Chefs' Recipes

O Tama Carey's love cake

This rich love cake recipe, fragrant with spices, made with semolina, cashew nuts and rosewater, has a fudge-like centre and lasts a good few weeks, getting better with age. What’s not to love?

By O Tama Carey
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 1 hr cooking plus infusing, resting
  • Serves 12 - 16
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"Love cake is a truly delicious, rich cake with an almost fudge-like centre," says Carey. "Fragrant with spices, it's made with semolina and cashew nuts and undoubtedly evolved from the Portuguese influence on Sri Lanka. Growing up, my nan would occasionally send us a slab, a cause for much rejoicing - hers was, obviously, the best. Nan's recipe is a closely guarded secret that I can't give away, but here is my version, which is nearly as good." Start this recipe a day ahead to infuse the cashew nuts with spices.


  • 225 gm raw cashew nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 110 gm preserved pumpkin, finely chopped (see note)
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1½ tbsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp almond essence
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 225 gm fine semolina
  • 225 gm butter, diced
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 5 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 225 gm caster sugar
  • 1 tsp finely grated nutmeg


  • 1
    Stir cashews, preserved pumpkin, honey, rosewater, essences, cardamom and cinnamon in a bowl to combine. Cover and stand at room temperature overnight for flavours to meld.
  • 2
    Preheat oven to 180C and line an 18cm x 28cm cake tin with baking paper. Spread semolina in a large baking dish and roast in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (20-25 minutes). Remove from oven, then stir in butter and lemon rind until butter melts.
  • 3
    Beat all the yolks with sugar and nutmeg in an electric mixer until thick and pale, and mixture holds a ribbon (4-6 minutes). Gently fold in cashew and semolina mixtures alternately in batches. Whisk eggwhites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold three-quarters through cake mixture. Transfer to prepared tin, then spread remaining eggwhite evenly on top with a spatula. Bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out just clean (about 1 hour; start checking after 45 minutes and if it's already quite dark, cover with foil). Let cake stand in tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. This cake can be eaten on the day it's made, but is much better wrapped and left to age for at least a few days. It continues to get better as it ages and will last a good few weeks in a sealed container if, somehow, you don't eat it that fast.


Preserved pumpkin (candied winter melon), is available in jars from Sri Lankan grocers.
Drink Suggestion by Max Allen: Sri Lankan tea.