Monthly Archives: February 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

I suspect Mr Firehouse was duped. You see, a few weeks ago he came to me and asked for some salted caramel cupcakes for the following week. I agreed of course, this wasn’t an unusual request. When I asked why, he commented that a colleague was  adamant that salted caramel could not work as a flavour. Nuwan, always the first to defend food accepted the challenge and promised that he’d change his mind. Sounds a lot like a bit of reverse psychology to me.

In saying that, I’m not surprised. I’ve had many a terrible salted caramel that could’ve ruined me for life!

   HP1B1028    HP1B1020      



  • ¾ cups self-rising flour
  • ¾  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 11/2 -2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup of cooled salted caramel sauce

For the salted caramel sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup  cream
  •  1 tsp. salt (or to taste)


Preheat oven to 350F/180 C. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.


Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.


Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Salted Caramel


Place the sugar in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. As the sugar melts stir, don’t worry about the lumps, just keep stirring.


Once all the sugar has melted, you’ll see the sugar syrup becoming a dark brown/amber colour.


Add the butter to the sugar and it will bubble, keep stirring. Take the bubbling sugar off the heat and add the cream. Keep stirring.


Once the mixture is smooth  add the salt, taste and leave to cool. I tend to add my salt bit by bit, tasting and every point. Refrigerate any excess.




In the bowl of your stand mixer, start beating your butter. Start slow and once it’s smooth, turn the mixer to medium and beat for 2-3 minutes until the butter changes colour (this is a sign of the butter being aerated – air = fluffiness).
Stop the mixer and add your icing sugar. You can hold some back if you’re worried about the sweetness. Put the mixer on the lowest speed (mine has a “stir” function) and mix until the icing sugar is incorporated and won’t spray your kitchen white.
When the sugar is combined, turn the mixer up again to high and beat for 4-5 minutes until it’s all light and fluffy. Finally add the caramel sauce and beat for 2 minutes to mix all the caramel in.
Pipe/spread onto the cooled cupcakes and serve straightaway or place in the fridge for later.

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Filed under Cake, Sweet Treats

Salted Caramel Sauce


When I first arrived in the States and was looking for something to do, I joined a volunteer group that worked in schools during Summer and helped out teachers. This was pretty soon after we’d moved here. Everything was just new and we were just learning how to speak American. During a lesson about their favourite chocolate sundaes a students asked me how to spell “caramel” but pronounced in the typical American way of “car-mel”. So I asked to her to “sound” it out, she did, and wrote “karmel”. This left me in quite a pickle. For the life of me I couldn’t explain to her why carmel, was spelt “caramel”. I’m still waiting to figure that one out, and simply provide this poor girl with an explanation better than; that’s just the way it is.

Salted caramel is my flavour of choice for macarons and one of my absolute favourite cupcake flavours, if done well. Unfortunately, it often isn’t. I’ve had caramels with far too much salt, with not enough salt. With caramel and salt separate and then big hunks of salt sprinkled on top. There have been caramels that weren’t caramelised enough and others that were far too caramelly. Here’s my version. You can omit the salt if you’re after just a caramel sauce. The key is to add salt to your taste and only if you want.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup  cream
  •  1 tsp. salt (or to taste)


Place the sugar in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. As the sugar melts stir, don’t worry about the lumps, just keep stirring.


Once all the sugar has melted, you’ll see the sugar syrup becoming a dark brown/amber colour.


Add the butter to the sugar and it will bubble, keep stirring. Take the bubbling sugar off the heat and add the cream. Keep stirring. The mixture will bubble, please take care.


Once the mixture is smooth  add the salt, taste and leave to cool. I tend to add my salt bit by bit, tasting and every point. Refrigerate any excess.


This sauce is fabulous to spice up some buttercream, amazing warm over ice cream or on top of cheesecake.



Filed under Sweet Treats

Potato and Leek Baddum (Stir-fried potato and leek)


Leeks are like eggs I find. Oftentimes required in recipes only in part. “Use white part only” is a phrase that I hear a lot more than “Use green part only”. What happens to all those spare green parts then? I usually chop them off, pop them in a bag and watch them sit in my fridge for a few days before I think to myself….MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THOSE LEEKS!

The green bits are fabulous in a lankan style friend rice, or even as a simple garnish, here I’ve updated the friend potato recipe to include leeks and make like a little fancier. I personally love the green parts, a subtle oniony flavour that becomes sweet when cooked.


  • I leek green part only
  • 2 medium potatoes halved and sliced (1/2 cm pieces)
  • 1/2 medium onion slices
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish (optional)
  • curry leaves
  • salt to taste
  • oil

In a medium sized fry pan add your sliced potatoes and cover with water. Simmer for a few minutes until the potatoes are parboiled or just soft. Drain and leave to dry for a few minutes.


In the same frypan add the oil (or ghee if you have it), maldive fish, onions, garlic and curry leaves. Stir fry on medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the turmeric and chilli and give a quick stir.


Add the drained potatoes and coat with the spice mixture. Leave on the heat, stirring often until the potato is cooked through. I usually turn the heat up, right at the end to make sure that the onions and potato get a bit of colour.




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Filed under Curries, Vegetable Dishes

Potato and Leek Soup

This is one of the first dishes I ever learned to make. While on holiday in Sri Lanka my sister and I can home to my father’s family home in Sri Lanka to spend the night. My uncle, who had been a chef before becoming ill and subsequently paralysed in his 20’s had gathered on the ingredients to make this soup at home and staged a cooking lesson of sorts. He’s the first Uditha, that our little Callum Uditha is named after.

I still remember the taste of that soup, made all the more delicious by the addition of salty, Sri Lankan, Keels bacon. I’ve changed very little from the recipe he taught us that day, because really, why mess with perfection?


  • 1 fat leek stalk sliced (white part only)
  • 1/2 white onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 rashers bacon chopped
  • 500 g potatoes cubed
  • 2 cups stock
  • 1 cup milk (or more depending on the consistency of the soup you want)
  • sour cream or thickened cream to serve


In a medium saucepan add the bacon, garlic and onions to the cold pan and place on the heat. Fry until the bacon gets some colour on it.


When the onions are soft and there’s some colour on them add the leeks. Sweat the leeks off until they’re soft too and add the potatoes.

Give the potatoes a stir and add the stock. Pop a lid on the pot when the mixture starts to boil and cook until the potatoes are soft.


When the soup has cooked puree using a stick blender or place the whole mixture in a blender, which will do the job as well. Add extra water at this point if needed.

Put the soup back in the saucepan and add the milk (or cream if you’re feeling particularly indulgent) and bring the soup back to the boil. Master C loves this with lots of cream cheese melted in!


Taste for salt, I find that with the bacon and the salt that’s present in most stocks you don’t need extra salt.  We buy low sodium bacon and low sodium stick (or broth as my American friends would say) so I usually end up adding a bit of salt to taste.


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Filed under Soup, Vegetable Dishes

Lankan Butter Cake


Have you ever heard of a cake smash? If you have a little tyke, you probably would have. It’s a uniquely American, though now a much more ubiquitous concept, of presenting a child with a cake on his/her birthday that can be smashed to their hearts content. The more mess, the better.  Owing to the diets of most little people these days this is usually the first time many of them have had proper, purposeful, sugar…..ahh!

I decided to make a traditional Sri Lankan buttercake for Callum’s cake smash, which was done on his actual birthday. It had proper sugar on the inside but whipped cream with maple syrup as icing. Strange child that he is, he just  preferred to lick the icing.

This is the first cake I learned to make from my mum and it’s incredibly versatile. Easily doubled or tripled and best eaten warm with nothing but a cup of tea (Ceylon of course).


  • 200g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 200 g white sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 200 g self raising (rising) flour sifted
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla essense
  • sprinkle of salt (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350F /180C and line an 8 inch round tin with baking paper.

In the bowl of a mixer cream together butter and sugar until nice and fluffy. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape the bottom and sides of the mixer bowl.


Add the eggs to the creamed mixture one at a time. If you rush it, the mixture might separate so take your time. Remember to scrape your bowl.


Butter_Cake-5When all the eggs are in, add 1/2 the flour and half the milk and gently fold them into the mixture. Then add the other half of the flour and milk, folding that in gently too.


Pour the mix into the prepared baking tin and place in the oven until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Usually about 45 minutes.




Filed under Cake, Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats

Devilled Potatoes (Ala Theldala)




Me and this dish had a falling out some years ago.  Twice a year the Sri Lankan Buddhist community in Sydney would throw a food fair to help raise money for the temple. Groups of people would host stalls serving traditional Sri Lankan fare; string hoppers, roti, koththu etc. The hopper stall was always a favourite, with a  queue that usually extended out the doors.

Now I vaguely remember talking about rules in Sri Lankan cooking. About how meals needed particular components, a protein for example and definitely a “hodi” dish , with gravy for moistening the food.

The hopper stall for many years would serve this dish with the hoppers, it puzzled me no end. There was usually a meat curry which served as protein and gravy, and a condiment like seeni sambol (caramelised fried onions) or lunu miris. For me, at the end of my hopper eating fest the potatoes would remain defiantly on my plate, unsure of where to go. I came to resent these potatoes, even though logically I knew they weren’t to blame. I did not like them sitting there, uneaten…unwanted.

I’ve forgiven these dear potatoes since, especially as in Washington you get these beautiful gem like potatoes that are tiny and come in 3-4 colours.  And sometimes, you just need a simple, quick dish that packs a punch!


  • 8 small potatoes boiled
  • 1/2 small medium onion sliced
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp. chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish
  • curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


In a medium frypan add the oil and when it’s hot add the onions, garlic, curry leaves, cinnamon and spices. Fry until the onions are soft and brown and spices are pungent.


Add the potatoes and warm through until the potatoes are coated in the spices and the warmed through and slightly browned..



Filed under Curries, Vegetable Dishes, Vegetarian Curries