Category: Sri Lanka

A Peacock Cake & The Gala At Yala Part 1

It was recently the fussiest eater in the world’s birthday and I made him a peacock cake!

Peacock Cake1
Isn’t it adorable?  Even if I do say so myself!  And for the non-bakers out there it is all assembly, no baking involved, unless of course you want to bake the cake yourself.

But more about our little peacock friend later. The peacock was a special symbol for us as it reminded us of the time we spent at The Yala National Park when we were in Sri Lanka earlier this year...OMG…last year! 

The National Park at Yala is a huge tract of land at the Southern tip of Sri Lanka that is home to a myriad of wild life.  It is situated in leopard country and whilst we did two Safaris hoping to see one of these magnificent creatures, we were unlucky both times….or were we?  Whilst we did not spot a leopard (pun intended) we saw so many other wild animals, living in their natural habitat that I felt utterly privileged to have been there.

Here was Mr Peacock:

Yala - Peacock2There were monkeys galore:

Yala - MonkeySloth Bears:

Yala - Sloth BearSome jackals playing:

Yala - Jackals PlayingA crocodile, most definitely not playing:

Yala - CrocodileAnd a huge amount of elephants – my favourite part was when we saw two older female elephants and a cub walk down to a pond to have a bath and a drink:

Yala - Mummy and Baby Elephants BathingThen the baby decided to have a little roll in the water:

Baby Elephant SwimmingAfterwards, they came right up to us, crossing just behind the jeep we were in.

Yala - Mummy and Baby Elephants BathingThen there was this little one who decided to head off on his own:

Yala - Baby Elephant BathingThe closest we got to the elusive leopard was these tracks:

Yala - Leopard Prints

On a more sombre note, there is also a monument to the people who lost their life at Yala in the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. 

Yala - MonumentI could go on about Yala all day and have thousands more photos of all the animals and all the birds but we have a Peacock Cake to talk about!

The recipe comes direct from the Women’s Weekly Cheat’s Cakes 2. The idea behind these books is that you can buy a cake and then just decorate it instead of having to factor in baking as well. Obviously the cover caught my eye but there are many more treasures to trove in these pages!

Women's Weekly Cheat's Cake 2

Hmm…I don’t think I did too bad a job!

Peacock Cake2I made the cake for the peacock’s body because there was a random box of cake mix in my pantry. But you could totally use a bought cake.  The Women’s Weekly provides a template for the body.  I copied it onto a sheet of paper, enlarging it a bit as it was really quite small and I wanted to use up as much of my cake as possible.

Peacock Cake2One of advantage of cutting around a template is that if a bit of cake “falls” off as you are cutting around it doesn’t really matter and you can have a little taste test as you work.  You can call it being greedy if you must.  I prefer Quality Assurance.

I used the tip of an ice cream cone for my peacock’s beak.  A black jube, topped by a piece of white jelly bean topped by the end piece of a black jelly bean made his eye, with a swoop of licorice creating his cat’s eye.

Peacock Cake Peacock

And you will need something to fortify you because threading all those lollies onto the skewers takes a long time.

Peacock Cake Tail FeathersIf making the Peacock Cake for a children’s party you can place more tail feathers in a glass by the side of the cake if you need too.  Just be sure to remove the lollies from the skewers before handing them out.  

Here’s the recipe for the Peacock Cake, straight from the book.  I had to deviate from some of the sweets suggested because I could not find them – use what you have and let your creative juices flow!!!

Peacock Cake RecipeThis is so fun and colourful and would be a great party cake for a child of any age.  If you want to make it and would like a copy of the template, let me know. 

Peacock Cake3

 Have a wonderful week.  I hope it’s full of pomp and pageantry.  For me, today is the return to work after the Christmas break which is going to be tough!  Back to the dreaded alarm and early mornings.  On the upside, tonight I am seeing one of my food heroes, Nigella Lawson, live in conversation at the Melbourne Town Hall – it should be A-MAZING!

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Nuwara Eliya & A Tea Punch Cocktail

If you were looking to write a Gothic novel, your first choice of location would most likely not be tropical Sri Lanka.  Because the tropes of Gothic novels include storms, rain, mist and fog and Sri Lanka is all sunshine, white sand, blue water and palm trees right?

Wrong, so wrong.  Welcome to Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya WeatherSituated “up country” Nuwara Eliya is about as far away most people’s idea of a “tropical” country as you can get.  This is a famous tea growing district  – all of the bushes you can see in the photo above are tea plants.  We were there for three days and the weather was like this the entire time, all low swirling clouds, fog, mist and rain. 

As we climbed higher and higher into the hills, the weather changed from hot and sunny, to cold and gloomy.  It was as if you were entering a different, very isolated world – even though the nearest town was only a few kilometers away and you could usually get a decent wifi signal. 

As well as the weather, a good Gothic novel should be set in a (preferably haunted) old mansion or manor house.  Nuwara Eliya is nicknamed Little England and The Hill Club, where we stayed,  would not look out of place on the Yorkshire Moors. 

Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya

I’ve read enough Agatha Christie and watched enough episodes of Midsomer Murders to know that the English Manor house is actually a hot bed of murder and sexual intrigue.  If it’s not a pyromaniac mad woman in the attic, it’s something nasty in the woodshed!  

Hill Club3The Hill Club may well be the one place where the sun hasn’t set on the British Empire.  Staying there is like taking a step back in time.  I suspect that not even in Britain today are there many hotels where one wall in the bar is adorned with a large portrait of the Queen and another with an equally large photo of Winston Churchill.  And this is not someone’s idea of a decorating a hotel with some kitschy memorabilia from the days of Empire.  This is a Hotel from the days of Empire.  Actually, sorry, not a hotel at all.  A gentlemen’s club.

Hill Club
The olde-worlde atmosphere only contributed to the feeling that you had somehow strayed into either some sort of time slip stream or parallel universe.  I would not have been entirely surprised to wake and find myself back the 1940’s or to see a ghostly figure roaming the halls. Speaking of which, there was also a long corridor which could have come direct out of The Shining:

Hallway CollageAdd to this some flickering lights and power outages caused by the storm and you have almost the perfect place to gather around the fire in the reading room either to read your favourite Gothic novel by candlelight or to see who can make up the spookiest story.  Who knows, it may even be the next Frankenstein!

Hill Club4But telling ghost stories can be thirsty work, so whilst you are doing that you need the perfect libation to not only wet your whistle but give you some Dutch courage in the event that a large hound starts baying outside or the tap, tap, tapping on the window turns out not to be a tree branch but your dead lover come to woo you from the grave. 

All of which, after the longest intro, ever means, I made us a cocktail. 

Tea Punch Cocktail I wanted to make something with tea to highlight the wonderful produce from Nuwara Eliya. And, in a wonderful piece of serendipity, the very next chapter of The A-Z of Cooking contained a recipe for a tea punch. (Yes, we are still only up to D – Dips and Drinks). 

Tea Punch Cocktail 2

Sadly, the Tea Punch in The A-Z of Cooking was non-alcoholic.  So, I boozed it up.  Because in my mind, a punch needs to have a little punch if you know what I mean. 

My only dilemma with this was what to use as the “spike” for my tea.  Absinthe would have been the Byronesque choice however I can’t bear the taste of it nor the big shirts with frilly collars. 

Tea Punch Cocktail 4

Arrack was my next choice because I brought a bottle home with me, but that would be no fun for any of you.  Arrack is a Sri Lankan spirit made from toddy, which is the fermented juice from a coconut palm. 

Tea Punch Cocktail 5

I then found this wonderful article in Gothicked which confirmed not only spiked tea as a Gothic drink of choice but also whiskey.  I still had some Jameson’s from when I made the Emerald Presse so I used that.

The original recipe called for Orange Bitters, I had Rhubarb Bitters so I used them instead. 

Whether you are in a Gothic Manor house or at home just reading about them,  this is a really nice drink –  the combination of the tea, whiskey and ginger give it a dark, smokey flavour whilst the peach and orange adds some sweetness and a lovely bright tropical colour!

If you are a reader and you were interested in learning a bit more about Sri Lanka, particularly the civil war that tore that beautiful country apart in the ’80’s and ’90’s you might want to take a look at this book:


  I read it when we were there which made the story that much more real, particularly as completely by chance we stayed at two of the places, Mount Lavinia and Havelock Town which feature in the book. 

And if anyone is inspired by this post to write a spooky Gothic tale or locked room murder mystery set in Nuwara Eliya, please let me know, I would love to read it!

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Tea Punch Cocktail
A tropical cocktail with a dark heart
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Ingredients
  1. 50ml strong Ceylon tea
  2. 30ml whiskey
  3. 30 ml peach juice
  4. 30 ml orange juice (about 1/2 an orange)
  5. 5 drops Rhubarb Bitters
  6. Dry Ginger Ale
  7. Orange and peach slices to garnish
Instructions
  1. Mix the tea, whiskey and fruit juices.
  2. Top with the dry ginger ale.
  3. Add the bitters and stir to mix.
  4. Garnish with orange and peach slices
Adapted from The A-Z of Cooking
Adapted from The A-Z of Cooking
Retro Food For Modern Times http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/
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