Yep – it’s that time of the month again. Another Sweet Adventures Blog Hop has rolled around and this time the theme is ‘Nut’s about Sweets’ hosted by Nic from the fabulously named ‘Dining with a Stud’.
I love, love, love nuts. I eat a handful of raw nuts every afternoon as a tasty, low GI snack. My all time favourite is the Pecan (though I’m no big fan of Pecan Pie) closely followed by Hazelnuts and Cashews. I enjoy nuts in their raw, cooked, savoury and sweet states. Last month I was struggling to create something within my limited pastry making abilities. This month it was a struggle because there are just so many choices on offer. Classic cake? Nutty toffee dessert? Petit Four? In the end, I chose a recipe that I am always drawn too but have never made. Charmaine Solomon’s version of Sri Lankan Love Cake from the cookbook ‘Hot & Spicy’ (ISBN: 0864111673 – out of print). Truth be told, it’s the picture of the chewy, nutty, nicely browned cake that draws me in.
At first glance, the delightfully named Love Cake doesn’t seem intrinsically Ceylonese. Once you start considering Sri Lanka’s colonial history, it becomes clearer how this constant at celebrations such as birthdays and weddings, came to be. Both the Portuguese & the Dutch annexed Sri Lanka as part of their spice trading empire, bringing exotics such as nutmeg to the island from both Indonesia and Zanzibar. When it comes to spices, there is ‘fresh as you can get’ and then there’s ‘fresh from the farm’. When I visited Zanzibar, we went on a Spice Tour. Along the way we saw how various spices including cardamom were cultivated and had the opportunity to try fresh (green) nutmeg and wonder at the fabulous waxy mace covering. In Australia, there isn’t an opportunity to access these type of fresh spices but do try to make sure that your spices haven’t been sitting the cupboard for months (or years).
Other flavours such as the rosewater can traced as far back as 700 AD when the Moors invaded Portugal and Spain, bringing their taste for floral flavourings. It is suggested that Love Cake may have been baked for Portuguese sailors who were setting out on long sea voyages as a reminder of family back home. Certainly the spices in the cake would improve the keeping quality. The use of ground cashews is likely to have arisen from the Dutch love of almond meal in their sweets. When no almonds were available, they simply substituted another nut, the cashew.
This cake is very sweet, sticky, chewy and oh so delicious. A small piece of this cake goes a long way. At Sri Lankan festivities, it is cut into small squares and wrapped to take home in a similar fashion to wedding cake. It goes perfectly with a cup of good quality Sri Lankan tea and freezes well if you want to store half for another time.
- 6 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- 250g raw cashews
- 250g fine semolina
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp rosewater or 1/2 tspn rose essence
- zest of 1 lime or lemon, finely grated
- 1 tspn nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1 tspn cardamon, freshly ground
- Line a shallow 25 x 30cm shallow cake tin/tray with foil and then a layer of baking paper. Preheat oven to 150c.
- Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high for 10 minutes or until mixture is thick, creamy and light
- Add butter and mix until combined and creamy
- Chop cashews in a food processor until coarsely chopped. You are looking for cashew rubble rather than cashew meal consistency.
- Stir into eggs mix along with semolina, honey, rose flavouring, zest, nutmeg and cardamon. Combine.
- Turn mixture into cake tin and place in oven for 1 hour or until golden brown on top.
- If cake starts to brown too quickly (and it probably will because of the high sugar content), cover lightly with a piece of foil with cooking spray on it.
- Do not be tempted to over cook this cake. It’s a chewy style cake so a cake tester will not come out clean from it. It may need another few minutes if your oven is slow but it will continue to firm up as it cools.
- Allow to cool in tin. Slice in tin also.
Mkes 1 cake
- Charmaine’s original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar but I could tell that would be far too sweet as soon as I measured it out so I only added 1 1/2 cups.
- Ditto the honey which was originally 1/4 cup but that also seemed too much.
- Though not necessarily traditional, ground or crystallised ginger would be a good addition