Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Earl Grey Poppy Seed Tea Cakes

Happy 2013, friends!

Looking back at 2012, it was a book-signing, NYC-visiting, Etsy-ingwedding-cake-baking, kind of year. And although last year will be hard to beat, the coming year is wholly welcomed with open arms.  I just love a good fresh start, don't you?

This year's posting starts off with fancy little Earl Grey Tea Cakes all decked out in silver stenciling. Emphasizing differences in appearance and flavor is one of my favorite things to do with dessert, and the midnight black covering on these cakes is a definite contrast to the bright-tasting, fruity interior.

I adapted the cake recipe from my favorite sponge roll.  Loose-leaf Earl Grey tea and poppy seeds are ground together with granulated sugar in a food processor, and then the mixture is gradually added to the cake batter as it whips.  Even more tea flavor is imparted by the Earl Grey simple syrup that gets generously brushed over the cut-out cake circles. The filling is simple buttercream flavored with orange and lemon zest.

The silver designs were made using plastic stencils and edible silver luster dust. The stencils I used are not specified for cakes but they are made of non-toxic plastic, which I think is important to look for if venturing outside of the cake decorating aisle for stencils. Also, you should use a dedicated paint brush for your culinary artworks (yes, I'm preaching from the SprinkleBakes bible book!).

All my best to you in the coming year! 


Earl Grey Poppy Seed Tea Cakes
Yield: four 3-inch cakes
[click for printable recipe]

This recipe requires four 1.75 x 3-inch pastry rings.  One cake is a very generous single serving  (and could probably serve 2).  They have a bright, fruity flavor that I liken to Froot-Loops cereal (no kidding! -or maybe I’m just weird). The extra step of covering them in black fondant and decorating with luster dust is not necessary, but it sure makes them pretty.

3/4 cup extra-fine granulated sugar
1/4 cup loose-leaf Earl Grey tea
2 tbsp. poppy seed
4 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 drop black food coloring (*optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 11x14-inch jelly-roll pan with white vegetable shortening and line with parchment; grease parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine sugar, tea leaves and poppy seed.  Process for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture looks well ground and is very fragrant.
  3. In a large bowl, beat eggs with a mixer for 5 full minutes (I suggest setting a timer).  Properly whipped eggs will lighten in color considerably and have the appearance of yellow cake batter.
  4. With the mixer still running, slowly add sugar mixture and oil to the whipped eggs.  Next, add buttermilk, and vanilla extract and food coloring, if using.
  5. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Slowly add to the liquid ingredients.  Mix until well combined.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and tilt pan to distribute batter evenly.
  7. Sprinkle a cotton tea towel with powdered sugar and rub sugar into the towel with your hands
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Check at 12 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back when pressed with fingers. 
  9. Turn cake out onto the powdered tea towel.  Dust surface with powdered sugar.  Let cool completely.
  10. Use 3-inch pastry rings to cut out 12 cake circles.  Set aside.
Earl Grey simple syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 Earl Grey teabags
  1. Stir together sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a bubble. Stir to make sure all the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and place the teabags in the hot sugar syrup to steep.  Infuse for 5-7 minutes, then remove and discard tea bags.  Set aside to cool.
Tip: You may have leftover syrup after assembling the cakes Store unused syrup in the 'fridge and use it to sweeten your tea!

Zesty citrus buttercream:
1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar - the finest you can find (usually 10x)
1 tsp.  clear orange extract
Juice of 1 small lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
Zest of 1 small lemon
* Milk or heavy cream, optional
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners’ sugar.  Begin mixing on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add orange extract and lemon juice; beat again for another minute until light and fluffy.  Add zests and mix on lowest setting until evenly dispersed.  Transfer to a piping bag or zip-top bag with the end snipped (no decorator tip necessary)
*Note: If you find the buttercream is too stiff, you may add milk or heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is piping consistency.

Assembly and decoration:
1 1/3 cup ready-made black vanilla rolled fondant
Silver luster dust
Small cup of water
Culinary stencil or other plastic non-toxic craft stencil
Small soft-hair artist’s brush
  1. Place 1 cake circle in each of the four pastry rings; brush cakes liberally with Earl Grey syrup (if you don’t have a pastry brush, you can drizzle two tablespoons of syrup over the cake).  Pipe in a layer of buttercream and top with another cake circle; press cake circles down into the buttercream to create an even layer.  Brush cake circle with syrup and add another buttercream layer.  Top with remaining cake circle and press  it down so that it is level with the top of the pastry ring.  Brush with syrup. 
  2. Chill cakes in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Press cakes out of the molds from the top onto a baking sheet.
  3. Lightly grease a work surface with white vegetable shortening.  Knead and roll out a 1/3 cup piece of black fondant.  Lift piece with a rolling pin (or your hands – it’s small enough) and drape over a cake. Smooth fondant down and around the cake and trim the excess with a sharp knife.  Repeat process with remaining cakes.  Place a stencil on top of each cake.
  4. Tap out a little silver luster dust onto a clean plate.  Dip the paintbrush into water and then into the luster dust; work it into a paint-like paste on the plate with the brush.  Repeat dipping/working until your brush is loaded with luster dust “paint”.  Gently apply in even strokes over the stencil.  Carefully lift stencil to reveal the design.
Roll out a piece of fondant to practice your stenciling.
The stencils I used had a lightly adhesive backing.  I coated the sticky side with vegetable shortening and then wiped most of it off with a paper towel. This took enough of the stickiness away so that it would not damage the fondant’s surface. If you use the same brand of stenciling that I did (below), be sure to use this method and test the stickiness on a test piece of fondant before applying to the cakes.



Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

This is absolutely gorgeous!

Amanda said...

beautiful! as always!

Leslie said...

These are just stunning.I love the contrasting colors!!!!

Alex said...

Absolutely beautiful.......

Maggie @ A Bitchin Kitchen said...

These are too gorgeous to even eat!

sinsationscakes said...

Beautiful! Love black and silver together.

Olga P said...

This is a piece of art!

Anonymous said...

Wow - so lovely!

Aikko said...

Hi Heather, stunning work as always :) Just wanted to ask, are those special cupcake liners you used? - Aikko

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

So elegant and classy! I love those cakes.



Monica Williams said...

They're tiny little art pieces! I love them and I BET they taste deeeelicious! I love earl grey. Happy New Year to you too friend! said...

These look so pretty! I got some luster for christmas so will be giving these a go.

macus! said...


cookies and cups said...

How do you do it, I mean honestly...HOW?

Annie @ Annie's Noms said...

So beautiful! I'd be too scared to eat them!

Annie @ Annie's City Kitchen said...

I would honestly buy a coffee table book full of only photos from your blog. So in love.

Becca said...

I do not like tea. My grandma made me drink tea once and it tasted like gross water. But if it's true that this cake tastes like Fruit Loops then I will have to try it, despite my distaste for tea.

These are beautiful cakes by the way :)

Happy New Year!

lovelife said...

Oh those little cakes look too delicious!

Happy new year to you, too!


Colleen said...

Absolutely Stunning little desserts and your photos are really outstanding

Megans Cookin said...

Simply stunning.

Colette Just for Foodies said...

Aaalmost too pretty to eat. ;)

Natasha said...

These are too pretty to eat! Love the photos.

vanillasugarblog said...

earl grey is nice to bake with.
now i want a cup of tea at this hour but i can't yet because of my tooth.
do you know when i can eat solid food again, I am so having a giant steak with béarnaise sauce. oh yeah

Cassie | Bake Your Day said...

What a great way to flavor a cake. And these are stunning, Heather!

Sally - only gluten free baking said...

Wow these look outstanding, you are very talented. This is the second perfectly layered cake I've drooled over today. Happy New Year.

The Squishy Monster said...

I want to pick one up an dramatically bite into one of these babies..they stimulate that sort of reaction =)

Sue said...

You started 2013 out with a bang! These are stunning, Heather! I love a fresh start too:)

Anonymous said...

These are gorgeous! (I'm a tea drinker, but HATE Earl Grey; it tastes like perfume to me!)

Fabelicious @Make Fabulous Cakes said...

I love Earl grey tea and I'm dying to try one of these! Fantastic idea and pictures! Happy New Year to you too and a great start to the year!

Natalie said...

These are so pretty and I love Earl Grey, these must taste amazing.

Anonymous said...

Would I store these in the fridge or pantry? How long before a party would I want to make them?

SprinkleBakes said...

You can store the uncovered (naked?) cakes in the refrigerator overnight, but once they are covered with fondant they should be left out at room temperature. Some people say you can refrigerate fondant-covered cakes, but in my experience condensation collects on the fondant and it looks - well, bad. You can make them - fondant and all - one day ahead of time. I wouldn't leave them out at room temperature any longer than that.

Needful Things said...

Not only are these beautiful ... I can just taste the earl grey sponge with the citrus buttercream .. delicious. What a great way to ring in the new year. Happy 2013!

phaereyfarm said...

Is there anything that can work like fondant for the outside? We don't like the taste/texture of fondant... Thanks!

Heather Adamson said...

Cannot wait to try these! doubt they will turn out as well though!

Bernadette @ Now Stir It Up said...

These are so elegant looking. It is so hard to find a recipe for cakes with tea in them. Thanks!!

Alice L. said...

Question! Heather, can you make any suggestions for variations that don't involve a jelly roll pan? Can these be made into cupcakes, for example? Thanks! :)

Rachel said...

wow! you are so fabulous at what you do! beautiful work.

Braydon said...

yummy watery mouth by seeing the tea cake. all blog post are awesome. i love the cup cake.
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Lora said...

These are simply stunning. I love the Earl Grey double whammy using the ground tea and the syrup. Genius.

little random happiness said...

Everything you make is so beautiful and inspiring!

Anonymous said...

I just made as a cupcake with the buttercream frosting - used fresh squeezed orange instead of orange extract which worked just fine - and they were great! Don't overbake, they get dry and chewy.

Alyssa B said...

These are classy looking cakes! haha.
I've always wanted to make mini cakes but never thought of baking the cake in a jellyroll pan and then cutting out the layers. I'm inspired to make mini cakes in other shapes using your technique. Thanks!

jane said...


Do the ingredients for this fit into one 9" pan?

SprinkleBakes said...

No, the sponge cake is baked in an 11x14 pan - does this answer your question?


mae anderson said...

So beautiful! And these cakes look delicious too. Oh! How I wish I know how to bake beautiful cakes like these. I really love it.

Debbie said...

I was unable to find loose I bought tons of tea bags. Do you know what the conversion might be, substituting the teabag tea for the loose tea? Making these for a bridal shower.

Heather Baird said...

Hi Debbie! It should be about the same. If it's ground really fine when you open the bag, reduce the amount to 2 tablespoons for the cake.

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