What a joy and honor to hear about Christmas traditions in Sri Lanka from a native! "Traveling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller" Ibn Battuta.
We are thrilled to share the words of Amalie from Kandy (central hills of the Sri Lanka), on Christmas as well as beautiful photos of her country! A way to travel to her island and dream of faraway holidays!
Before flying to Asia, please allow us to present Amalie. At the head of Amalie’s Design Co., handmade for Babies, stitching bespoke clothing for babies and toddlers, she is also a talented photographer and travel lover.
The Queens Bathing Pavilion is situated on the banks of the Kandy Lake, next to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Can you please present your country and how Christmas is celebrated there?
Sri Lanka is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, in the shape of a teardrop. Although it’s a predominantly Buddhist country, Christmas is celebrated as a public holiday and enjoyed by both Christians and non-Christians alike. Many preparations are made to the days leading up to Christmas. Houses are painted, cleaned and decorated, new clothes are made or bought and all sorts of yummy food are prepared. On Christmas day food is shared among friends. Trays bearing special Christmas treats as Christmas cake, breudher cake and other local sweet meats are exchanged among neighbors and relatives.
As a non-Christian, from my childhood I would look forward to an invitation from my Christian friends for Christmas lunch. Christmas cake is my favorite among all delicacies. Its making is a great pride in many households. It’s prepared weeks or sometimes months ahead. It’s a time when all the ladies of the family come together to shop for ingredients, cut, mix and bake the cake. In some families the recipe is a well-guarded secret.
Can you tell us more about this special cake?
The Christmas cake was introduced to Sri Lanka by the British. It’s a fruit cake that has been given a Sri Lankan flavor by adding ingredients that are distinctive to us. Dried fruits and nuts (dried raisins, sultanas and raw cashew nuts), preserves as ginger, chow chow (chayote), mixed peel, and spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and natural vanilla extracts are added to make it uniquely Sri Lankan.
Once it is baked and cooled, it is cut into pieces and wrapped in pretty red and green foil or with pretty Christmas prints and shared among friends and family. Some cakes are iced with an almond paste. If the cake is stored well, it can be even preserved for one year.
Can you please share the recipe?
Here is the recipe for the Sri Lankan Christmas Cake by a renowned Sri Lankan cook, Charmaine Solomon who is now domiciled in Australia.
Makes: 1 cake
Prep Time: Approx. 3 hours
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Skill Level: Moderate
250 g raisins, chopped
385 g sultanas, chopped
250 g mixed glacé fruit such as pineapple, apricot and quince, (avoid using fig), chopped
260 g preserved ginger, chopped
500 g chow chow preserves
120 g mixed peel, chopped
260 g glacé cherries, halved
260 g raw cashews or blanched almonds, finely chopped
125 ml brandy
375 g butter
500 g caster sugar
12 egg yolks (reserve 6 egg whites for this recipe)
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons natural vanilla extract
1 tablespoon natural almond extract
2 tablespoons rosewater, or to taste 1 tablespoon honey
250 g fine semolina
6 egg whites
1 quantity almond paste, for icing (optional)
250 g ground almonds
500 g icing sugar, sifted
1 small egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon sherry
½ teaspoon natural almond
1 egg white, beaten, for brushing
*Line a 25 cm round or square cake tin with three layers of brown paper, then one layer of baking paper liberally brushed with melted butter. To insulate the tin even more, wrap the outside with a sheet of newspaper folded into three and secure it with kitchen string.
*Combine the raisins, sultanas, mixed glacé fruit, preserved ginger, chow chow preserves, mixed peel, glacé cherries and cashews in a large bowl. Pour over the brandy, cover, and set aside. (This step can be done the day before, allowing the fruit more time to soak in the brandy, if desired.)
*Preheat the oven to 130ºC. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest, spices, vanilla and almond extracts, rosewater and honey and mix well. Add the semolina and beat until well combined.
*Transfer the mixture to a large bowl or pan and use your hands to mix in the fruit until thoroughly combined – it’s much easier than a spoon and professional pastry cooks do it this way.
*In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold through the fruit mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 2¼–2½ hours, covering the cake with foil after the first hour to prevent over-browning. The cake will be very rich and moist when done. If you prefer a darker and drier result, bake for 4½–5 hours – it will not be dry, but certainly firmer than if you cook for a shorter time.
*Allow to cool completely, preferably overnight, then remove the paper and wrap the cake in foil. A tablespoon or two of brandy may be sprinkled over the cake just before wrapping.
*If desired, ice the cake with the almond paste. This cake can be stored in an airtight container for one year or longer.
*For the icing, mix together the ground almonds and icing sugar in a large bowl, add the combined egg, brandy, sherry and almond extract, if using, then knead until the mixture holds together.
*Rollout half the almond paste on a work surface dusted with icing sugar and cut to fit the top of the cake. Brush the traditional Christmas cake with egg white, then place the almond paste on top and press lightly with a rolling pin. Roll the remaining almond paste into a strip to fit around the side of the cake.
Recipe from : Charmaine Solomon - The Complete Asian Cookbook
Can you please share a few typical photos from your country as a way to end the article on a dreamy note?
Yes, welcome to Paradise Island!
The terraced paddy fields of Heeloya on a cloudy day.
Heeloya, is a rural agriculture village in the district of Kandy.
Puttlam situated in the west of Sri Lanka is well known for its beautiful lagoons and popular for prawn farming and shallow sea fishing.
Sunrise at Point Pedro.
Point Pedro is located in Jaffna District, the most northern point of Sri Lanka.
*All photos are by Amalie
Follow Amalie's brand account : @amalies_design_co
Follow Amalie's travel account : @travels_of_a_ceylonese_girl