Tough economic times can cause companies to tighten their purse strings by getting rid of stuff they don’t deem as important. My workplace, for example, decided to scrap buying birthday cakes whenever someone had a birthday in order to save a couple of grand a year. Being a savoury>sweets person, it didn’t bother me so much, however I will admit that I do miss all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the cake-cutting and embarrassing the poor birthday person by loudly singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on their special day. Plus, it’s nice to have a slice of cake for morning tea every now and then.
I managed to enjoy one of the last company-funded birthday cakes earlier this year, before they stopped it in July. Even though I don’t love cakes myself, I know most of my colleagues do. I didn’t want those with birthdays in the latter months of the year to go through a morning tea on their birthday without a cake – especially my friend Peter who is one of the nicest and most interesting people I’ve ever met, despite the questionable company he keeps and the strange-coloured pants he wears sometimes.
Yesterday was Peter’s birthday. He is part Dutch-Sri Lankan, hence why I thought it’d be a good idea to make something from Sri Lanka. I happened to come across a Sri Lankan love cake recipe from Peter Kuruvita, so I thought I’d give it a go. Peter (Kuruvita, not Mr-Fancy-Pants) is one of my favourite Aussie chefs and he also happens to be half-Sri Lankan.
I’m not sure why this cake is called a ‘love cake’ (ask either Peter, I guess). And which Peter does this title refer to? I’ll leave it up to you to decide: Kuruvita, because I used his recipe; or Mr-Fancy-Pants because this cake’s for him.
Peter’s Sri Lankan love cakes
Adapted from this recipe by Peter Kuruvita
Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
300 g semolina
125 g butter, chopped
10 eggs, separated
250 g caster sugar
60 g honey
185 unsalted cashews, crushed
2 tbsp rosewater
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger*
Zest of 1 lemon
Icing sugar, to serve (optional)
*The original recipe asks for ¼ cup grated crystallised pumpkin (available at Sri Lankan grocery stores). I don’t live close to a Sri Lankan grocery store so I had to use ground ginger instead.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Place the semolina and butter in a tray, then place the tray in the oven until the butter has melted.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. Add the sugar and mix until combined. Stir in the honey and cashews.
4. Add the rosewater and stir to combine. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and ground ginger and stir until the mixture is pale.
5. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture. Stir in the lemon zest.
6. Add the semolina-butter mixture to the cake mixture. Pour into a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until you see the crust turn golden brown.
7. Cover the tray with aluminium foil (this is to stop the crust from burning due to the cake’s high sugar content), then continue to bake for another 45 minutes or until firm to touch.
8. When cooked, the cake should still be moist so the skewer test is not recommended. Remove from oven and set aside to cool – the cake will continue to cook as it sets.
9. Once cool, cut the cake into little squares to serve (with or without icing sugar on top).