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Appears in

The Sugar Club Cookbook

By Peter Gordon

Published 1997

  • About

This is a dessert I first made at Rogalsky’s restaurant in Melbourne. I’d been reading through some exotic cookbooks and came across a dish that was described as the ‘national dessert of Ceylon’. Over the years I’ve asked numerous Sri Lankans if this is something they have at all often. Some say yes, others no. Anyway, it’s a fantastically rich and densely flavoured dessert and serving it with mango or papaya helps to cut through that richness - though my advice is to pile on the luxury by including a generous dollop of cream!


  • 500ml (18fl oz) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 teaspoons finely ground green cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground mixed spice
  • 100g (oz) golden syrup (coconut-palm sugar in the original recipe – try an Asian food store and use if you can find it)
  • 5 eggs (please always buy free-range)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla essence
  • 80g (oz) demerara sugar (again, use coconut-palm sugar if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons plain cooking oil
  • 60 unsalted cashew nuts


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Have six 200ml (7 fl oz) ovenproof ramekins ready (ceramic soufflé dishes are ideal). Prepare a bain-marie by half filling a roasting dish with hot water and place it on a sheet in the top third of the oven. Bring the milk, spices and golden syrup to the boil, cover with a lid and put aside in a warm place for 10 minutes. Beat the eggs, vanilla and demerara sugar for 30 seconds and gently whisk the hot milk mixture into them. Oil the ramekins and divide the cashew nuts between them, then pour the custard over the nuts. Place in the bain-marie and bake for 40 minutes.

Test the vattalapam by inserting a wooden skewer; it should come out clean, if a little moist. Let them cool in the ramekins before placing in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set (they will keep for up to four days). Run a knife around the sides and shake gently to remove the dessert. Serve with wedges of fresh tropical fruits.