The London Tea Cupcake

A tender cake, flecked with Earl Grey tea leaves sits under a tart lemon frosting topped with candied lemon peel. This cupcake is as sophisticated and complex as the tea used to make it.

I have to thank my friend, Marc, for this idea. He really inspired me to work and develop a recipe for an Earl Grey Tea cupcake. And this was a recipe with many trials. Incorporating tea effectively into a cupcake was tricky: often the flavor was so delicate that it was difficult to notice. For this recipe, tea is bloomed in hot butter, infusing the fat with Earl Grey flavor. Additionally, vanilla and triple-strength Earl Grey tea are used to round out the flavor profile of the cake. My lemon frosting is finicky; occasionally, I’ve had lemons that just don’t provide a tart enough flavor and using too much lemon juice can make it break. But it’s all worth it when the flavor comes together. Finally, I add candied lemon peel because it provides a contrasting flavor and texture to the cake and frosting. Earl Grey Cupcakes are one of my earliest successes.

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Candied Lemon Peel yield: about 12-15 strips of candied lemon peel

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Heat over medium-low heat to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, cut the lemon in half and juice it, reserving the juice for the tart lemon frosting. Using a small spoon, scoop out the entrails of the lemon, leaving the pith and peel in tact. Slice the peel into strips, about 10-12 per lemon half. Add the lemon peel to the syrup, increase heat, and cook at a constant boil for 8 minutes over medium heat, until the peel is nearly translucent and soft. This shouldn’t take much longer than 8 minutes; just be careful not to cook it too long or you risk cooking it into a weird lemony caramel which – while it may have its uses – has no place here.*

Drain the peel and place on a wire rack. Once cool, roll in sugar. Leave the peel out over night to fully dry.

*Waste not, want not: the lemony syrup that is left over, when combined with an equal amount of lemon or lime juice (or combination thereof) makes for a very delicious, homemade sours mix to use in cocktails


Earl Grey Cupcakes yield: 12 cupcakes

  • 6 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup water

Prepare the Earl Grey butter by melting the butter gently over medium heat. Cut 3 of the Earl Grey tea bags open and pour the leaves into the melting butter. Cook for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl to cool. This can be made in advance; refrigerate until ready to use. However, make sure to use the butter in a melted state.

Prepare extra strength Earl Grey tea by steeping the 3 remaining tea bags in 1/2 cup of hot water. Let it sit and get extra strong.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 oz vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup earl grey butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp extra strong Earl Grey tea

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, combine the yogurt and earl grey butter with the sugar, whisking to combine. Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and extra strong tea. Mix just until homogeneous scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add all of the dry ingredients at once, mixing to combine. Divide batter between cupcake liners (about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake). Bake at 325  for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Tart Lemon Frosting yield: about 3 cups of frosting; enough to frost a dozen cupcakes generously

  • 3/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 tbsp lemon juice

Cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes at medium speed in a stand mixer. Add 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar and 3 tbsp of the lemon juice. Cream until combined, adding another 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar. Taste and adjust using the final tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of sugar as needed. Always finish with confectioner’s sugar to prevent breaking. Frost the cupcakes and top with chopped candied lemon peel.

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