Happy 2013, friends!
Looking back at 2012, it was a book-signing, NYC-visiting, Etsy-ing, wedding-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
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
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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11×14-inch jelly-roll pan with white
vegetable shortening and line with parchment; grease parchment paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to the liquid
ingredients. Mix until well combined.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and tilt pan to distribute batter evenly.
- Sprinkle a cotton tea towel with powdered sugar and rub sugar into the towel
with your hands
- Bake for 12-15 minutes. Check at 12 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back
when pressed with fingers.
- Turn cake out onto the powdered tea towel.
Dust surface with powdered sugar.
Let cool completely.
- 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
- 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
2 cups confectioners’ sugar – the finest you can find
1 tsp. clear
Juice of 1 small lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
Zest of 1 small lemon
* Milk or heavy cream, optional
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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.
- Chill cakes in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Press cakes out of the molds from the top onto a baking sheet.
- 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.
- 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.