived cake was baked to win the hearts of suitors, while others say it’s because of the labor of love involved in all the cutting, chopping and grinding of the fruits, nuts, and spices (much easier these days with access to a food processor). But regardless, it tastes like love: sweet, tangy, and fragrant.
8 ounces butter, softened, plus more for greasing
16 ounces raw unsalted cashews
10 ounces fine granulated sugar
10 egg yolks
Zest of two limes
Zest of one orange
Juice of two limes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
3 drops rosewater extract (or two teaspoons rosewater)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces semolina, toasted
3 ounces candied ginger and/or crystallized pumpkin, minced as finely as possible
5 egg whites
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 250. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter and line it with two layers of parchment paper. Grease the paper with butter.
2. In food processor, grind cashews to coarse meal.
3. In a standing mixer (paddle attachment), beat 8 oz. butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add zest, juice, spices, honey, rosewater and vanilla; mix well.
4. Add semolina and mix well; add cashews and candied ginger / pumpkin and mix well.
5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff; fold gently into cake mixture.
6. Spoon batter into prepared pan; bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until firm to the touch.
7. Let cool completely in the pan, dust with confectioner’s sugar (optional), cut into squares and serve.