Love Cake is a favorite at my house especially during the cold winter months. It is moist, nubbly from cashews and semolina, and has a complex harmony of spices, Sri Lanka being a famous spice island. I’ve heard that in Sri Lanka, probably in olden days, the ladies of the house would make this cake and serve it to visiting bachelors to persuade them to marry their daughters. There are as many recipes for Love Cake as there are families, the one below is my favorite as it only uses 3 eggs (not 14 eggs like some recipes). Today Love Cake is served at celebrations like birthdays, it is certainly a favorite birthday cake in my house and is great for sharing with friends and love interests. Sri Lanka has had many outside cultural influences, Portuguese being one of them, this cake is an example of that influence; it looks very similar to other Portuguese cakes and is nubbly from the coarse semolina. I suspect the rose water is evidence of an Arab influence.
Be sure to serve this cake with a good strong Ceylon tea or a small glass of Port.
This is a very easy cake to knock up and is a good cake for beginners. Lining the tin with buttered parchment paper will ensure that this cake comes out in one piece. I find it easiest to line the tin in this manner: butter the cake tin with your fingers, then press on the parchment paper so that it gets a coat of butter, then remove the paper and reverse it, then press it neatly in the tin and trim the extra paper. This way both sides are buttered and it is easier to get the paper to go in neatly and quickly.
Sri Lankan Love Cake*
3 large eggs
1 1⁄4 cup sugar
5 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 1⁄2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp rose water
finely grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
1⁄2 tsp grated nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup raw cashews (not roasted), coarsely chopped
1 cup coarse semolina
60 g candied squash, or pineapple, coarsely chopped (optional)
icing sugar (optional, for dusting on top)
Preheat oven to 300° F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
Beat the eggs and sugar with a hand mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment until thick and voluminous. Add the melted butter, honey, rose water, lemon zest, nutmeg and cardamom. Stir to combine.
Stir in the cashews, semolina and candied fruit, if using. Turn into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hr 15min until the top is golden and puffed. When done, a skewer inserted two inches (5cm) from the edge of the pan should come out clean, but the middle should still be moist. If the cake starts to brown too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.
Let cool completely in the pan before removing. Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar if you like, and cut into small squares or diamonds to serve.