Category Archives: Sri Lankan Sweets

Sri Lankan New Year

April 14 will mark Sri Lankan New Year this year. Sri Lankan New Year is an important time for all Sri Lankans. Full of rituals, and the signalling of a new beginning for all involved.

There are the rituals of cleaning the house and lighting the oil lamp adorned with a proud rooster. Traditionally the hearth stove would have been cleaned and only lit at an auspicious time to make Kiribath or milk rice. Traditional gifts of new clothes and given and received and visiting family begins in earnest. Villages have carnivals with traditional games and competitions and including a beauty pageant to select the most beautiful girl in the village.

In Australia we have tried to replicate this in our own way. There are smaller oil lamps, gas stoves scrubbed to shiny perfection and phone calls in lieu of visits. There are carnivals at Sunday schools with races and challenges and children are compelled to eat donuts hanging from strings as fast as they are able. Sweet meats and treats are often store bought and celebrations postponed to weekends when people are more available.

This year I’m collating some of my recipes that can fill your Avurudu table. Some are easy, other’s complex and time consuming me. My challenge is this, make one. Just one and let me know how it turns out.


Easy vanilla marshmallows that can be made in advance. You’ll never be satisfied with store-bought again.

HP1B1036 (1024x683) (2)

Butter Cake

Sri Lanka’s favourite cake.




Crispy, deep friend “swirls” of urid dal batter dipped in hot palm treacle.


Milk Toffee

Sweet and slightly chewy condensed milk toffee


Sri Lankan Pancakes

Uniquely Sri Lankan crepes filled with spiced, sweet, caramelised coconut.


Subha Aluth Avurudak Vewa! 



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Filed under Short-Eats, Sri Lankan Food, Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

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

“Pancakes” and Pani Pol


Afternoon tea is just about my favourite time of the day. Sitting down to a hot cup of milky, black tea accompanied by something sweet or some cheese and biccies (crackers). This Sunday just gone I told Mr Firehouse that I had a real hankering for Sri Lankan style pancakes with their sweet coconut filling. I then mentioned that thanks to an unfortunate mis-hap with a new beef rendang recipe (read: mis-reading the recipe and putting in almost a kilo of coconut into a curry so there was almost as much coconut as meat), I had used all the coconut in the house. Mr Firehouse sprang into action, and volunteered to go to the shops.

“Sure” I agreed, “if you bring the coconut, I’ll make some pancakes. ”

” I’ll go after the Seahawks game” he said, “there’s only a few minutes left.”

Silly, naive me! Gridiron games don’t end  in the amount of time on the clock. The clock stops every few seconds so that 5 minutes of play can last 25. Not to mention, this particular game went into overtime. Anyway, it was about an hour later by the time the coconut arrived at home and I got to make my afternoon tea.



Pani pol

  • 1 cup. Treacle
  • 1 cardoman pod
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup of water

Crepe (Pancake Mix)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • salt to taste
  • melted butter to brush on pan
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric (optional)


In a bowl with a whisk or in a blender mix all the crepe ingredients together until the mixture is smooth (no lumps). I find that adding the liquid slowly helps if you’re doing it by hand. Leave the mixture to sit for about half an hour which helps the bubbles subside and stops the crepe from tearing.


In the meantime I make my pani-pol by heating the kithul treacle in a pan with the spices.

Once it comes to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavours infuse. At this point I simply add the un-sweetened desiccated coconut and stir. Finally add the water and give it another stir.
Leave it on the heat for about 10 minutes until the coconut has absorbed the pani and become dark and caramel like.

Once done, remove the spices and leave the mixture to cool.

Heat a small (20 cm) frypan on medium heat and brush with oil, then add 1/3 a cup of batter and swirl so that the batter covers the whole pan. When the edges start curling use a spatula to flip the crepe over and cook for a minute or so.



Repeat with the rest of the mix. You can stack the crepes ready to roll.

When all the crepes are ready, place one on a plate and then add 1-2 tablespoons of pani-pol (depending on your preference) along the top edge of the crepe.


Then fold the sides of the crepe in lightly. Start rolling from the filled end and keep rolling until the filling is completely enclosed. Place on a plate with the seam down. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling.


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Filed under Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats

Kiri (Milk) Toffee

On occasion, at unreasonable times during the night (FYI 9pm is unreasonable when you have a baby) I get the urge to cook or bake. When I was pregnant I would make caramel popcorn at 10pm and then refuse to go to bed till it was all finished. Then I’d complain all night about feeling so sick. Nowadays I’m a little more responsible, but the urge to concoct late at night still strikes. These toffees were the result of a late night cooking session.
If you’re afriad of sugar, look away. This recipe has A LOT! It’s definitely a sometimes food,in fact I made these, kept a few for Mr Firehouse and myself and sent the rest off to work with him to make his workmates fat.
This is a Sri Lankan classic. Cloyingly sweet but quite simple to make with only a few ingredients and a little love and patience. Have everything ready to go before you start this recipe.
  • I tin of sweetened condensed mik
  • 250g of sugar
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 2 cardomon pods seeds removed and group
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. cashew nuts (optional)


Lay a piece of baking paper on a tray, ready to pour the hot toffee onto.

In a non-stick saucepan place the sugar and water and place on a medium heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the cardamon seeds, condensed milk and vanilla and stir.


Heres the hard part, keep stirring. The whole mixture will keep changing from beige to brown to dark brown.



Getting darker


Starting to come away from the sides

Eventually it will begin to form a ball and come away from the sides. At this point add the nuts (if you’re using) and pour onto the prepared dish. HP1B8767

You can use an oiled, heat proof spatula to flatten and shape this toffee. Sometimes though, the rustic-ness is nice.

As soon as it’s cool enough to touch, use an oiled knife to cut into squares!If it gets too hard, use a serrated knife to cut it up.



Filed under Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats

Chocolate Biscuit Pudding

Chocolate biscuit pudding is one of those childhood dishes that make me truly happy. Can you imagine my excitement when my cousin informed me that Latin American grocery stores stocked Marie biscuits, made by Goya brand.
I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait to make it and when I spied a grocery at Pike Place I couldn’t resist trying to find Marie biscuits. Word to the wise, taking a wriggly baby into a densely packed store is asking for trouble. There was a loud crash at one point that sent the sales assistant running after us,  fortunately it was just noise and no damage was done, but I swear the sales assistant was really excited to see the back of Callum and I. Chocolate biscuit pudding really is magic, chocolatey, buttery and just the right amount of sweet. However, I’m not terribly comfortable with eating raw eggs and have always wanted a “raw egg free” version. Here it is, just as chocolatey, just as buttery but minus the uncooked eggs…woot!
  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup of cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 packet of Marie biscuits
  • 1/2 cup of milk


In the bowl of your mixer whip the butter until fluffy. Turn it off, add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and keep beating until incorporated. Add vanilla and the pinch of salt and keep mixing. Finally add the cream and whip until the chocolate icing is nice and fluffy.


Pour the milk into a bowl (big enough to dip the biscuits in).

Dip the biscuits a few at a time into the milk and lay them into your serving dish. I used a small pyrex dish 10 cm x 15 cm and I needed 6 biscuits to make a single layer.


After the layer of biscuits add a third of the icing mixture, followed by biscuits etc until you finish up with the icing on top.


Place the whole concoction in the fridge for at least 4 hours, this gives the biscuits enough time to soften.

When ready to serve sprinkle with some nuts (for crunch) and serve with vanilla ice cream or cream.



September 13, 2013 · 9:56 pm

Caramel Pudding/ Cheats Creme caramel

This is a really easy and simple pudding that is famous in Lanka. Everyone makes it and everyone loves it. This is Mr Firehouse’s absolute favourite. It’s guaranteed to win me “wifey of the day.”


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • I  can full of water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten

Praline for decoration

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp slivered almonds toasted


In a non-stick pan place the cup of sugar and place on a medium heat. Leave on the heat without stirring until it turns a lovely golden caramel colour. It changes quite quickly so don’t leave it. 

This is the colour you are looking for

Pour the caramel into the base of a small oven proof tin/dish. I’ve used individual ramekins but a small single dish works just as well
While the caramel cools pour the condensed milk into a jug, now fill the empty tin with water and pour that into the same jug. Add the  beaten eggs and vanilla and give the whole mixture a good mix. 
Pour the custard mixture over the caramel (or divide into the ramekins) Place the pudding/puddings in an oven tray and pour enough water into the tray so that it comes up about 1/2 way on your creme caramel dish. Cover the whole tray with aluminium foil and place in the oven.   Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until the mixture trembles lightly in the middle
When cool, run a sharp knife around the edge and up-end on a serving dish.

For the optional  praline

Place the nuts on piece of baking paper in a single layer

Place the sugar in a non stick saucepan and place on a low heat until the sugar turns to caramel. Pour over the nuts and wait till it hardens. Snap the praline into bite-size pieces and enjoy with the creme caramel! 

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Filed under Puddings, Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats


This is a post dedicated to my cousin Ruwanthi who specifically asked for the how-to. I don’t claim to be an expert, only that I have executed the process with some success.  Some, being the operative word. Lavariya as I know it is basically a caramelised coconut wrapped in a string hopper. Great with a cup of good Ceylon tea.


Pani Pol

  • 1 cup. Treacle
  • 1 cardoman pod
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut


  • MDK Stringhopper flour
  • Water


Pani pol

Kithul Treacle – available from good Lankan groceries.
I make my pani-pol by heating the kithul treacle in a pan with the spices.
Once it comes to the boil I simply add the un-sweeted desiccated coconut and stir.

I leave it on the heat for about 10 minutes until the coconut has absorbed the pani and becomes dark and caramelly.


I make my string hoppers the cheats way. That is, I get my mum to send me the MDK flour which you mix with cold water and bam….string hoppers….almost. This stuff is so easy to use and  it makes having string hoppers for dinner really simple.

Simple mix the stringhopper flour with enough water to make a sticky dough. I can’t give you the exact amount because like all doughs, it varies. But here is a picture of the consistenty I got.

I then scoop it into my stringhopper maker and pipe it onto a circle of baking paper.
I place a tea spoon full of the cooled pani-pol mixture onto the string-hopper and use the baking paper to fold, making sure the edges are pressed together.
I then place it on a string-hopper mat and into the steamer for 5 minutes to steam. Yummo!

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Unduwel – Panni Walalu

HP1B6182 Growing up, we had a friend called S. She would visit us in the holidays and pester us to entertain her…apparently it was our duty. She would arrive very early in the morning and wake us up. She would then ask us to make her holidays fun…we were none too impressed. We would have to walk her to the video store and pick up movies that she liked, we had to eat food she approved of and then we had to do the ‘fun’ activities she wanted to do. This story has a happy ending, she grew out of most of her annoyingness and became a very dear friend. When she visited she would always ask my mum to make those “swirly” things, as she called them. What they really were were Panni Walalu or as we called them Unduwel.

Growing up, my cousins and I would crowd around the fire that Yaso nenda (the old family cook) would set up, behind the kitchen, at my grandparents place. We’d sit on our haunches as she expertly poured the fermented dough out of an old pillowcase, with a neatly sewn hole, into a vat of hot oil. When fried, she’d transfer them to a large pot of treacle and then finally out of the treacle into a pot with a lid for storage. My cousins and I would wait for that pivotal moment and then slowly tax the treats one at a time. Sneak them out one at a time until we were thoroughly sick or in trouble with our parents.

My mum is famous for making these and makes them for special family events and for Sinhalese New Year. The original recipe came from a family friend and in typical mum fashion she’s made it her own.

  • 1 cup urid dhal
  • 1 cup fine rice flour
  • 1 bottle (don’t worry you won’t use all of it) kithul treacle
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • oil for deep frying


Rinse and soak the dhal overnight in plenty of water.

In the morning place the drained dhal into a blender or food processor and add just enough water to make it into a smooth paste. We made sure to add the water a little at a time, the object being to make the mixture as thick as possible.

When blended add the 1 cup of fine rice flour, mix and leave in a warm spot to rise for at least 6 hours.You want this mixture to have the consistency of a thick cake or muffin batter. It should hold it’s shape when you spoon it. If it’s coolish, winter weather I will put the oven on a warm setting, cover the dough with a damp cloth and place in there for a short while.

After six hours, heat a frying pan with about 2 inches of oil. In a separate pan warm a cup of kithul treacle, the sugar and salt. You can replace the brown sugar with palm sugar if you have it. Once the sugars have melted turn the heat off. For the purposes of absorption this mixture must be hot but never boiling. I watch the syrup and gently turn the heat on when it’s getting too thick. If it’s too thick the unduwel won’t absorb the sweet syrup.

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with 1/2 cm (about 1/4 inch) nozzle. Pipe the mixture into the hot oil, forming a snail like shape.  I find it’s easiest to go from the outside in. To be honest the shape doesn’t matter so much. I like to keep them about 5-7 cm (2-3 inches) across . My mother tells me my great-grandmother (who taught Yaso) would always make perfect concentric circles, not so for her or I. Perhaps we didn’t inherit that gene.

When it is brown and crispy you pick it up and place it into the hot treacle mixture. The best tool for doing this is a skewer or chopstick. You can thread the unduwel on with out damaging them and they’re perfect for holding over a pan to let the excess syrup drip off.

You can see the hot treacle seeping in. Once it has been sitting there for a couple of minutes move it out of the treacle and onto a plate.
Keeps for a few days in an airtight container  but best eaten hot, fresh and crispy.



Filed under Desserts, Sri Lankan Food, Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats

Passionfruit Marshmallows


I’ve been experimenting with marshmallows lately. It’s something we’ve been making for years in my family according to the classic Doreen Peiris recipe. A simple treat to make and one that made store bought marshmallows pale in comparison.

With our influx of visitors we also have a special treat that is very hard to find in Seattle….tinned pasisonfruit! We have tons of the stuff! It amazing what a difference a bit of passionfruit can make when spooned over a tart or a pav….it tastes of home!

The original recipe goes something like thi

  • 375 g of white sugar
  • 30 g of gelatin
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of pure icing sugar for dusting
  • spray oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Having made this for years I decided to change things up a bit and see if we could flavour these marshmallows.
So here’s my new and improved recipe.


  • 375 g of white sugar
  • 20-30 g of gelatin (I’ll explain later)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of fruit puree (I used passionfruit pulp from a tin, see picture below, I’ve also successfully done rasperry)
  • 1 cup of pure icing sugar for dusting
  • spray oil


Mix together the 1/2 cup of water and puree so you have 1 cup of liquid. If you like passionfruit seeds leave them in, of if you prefer a smoother marshmallow strain them out (Thanks Jill)
Pour the 375g of sugar and 1/2 of the puree/water mix into a saucepan. Place on a low heat and wait for the sugar to dissolve.
Mix together the rest of the liquid and the gelatin and leave to sit for a few minutes. Now I’ve writen 20-30 g for a reason, 20 will still work but give you a softer more pillowy texture, 30 is a firmer more robust texture. I go with 25 or so, especially during the warmer months. I can get away with 20 in the cool Seattle winter.
Once all the sugar has dissolved add the gelatin to the hot sugar syrup.
Mix it all together and bring the gelatin/sugar mixture to the boil. Let it boil for about 30seconds and then turn the heat off.
At this point I pour it straight into my kitchen aid and put it on low. If you’d prefer, leave it to cool for a bout 10-15 minutes.
Now let the mixer run. The mixture will go from a syrup to a frothy meringue, like for a Pavlova. When you lift the mixer up the now opaque mixture should make a ribbon that will dissolve back into the mixture after a few minutes.
When the mixture is ready pour it into a greased, sugared tray.
Leave the mixture to set (room temperature is fine unless it’s a particularly hot Sydney summer) for at least 6 hours.
Once the mixture has set you should be able to pull the mixture out and cut it into whatever shape you like. I place it a on board covered with icing sugar and cut with a sharp knife.
I like to place the icing sugar in a tupperware container and drop the cut marshmallows in there. Once I have a few I give it a good shake. Repeat this until all the marshmallows are coated in icing sugar.

Now enjoy!
Note: These will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.


Filed under Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats