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  • Writer's pictureSusie Csorsz Brown

Sri Lankan Watalappan (Cardamom Spiced Coconut Custard)

This is one of the favorite desserts in Sri Lanka, and the complex flavor completely belies the ease with which you can pull this together. I don't include anise, which is often included, and I reduced the sugar a good bit from the traditional recipes. This is results in a lightly sweetened and spiced baked custard that my kiddos love, saying it tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. Rather than do the traditional cooking method of steaming, I bake this in ramekins in a water bath. Hope you try it!

Sri Lankan Watalappan (Cardamom Spiced Coconut Custard)

Creamy, lightly spiced custard

Yield: 7 - 8 1/2 cup servings


Coconut oil or softened butter to grease ramekins

4 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

3/4 cup natural dark brown sugar or finely grated kitul jaggery

1/4 cup hot water

1/2 tsp cardamom

¼ tsp of nutmeg or mace

Pinch of salt

2 cups of thick coconut milk, slightly warmed or at room temp and stirred to remove any lumps

1/2 tsp vanilla

chopped cashews, if desired


Preheat oven to 320°F / 160°C. Line 2 8 x 16 baking pans with kitchen towels or cloth napkins. Heat a kettle of water to boil. Using coconut oil or softened butter, very lightly grease 7 or 8 ½-cup capacity ramekins. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and water and stir until it becomes a paste with no lumps (the sugar does not need to dissolve completely).

Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, whisking well to combine. Add the spices and salt and continue whisking until the egg mixture becomes very slightly thick (not the “ribbony stage,” just enough to thoroughly mix the sugar and eggs). Take care not to make the egg mixture frothy.

Slowly, add 2 cups of coconut milk and whisk well. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.

Using a ladle, pour the mix into the prepared ramekins. As you are sliding the pans into the oven (resting one side of the pan on the oven rack), slowly add boiling water to come up halfway on the ramekins sides. Repeat with each pan.

Bake the ramekins/dish in a water bath for about 30 - 40 minutes for the ramekins. You want the custard to set, but the middle to be very slightly wobbly.

Remove from the oven and let them cool for about 15 minutes in the water bath.

When cool enough to handle, remove them from the water bath and cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours (longer for larger dishes). Best chilled overnight.

Serve as is, or with some cashew nuts on top.


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