Earl Grey Tea Cakes, Homemade Lemon Curd and Vanilla Bean Frosting!

Wow its been a week! I haven't posted a recipe in a few weeks, mostly due to the fact that Spring semester has started and I needed some time to get my school legs under me again. Its still very much a whirlwind, but I am starting to get into a bit of a routine now, so that's a plus! As a little break from the chaos, we got a chance to celebrate Tommy's birthday this month. It has become our little tradition for Tommy to select 2 or 3 unusual cakes each year, which I then choose from and make as a surprise! He enjoys the unique flavors and I enjoy the chance to really test my baking skills. This year he picked Pistachio Vanilla, Cannoli cake and these delightful Earl Grey goodies. It was a difficult choice, but I was intrigued by the idea of baking with tea.  My curiosity paid off because these little treats are absolutely delicious! Prior to this recipe I had no experience baking with Earl Grey before and was unsure of how its strong Bergamot taste would affect the flavor. To our delight, we found that once baked, Earl Grey transforms into a very delicate flavor not unlike what one might expect from a Chamomile tea. The flavor is gentle enough that I would not hesitate to suggest these cupcakes for anyone, even those who may not like tea. If you prefer a stronger flavor, simply increase the amount of Earl Grey in the recipe.

Now I do want to let you know, this recipe has a lot of moving parts, but you should not be intimidated. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot replicate these cupcakes in your own kitchen, no matter how small or unequipped. Just read through the directions, take a deep breath and go with the flow. There are three main components of this recipe, which are the cupcake, the lemon curd and the vanilla bean frosting. The cupcake, as mentioned above, can be customized to your desired flavor preference.The lemon curd can be a bit fickle, but not if you take it slow. While it is suggested that you make it using a double boiler, I myself do not possess one and have made it quite successfully using a simple heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. As long as the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, and you heat slowly, it should go off without a hitch!

The third and final component is the frosting. I used Madagascar Vanilla Bean in this recipe, but that can be expensive and is really not necessary. In fact, having little experience with vanilla beans, I found the whole process of splitting the bean and scooping out the tiny seeds very tedious and frustrating. Unless you adore the taste of vanilla bean, you could probably skip that part. Also, the frosting very stiff  intentionally so that it would pipe well, BUT I did find this to be a bit sweet so if you are not planning on piping it, I would reduce the sugar by about a cup. Additionally, before we get to the details of the recipe, I must give credit where credit is due! Although I made some modifications to the cupcake recipe, and the combination itself is unique, I did use the following blogs for their recipes and support: FoodEqualsHappyMe, WickedGoodKitchen and RoseBakes. They have some awesome recipes as well- so please check them out! Now that's settled, lets head to the recipe!

Earl Grey Tea Cakes, Lemon Curd and Vanilla Bean Frosting
Recipes modified and adapted from  Foodequalshappyme.com, WickedGoodKitchen and Rosebakes

Ingredients for Earl Grey Cupcakes:
1 cup buttermilk (OR 1 cup milk plus 2 tbsp lemon juice)
5 bags of earl grey tea
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup of salted butter, softened
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2 cups raw sugar (or granulated, if you prefer)

Ingredients for Lemon Curd:
 8 egg yolks
4 lemons, plus skin for zesting
1 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 (1/2 cup) salted butter, cut into chunks

Ingredients for Vanilla Bean Frosting:
3-4 cups powdered sugar 
4 tbsp milk
1 Madagascar Vanilla Bean
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions for Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners
  2. Pour the buttermilk in the the saucepan and add 4 bags of Earl Grey tea, slowly heat to a low simmer and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. Then set aside to cool
  3. While the tea is brewing, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl, set aside
  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar on high, for 3-5 minutes, until very light and fluffy
  5. Add eggs, egg yolk and vanilla and continue to beat for another 2-3 minutes until fully incorporated
  6. Mix in buttermilk/tea and flour mixture in alternating movements, until just combined. 
  7. Finally, open the remaining bag of Earl Grey and pour into the batter, fold in until thoroughly incorporated
  8. Using a spoon, pour batter into cupcake liners until about 3/4 of the way full. Place pan in oven and set timer for 20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean, or when the cupcake "springs back" to the touch. Set aside to cool
Directions for Lemon Curd
  1. In a heat-proof bowl, beat together sugar and egg yolks until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Squeeze the juice out of the lemons and add to the bowl, beating again for about 1 minute
  3. Fill a medium saucepan with 1-2 inches of water, and set on low heat. Place the heatproof bowl over top, making sure that the bowl does not touch the water.
  4. While stirring frequently, begin slowly heating the  mixture, raising the temperature as needed until the water beneath the bowl is simmering, but not boiling.  
  5. After about 15 minutes, you should begin to see the mixture thickening to a consistency not unlike boxed pudding before its refrigerated. At this point, it should coat the back of the spoon and form a soft peak for a few moments if drizzled on the surface. If you see no thickening after 15 minutes, slowly raise the temperature until thickening occurs.
  6. Once the lemon curd begins to thicken, continue stirring over the heat for another 2-3 minutes. Then remove from heat and quickly stir in butter and lemon zest until melted and fully incorporated.
  7.  Place lemon curd in an airtight container, refrigerate and allow to thicken for 1-2 hours, preferably overnight.
Directions for Vanilla Bean Frosting
  1. In a large bowl, cream softened butter and shortening.
  2. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the itty-bitty seeds and add to the bowl, along with the vanilla extract, beat for 1-2 minutes
  3. Begin to add powdered sugar. As mentioned previously, using the entire 4 cups will form a very sweet and very firm frosting, ideal for piping. On the other hand, if you want something to just slather on (no shame in that!) I would recommend going with just 3 cups of sugar
  4. Slowly add in powdered sugar, a little bit at a time. If the mixture becomes too thick add milk as needed.
  5. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Directions for Assembly
  1.  Once the cupcakes have cooled and the lemon curd thickened, you are ready for assembly!
  2.  To fill the cupcakes, select a large piping tip and fill the piping bag with lemon curd. As mentioned previously I think you could also do this by cutting a small tip off the corner of a plastic bag and using a spoon to form a small hole to fill.
  3. Press the piping tip firmly down into the center of the cupcake, almost to the bottom
  4.  begin to gently squeeze the bag while simultaneously lifting upwards. Kind of like this!
  5. Once filled, frost the cupcake with the vanilla bean frosting as desired, or alternatively, use the     M1 Wilton piping tip to decorate!

 Phew, what a recipe, right?! While it looks complicated, I assure you that it is not nearly as difficult as it looks. We really enjoyed these cupcakes and I hope you do too, and honestly, if you have made it this far through the post, absolutely deserve one....or several. Until next time!


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