Earl Grey, Lemon & Lavender Cake

A friend needed help with an earl grey flavoured cake so I made a test cake to see how it'll turn out. Well it was supposed to be a test cake but somehow I ended up making a stacked 9 inch cake, which involved tripling the recipe (now that's a lot of cake batter and frosting).

My buttercream frosting of choice is usually the swiss meringue buttercream. It's simple and I don't have to use a candy thermometer in the process. But the problem with earl grey tea flavoured frosting is that the swiss meringue method won't cut it if you want to be able to actually taste the earl grey tea. So I had to use the Italian meringue method, which involves boiling the sugar in strongly brewed tea. The Italian meringue buttercream can be a tricky thing to master but after a few tries, you'll probably be able to get the hang of it.

Earl Grey, Lemon & Lavender Cupcakes
(makes 12-14 cupcakes)
(triple the recipe for a stacked 9 inch cake)

95g - Butter
155g - Caster Sugar
1 tspn - Vanilla essence
2 - Large eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
1 packet of earl grey tea
1 tspn - lavender
120ml - Milk
170g - Self-raising flour
A pinch of salt

~ Preheat oven to 175°C.
~ Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla extract. Mix well.
~ Add zest of lemons, lavender and tea leaves.
~ Sift the flour and salt. Alternate between additions of flour and milk in thirds, folding till just combined.
~ Fill the cases 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until the inserted toothpick comes out clean).
~ Allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting.


Earl Grey Italian Meringue Buttercream
2 - Large egg whites
124g - Brown/ caster sugar
180g - Butter
½ cup (120ml) - Strongly brewed Earl Grey

*Cut the butter into smaller cubes. It should be at room temperature, but firm enough to hold its shape.

~ Steep tea: Boil water, then measure out 240ml of hot water (100°C). Place at least 6 tea bags into the water and let it steep for 30 minutes. (The tea bags absorb water hence the excess hot water)
~ Place 120ml of this tea and sugar in a saucepan and let it boil on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until it reaches 118°C. 
~ When the syrup reaches 110-114°C, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer till it is stiff but do not over whip otherwise you’ll get dry and grainy whites.
~ With the mixer on medium speed, take the syrup (118°C) off the heat and pour in a thin stream down the side of the mixing bowl. Continue beating on high speed till the bowl has cooled (10 minutes).
~ Add the butter one piece at a time, ensuring that each addition is incorporated completely. Keep beating until the mixture is smooth.
~ Beat in 1-2 tea bags worth of finely ground tea leaves.


Troubleshooting Buttercream
As you add in the butter, the meringue will deflate and may look like a curdled mess. Don't panic or throw out the whole batch of Italian meringue buttercream, but continue beating until you get the desired smooth texture.

If you find that the buttercream is becoming soupy due to the heat/ soft butter, just pop it into the fridge for a while to let it firm up a bit. Then continue beating it.