Celebrations, Chani

Love’s Labour Found!

Sri-Lankan-Love-Cake

One of the great pleasures of celebrating Christmas is the plethora of sweets that flow out of every nook and corner. Every community and almost every household has their own special recipes and variations that they claim to be the best. Almost all my friends have their family stories and secret ingredients and in truth everything i have eaten from all their houses have been totally divine. Be it the Christmas cake, kisses ( macaroons .. we like to call it kisses for some unknown reason), a Dutch bundt-shaped yeast cake called breudher, or the evergreen chocolate cake and brownies. Each and every one of them are special and to die for.  I think one of the greatest miracles of Christmas is the abundance with which people share these marvelous sweets with each other. Although i admit without any remorse that i have tried many a time to stash my own hoard and not share and i still do not understand why i have to share. 

LoveCakemain

One such specialty among the Sri Lankan community is a sweet called “Love Cake”. During the 15th century the Portuguese ruled the coastal area’s of the island and it is believed that this cake originated from them. No one really knows why it is called Love Cake and i have done quite a bit of research and there does not seem to be a definite answer. For me the most obvious one being that once you have taken a bite there is absolutely no looking back. It’s pure love and a life long love affair at that.

It’s actually a semolina cake with loads of cashew nuts and honey, it’s gooey on the inside and flaky on the outside and has just the right amount of crunch and softness. And the best part of all the light dusting of icing sugar on top, like snow. It’s positively sinful and i am sure quite un- Christian.  It is usually served cut into small squares as a generous piece is quite enough to kill you or perhaps so you don’t feel bad for going for seconds for fifth’s.

We are not Christians and had no real cause for all this indulgence but my mother always used to make cakes during Christmas and i still remember the first time we attempted to make Love Cake like it was yesterday.

We had a neighbor called Mrs. Perera who was a Christian, she seemed quite old and she lived with her husband. Her grown up children had migrated and she really didn’t have many visitors but come hell or high water during Christmas she made the most wonderful cakes. She was one of those story book grandmothers, pure white hair tied always into a neat chignon  and a serene smile. Even your naughtiest escapades were greeted with a mother Teresa smile and a small pinch on the cheek. That was the biggest punishment she gave. She may have looked like a quite little lady but actually she was also a baking goddess. The most luscious, buttery baking smells used to emanate from her kitchen window and we would eagerly wait for the small plate she used to always send to our house. To date the best butter cake i have ever tasted was made by her.

My mother who is also a very passionate baker used to ask her for tips and one day she asked me to come along as she was going to learn how to make Love Cake. I was perhaps ten years old and had no interest in baking and was more interested in riding the bicycle with my brother or watching cartoons. But the magical two words were enough for me to run and wash my grubby face and put on my most girly cotton dress and skip along with my mother to Mrs. Perera’s house.

It is from her i learnt that baking is an exact science and unlike in other forms of cooking, measurements have to be exact. She made me cut the cashew nuts urging me to not cut them too big or too small but to the size of small beads. So that its small enough not to be a chore but firm enough to have a bit of a bite. Then to cut the preserved melon the exact same way and soak them rose and almond essence. She also thought me how to perfectly line a cake tin with glazed paper and to fold the corners neatly so they do not mar the perfect square edges. To this day the smell of orange blossoms reminds me of my childhood.  But most of all i learnt from her the art of giving. The joy of painstakingly making these wonderful things, be it cakes or jars of homemade jams or pickles wrapped with colourful cloth lids, the labels written in long swirly letters and butter cookies packed in little cellophane bundles. She used to attach little bells or stars to these packages that instantly makes it insanely festive. I used to collect these little trinkets in a old biscuit tin and hang them on my tree. Even now if i see a jam jar with a cloth seal i buy it because it reminds me of her. She used to always take great pains to make sure everything looked special and wonderful so it would be a great joy to the person receiving them. I miss those days when a jar of home made jam and some cakes were treasured gifts. Nowadays everything has become too commercialized and if you do not send a gift box from some fancy hotel or patisserie at an exorbitant price people feel insulted.

Mrs. Perera migrated long ago to settle down with her children and grandchildren but there isn’t a Christmas that goes by without me or my mother mentioning one of her legendary dishes. And this Christmas like always i will be making my batch of Love Cake which she thought me and sharing with my friends and family.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and if you are in town give me a shout and drop in for some cake. Trust me you will never regret it.

Cheers!

LoveCakeSlice1

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14 thoughts on “Love’s Labour Found!”

  1. Ah … seriously … there is nothing like a home made cake …
    most importantly it is the effort that goes in making it that makes it all the more special …
    I can totally visualise Mrs.Parera and the love cakes that she would make …
    Thanks for sharing Channi … Muah …
    A Merry Christmas to you all too …

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  2. Mrs Parera sounds lovely and the baking tales are so fun.I adore love cakes , you have tempted me to bake one.
    Thanks for sharing so many lovely memories.
    Merry Christmas to you as well! Loads of love and wishes to your family as well.

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  3. Seriously girl! you have tempted me now with this Love cake. Anne mentioned it in her post and now you too…I wonder from where could I get a piece of it now…You all have invited and if I had my way, I would be in Karachi as well as in Sri Lanka to have a bit of your baking.Unfortunately I won’t but I will be near by in Kerala. Your baking cakes reminded me of my aunt who is similar to Mrs. Perera. She is a mother to me than an aunt. I too have learnt the art of cooking and feeding, sharing your hard work with others from her. I hope to see her during my Kerala visit, if all goes well. I will share your posts with her. She too is into baking and she bakes like Mrs. Perera. Anne’s and your posts, after reading them, I had closed my eyes recalling all those moments where we all huddled in kitchen or waited at the kitchen island watching and waiting Aunty baking the cakes..Sweet memories!

    ” I miss those days when a jar of home made jam and some cakes were treasured gifts.” — How true! I too miss those personalized gifts!

    “I think one of the greatest miracles of Christmas is the abundance with which people share these marvelous sweets with each other. Although i admit without any remorse that i have tried many a time to stash my own hoard and not share and i still do not understand why i have to share”. — I really had a good laugh reading this part! You remind me of a cute kid, who secretly stove away her favorite toy not wanting to share it with her brother when she is mad at him.

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  4. Actually ladies, I want to share something. For you 4 lovely ladies —

    I wanted to post the video of this cake baking which I watched in a movie and was searching whole youtube for it. But was unable to get that clip of cake baking scene. But Google gave me a fantastic result of what I wanted to convey, its written by someone who was also inspired by the movie I was talking about. She has given a short description of the movie situation which lead to the cake baking and also have provided the recipe,if anyone interested — you can try!

    http://anzzcafe.com/juan-joans-rainbow-cake/

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  5. U have just inspired me to bake. Something which i have always liked, but dont do too often as my hus n son dont have a sweet tooth n I end up finishing it. Being a person who puts on quite quickly, these r some favs i have to keep from.. Atleast too much of it. Hence i havent baked in a loong while.
    But i just feel like it. Thanks to u..

    I would have even asked you the recipe of Love cake. But im sure that it’ll contain eggs. My son is allergic to eggs. So i have to find recipes of cakes n such delicacies with substitutes.. Anything for our kids right 🙂

    Happy holidays everyone !

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  6. Gotta love all the great food at Christmas!!! I too try my luck at baking, but the results are not always what I am hoping for!!! Not that it puts me or the kids off from eating all our hard work non the less! More then the baking it’s the fun derived from the process that I enjoy the most and remember fondly. Many thanks for an insight into your Christmas.

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  7. You are invoking such beautiful memories of days long gone when I too remember those homemade treasures, gifts given and received from the heart that had such a flair and personal touches.

    I have never even seen or tasted Love cake but after you and Anne described it, I have to beg for a recipe….it is that or make sure next year I am in a country where I will find Love cake at Christmas time…and that will involve a lot of flying hours…lol.

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  8. merry christmas and the cake stories forget temptation i got hubby to read this and sent him to get a few won’t think abt baking one cause i know it will come out all wrong xxxx

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  9. Oh good God … To be honest, Christmas wasn’t too high on the priority list in my childhood, but this reminds me of Eid, and the baking and cooking frenzy, and the family craziness, and everything elsetat came with that amazing time. I wish you all a very, very, very Merry Christmas! And thank you for sharing all this with me, it is amazing to know just hpw special this holiday really is 😀

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  10. Oh Man!.. I was hoping to see the recipe too..:)..My MIL bakes awesome cakes and I follow her recipe every Xmas to make the fruit & nut cake.. Now it has become a tradition in our little family here and among my friends (all non-christian) to be served with the homemade fruit cake every year at our x’mas party..I hope my son remembers all the effort when he’s all grown up and looks back at his life.

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