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Traditional Christmas Cake 

Christmas Cake is a tradition for many centuries in many parts of the world. It has lost much of its charm in the west recently. But this cake from Sri Lanka should change all that.

250 g (8 oz) seedless raisins 
375 g (12 oz) sultanas (seedless raisins)
250 g (8 oz) mixed glazed fruit 
250 g (8 oz) preserved ginger 
2 small cans chow chow preserves or 500 g ( 1 lb) melon and ginger jam 
125 g (4 oz) mixed peel 
250 g (8 oz) glazed cherries 
250 g (8 oz) raw cashews or blanched almonds 
1/4 cup brandy 
375 g (12 oz) butter 
500 g ( 1 lb ) caster sugar 
12 egg yolks 
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind 
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 
2 tablespoons vanilla essence 
1 tablespoon almond essence 
2 teaspoons rose essence 
1 tablespoon honey 
250 g (8 oz) fine semolina 
6 egg whites 
almond paste (directions below.)


Oven temperature: slow 130 degree C (275F) 
Cooking time: 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours 

Line a 25 cm (10 inch) round or square cake tin with three thicknesses each of newspaper and brown paper, then two layers of greaseproof paper liberally brushed with melted butter . 

Chop raisins and sultanas. Cut glazed fruit into small pieces (use a mixture of pineapple, apricot and quince -avoid figs). Drain syrup from preserved ginger and chow chow preserves and chop finely. Chop mixed peel. Cut cherries in halves. Chop nuts very finely or put through a nut mill. Combine fruits and nuts in large bowl, sprinkle with brandy, cover and leave while mixing cake. This can be done the day before, allowing the fruit more time to soak in the brandy. 

Cream butter and sugar until light. Add yolks of eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add grated rind, spices, flavorings and honey and mix well. Add semolina and beat until well combined, then mix in fruit. Use biggest bowl or pan you have and mix in fruit with both hands (it's much easier than a spoon and professional pastry cooks do it this way). When fruit is thoroughly mixed in, whip egg whites until stiff and fold through mixture. 

Turn into prepared cake tin and bake in slow oven for 21/4-21/2 hours, covering cake with paper after first hour to prevent over- browning. The result will be very rich and moist. If you prefer a darker and drier result, bake for 41/2-5 hours. It will not be dry, but certainly firmer than if you use shorter baking time. 

Cool completely, preferably overnight, then remove paper and wrap cake in foil. A tablespoon or two of brandy may be sprinkled over cake after it is cold, just before wrapping. If liked, ice with almond paste and fondant icing. Cut in small pieces and wrap in foil and colored cellophane. This cake can be kept in an airtight tin for a year or longer. 

Note: Chow chow preserves can be purchased at Chinese groceries or specialty food stores. The nearest equivalent is melon and ginger jam. 

Almond Paste


250 g (8 oz) ground almonds 
500 g (1 lb) pure icing sugar, sifted 
1 small egg, beaten 
1 tablespoon brandy I tablespoon sherry 
1/2 teaspoon almond essence, optional 
beaten egg white 


Mix ground almonds and icing sugar in a large bowl, add egg mixed with brandy, sherry and almond essence, then knead until it holds together. If too moist knead in a little extra sifted icing sugar. 

Rollout half the almond paste on pastry board dusted with icing sugar and cut to fit top of cake. 

Brush cake with beaten egg white, place almond paste on top and press lightly with rolling pin. Roll remaining almond paste into a strip and fit around side of cake. 

In Sri Lanka it is traditional for the cake to be cut into pieces and each piece individually wrapped. 

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