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Watalappam – Spiced Steamed Sri Lankan Custard with Coconut Cream and Blood Orange

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Adjust Servings:
1 TBSP Softened butter to grease moulds
2 TBSP Rapadura Sugar to line moulds
3 Cardamom Pods crushed
1 cm piece Cinnamon Stick
1 Whole Clove
100g Kithul Jaggery

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Watalappam – Spiced Steamed Sri Lankan Custard with Coconut Cream and Blood Orange

  • 1 Hour 45 Minutes
  • Serves 4
  • Hard




When it comes to desserts in Sri Lanka, my favourite and countries most loved, flavoursome and widely known dessert is “Watalappam”. We all love a good Watalappam with a cup of Ceylon black Tea.

What makes this dessert so special is the use of kithul jaggery. This special jaggery comes from the fishtail palm in Sri Lanka. This brown like sugar has amazing caramel like taste, which is floral, smoky, woody, and slightly savoury.

Wattalappam is a creamy coconut custard made from coconut milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs and various spices. What makes this dessert so special is the use of really good quality kithul jaggery.

The dish is believed to have been brought to the country by Sri Lankan Malays in the 18th century, who moved from Indonesia to the country during Dutch rule.


  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 4 x 130ml capacity metal dariole moulds with butter and sprinkle with rapadura sugar. Shake to remove excess sugar and set aside.
  2. For the Whipped Coconut Cream, place the unopened can of coconut cream into the freezer for 1 hour. Place the bowl of an electric mixer into the fridge to chill.
  3. Remove the coconut cream from the freezer without shaking or tipping the can and spoon out the thick cream from the top of the can and place it into the chilled mixing bowl. Discard the liquid.
  4. Whisk the coconut cream using an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until creamy, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the icing sugar and vanilla essence and mix until creamy and smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in a little tapioca flour until the whipped cream holds its shape. Transfer to a piping bag and set aside in the fridge.
  6. For the Wattalappam, half fill a wok with water and bring to a simmer.
  7. Place the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and clove into a small frypan and toast over medium heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
  8. Grate the kithul jaggery into a small saucepan and add 1/3 cup water. Place over low-medium heat and stir for 3-4 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  9. Place eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until thick and pale, about 5-8 minutes. Gradually add the cooled jaggery syrup and whisk until incorporated. Reduce the speed to medium and add the coconut milk, brown sugar, vanilla essence, blood orange zest, and ground spices and whisk until mixture is pale and slightly thickened.
  10. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a jug and discard solids. Divide the Wattalappam mixture between the prepared moulds. Cover each mould tightly with aluminum foil and place it into a bamboo steamer. Set over the wok of simmering water for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center. Remove from the steamer basket and set aside to cool slightly.
  11. For the Coconut Tuile, line a large baking tray with a Silpat mat and set aside.
  12. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool slightly. Place the desiccated coconut into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground, but not powdery. Add the icing sugar and flour and process briefly to combine then add egg whites and cooled melted butter. Process until the mixture is a smooth and slightly runny paste.
  13. Using an offset spatula spread the tuile mixture very thinly over the tray. Bake until pale golden and slightly browned around the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and using a 7cm round cutter, cut out 4 rounds. Carefully lift each tuile from the tray and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Set aside.
  14. For the Spiced Cashew Crumb, heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan or wok over medium heat to 170C. Fry the cashew nuts until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove cashews from oil and set aside on a paper towel and allow to cool.
  15. Place cooled cashews into a bowl and toss with the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and blood orange zest and a pinch of salt. Crush to a coarse crumb with a mortar and pestle.
  16. For the Toasted Coconut, clean the fresh coconut, using the cleaver break the coconut into two. Using a coconut grater, scrape out a quarter of the fresh coconut. Place about ¾ into a small frying pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the flakes are lightly golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer coconut to a tray to cool. Reserve remaining grated coconut for garnish.
      Plating – Ideally a round plate
  17. To serve, carefully turn out Wattalappams into the center of each plate. Scatter some Spiced Cashews Crumbs and Toasted Coconut on each side and add some freshly grated coconut. Break each Coconut Tuile into 2 shards and add to the plates. Add some blood orange segments and garnish with lavender petals and lemon balm leaves. Lightly drizzle kithul treacle over the top of each Wattalappam and top with a half of a cashew kernel and some Toasted Coconut. Pipe Whipped Coconut Cream on the plate and top with some finely grated some blood orange zest.


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