With the Valentine’s Day looming in the horizon (braise yourselves for the overly commercialized season of sugary frivolousness), I thought I should celebrate my love for food this February. And what better way than to explore the roots of our very own Sri Lankan love cake – a celebration of all that is love, joy and Sri Lanka in a profusion of spices and indulgent ingredient that simply spells decadence – much like love itself.
The Sri Lankan Love Cake has its roots in its colonial past and more precisely, its Portuguese past. It derived from a very special Portuguese cake called Bolo di Amor, which translates as “Cake of Love”, a coarse cake made out of semolina as the main ingredient. So what is this Bolo di Amor really? I’ve been searching a very long time.
Suffice to say, I’ve found it! Sadly though, I could not find ANY historical reference to it nor any background story (which I was quite looking forward to) but it is easy to see how this particular cake inspired the Sri Lankan Love cake as we know it today.
The original version is a tad too sweet for me, so I’ve adapted the recipe to suit the modern tongue.
Original recipe ingredients
- 200g Cashew nuts
- 450g Sugar
- 250g Semolina lightly roasted
- 12 Eggs, separated
- 1 tblsp Butter
- ½ glass Sherry or Noyeau
- 1 Lemon rind chopped find
- 1 tsp Nutmeg powder
- 1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
- Few drops of Almond essence
Here’s what I adapted from it.
- Egg yolks - 12
- Egg whites - 06
- Cashew nuts - 200g, chopped fine
- Sugar - 200g
- Semolina - 250g, roasted
- Butter - 2 tblsps
- Lime rind - 1 tsp, grated
- Cinnamon - 1 tsp, powdered
- Nutmeg - ½ tsp, powdered
- Sherry/Noyeau - 50ml
- Almond essence - 2 tsps
- Heat oven to 180 C.
- Beat together the egg yolks and the sugar until thick and custardy. Set aside.
- Ina separate bowl, mix the semolina with the butter.
- Add the semolina mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Add to this the spices, the almond essence, the cashew and the sherry. Mix well.
- Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold it into the semolina/egg yolk mixture.
- Pour the mixture into a well lined tin. Bake at approximately 150C for about 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out moist but not wet.
The result is a crunchy, crusty exterior and a dense, moist centre. The crumbly cake is more like a tart and its decadence can be felt from the first bite itself. The first bite reveals the fragrance of almonds to you while the soft warmth of the cinnamon and the nutmeg tiptoes on your tongue, perfuming your taste buds. The grainy semolina gives way to the creamy cashew and underlying it all is the current of sherry that enriches and piques. The richness of the eggs create a custardy texture while the meringue exterior is toasty on the tongue, with the soft, moist interiors remind you of love and all its luxuries and convince you why it is called “Bolo di Amor” in the first place.
As a Sri Lankan, I feel fortunate. To have a piece of love cake, or bolo di amor as and when I feel like it is a blessing that may around the world do not enjoy.
Which is why I believe that universal knowledge transference about a wonderful cake associated with love from the paradise island of Sri Lanka is necessary. I am sharing this post with #LoveCakeLove as the hashtag as a means of spreading the love on this month of February. Look around at your favorite restaurants and hotels and see how they are spreading the love with love cake promotions all over the country!
So what’s your favorite love cake story? Share with #LoveCakeLove as the hashtag!