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Your Cake Is in the Mail : Fruitcake: Better Than Its Reputation

October 25, 1990

Aside from the homemade fruitcake that I grew up with, this lavish cake from Sri Lanka is the best that I have ever tasted. Notice the unusual combination of ingredients--cashews, semolina and crystallized ginger as well as conventional candied fruits and raisins. Cardamom, an unusual fruitcake seasoning, is native to Sri Lanka as are the other spices used. The layer of almond paste over the top reminds me of marzipan-coated Scandinavian cakes. Kusala Siriwardhane of the Siri Lanka Curry House, who makes this cake, says it keeps well, especially if you add an occasional dose of brandy to keep it moist. And she is right. I've stored some of the cake, wrapped in foil in an airtight container, for almost a year, and it's as good as new, perhaps even better.

--BARBARA HANSEN

SIRI LANKA CURRY HOUSE RICH CAKE

Butter

1 pound raisins

1 pound golden raisins

1 pound currants

1/2 pound candied cherries

1/2 pound crystallized ginger

1/2 pound mixed glazed fruits

1/4 pound raw cashews

3/4 cup flour

2 pounds granulated sugar

12 egg yolks

1/3 cup strawberry jam

Brandy

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 tablespoon almond extract

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 pound semolina

7 egg whites

Almond Paste

Powdered sugar

Butter thoroughly 2 (13x9-inch) baking pans. Line with double layer of grease-proof paper and brush with melted butter.

Cut raisins into 3 or 4 pieces. Wash and dry currants. Cut cherries and ginger in small pieces. Shred glazed fruit and chop cashews. Mix fruits and nuts with flour.

In large mixing bowl, cream 1 pound butter and granulated sugar until light. Add egg yolks, 1 at time, beating well after each addition. Add jam, 1/4 cup brandy, vanilla, almond extract, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. Mix well. Add semolina and beat well. Add fruits and nuts and incorporate thoroughly. Beat 6 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.

Divide mixture between prepared pans and smooth evenly. Bake at 275 degrees 3 hours. Cover with foil during last 2 hours to prevent burning. Remove cake from oven and cool slightly before turning out on wire rack to cool completely, preferably overnight. Remove paper and wrap in foil. For more moist cake, sprinkle 1/3 to 1/2 cup brandy over each cake before wrapping. Cake improves with storage and should be made at least 1 week before serving.

Ice with Almond Paste 1 or 2 days before serving. Divide paste mixture in half. Knead until smooth. Roll out each half on pastry board lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Cut to fit top of cake. Repeat with other half. Brush tops of cakes with remaining egg white, lightly beaten. Place paste sheets on tops and trim sides. Press tightly with rolling pin. Makes 2 large fruitcakes.

Almond Paste

1/2 pound blanched almonds, ground

1 pound powdered sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon brandy

1 tablespoon Sherry

Mix almonds and sugar in bowl. Add egg mixed with brandy and Sherry, or combine all in food processor. If mixture is too moist, work in additional powdered sugar. If too dry, add brandy to moisten.

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