When I'm in need of a caffeine boost, I usually reach for tea rather than coffee. My tea of choice is usually plain ol' English Breakfast, no matter the time of day. I rarely drink Earl Grey, but I really like the floral qualities in this fragrant cupcake. Earl Grey's distinctive flavour comes from bergamot orange rind which translates surprisingly well in baked goods.
The recipe I used comes from the quaintly named Hummingbird Bakery in London. The tea flavour is fairly light in the cake so I'd recommend infusing two extra tea bags in the milk overnight before using it. Cold infusing the tea gives a better, stronger flavour in the batter.
I improvised the Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting here since I couldn't find an official recipe. I stuck with the Earl Grey theme, but a zesty citrus frosting would be great too. In addition to steeped tea, there are tea leaves in the buttercream (which, truth be told, don't add that much more to the flavour). They're very finely ground so that they don't interfere with the silky smooth texture of the buttercream. I think the Earl Grey flavour definitely comes through in the frosting more than in the cake.
Recipe after the jump!
Earl Grey Cupcakes (Original Hummingbird Bakery recipe)
Makes 12-16 cupcakes
For the sponge:
3 Earl Grey teabags
3tbsp just-boiled water
80g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
280g (10 oz) caster sugar
240g (8 ½ oz) plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
200ml (7fl oz) whole milk
2 large eggs
For the frosting:
50ml (1 ¾ fl oz) whole milk
500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar
160g (5 ½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
One or two 12-hole deep muffin tins
Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5, and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.
Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.
Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.
Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife.
Recipe source: The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days Book
Earl Grey Swiss Meringue ButtercreamMakes 3 to 3.5 cups
4 large egg whites at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 Earl Grey tea bags
Whisk together egg whites, sugar, water and cream of tartar in a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Set in a wide, deep skillet filled about 1 inch deep with water. Make sure the water is at least as high as the depth of egg whites in the skillet. Beat the egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until it reaches 140 degrees F. Then, beat on high speed until mixture reaches 160 degrees, 2 to 4 minutes.
Remove bowl from skillet, add vanilla, and beat for 3-5 minutes to cool. The mixture should hold glossy marshmallow-y peaks. In another bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in large dollops of meringue into the butter until it is all combined. Beat until smooth and fluffy.
Open one tea bag and finely grind the tea leaves. Soak the other tea bag in 2 tablespoons of hot water for 5 minutes. Squeeze the tea bag into frosting and beat in ground tea leaves.
Store frosted cake for at most 2 days at cool room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 6 days or freeze for up to 6 months. If the frosting curdles, melt about 1/4 of it, add back to the mixture and rebeat it.