Sweet Tea and Lemonade Cake

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It has been incredibly warm this summer in London. And when you live in a house built in the 1930s that doesn’t have any air conditioning, it makes things heat up pretty quickly. It also makes icing cakes really difficult (as you can see from my terribly runny cake in the picture). But as hot as it gets outside and on the Tube, my office is an absolute icebox and I’m constantly cold – meaning I’m constantly wearing jackets and cardigans. While the Brits might give me awkward looks, it’s still pretty comfortable.

Growing up in Virginia, the summers easily got to be well over 90 or 100 degrees for days on end. Add the humidity to that, and you’re pretty much melting. The plus side? I’ve got a pretty high tolerance for summer heat. So I can get away with wearing a couple light layers while the rest of England starts stripping off as much as decently possible.

As promised, I’ve gotten into baking again, but the interesting bit is that I’m also on a very strict diet pre-wedding (skinny bride! skinny bride!) – so I can’t actually eat any of it. Thank goodness for work colleagues and a fiancé with a seemingly bottomless stomach!

This week’s bake comes from the latest issue of Southern Living magazine, and despite the melty frosting, it went down really well and was pretty simple!  Their recipe called to do it in a single-layer 13 x 9-inch pan, but I did mine in two 8-inch square pans and I think it just helped make it a bit more of a treat, but I’ve put the timings for both!

 

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • shortening (for greasing the pans)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water (about 1/4 litre)
  • 6 standard (or 3 family-size) teabags (I used English Breakfast)
  • 1 cup (226 grams) butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (85 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (550 grams) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
For the frosting:
  • 1 (8-oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (57.5 grams) butter, softened
  • 6 cups (about 500 grams) icing sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease and flour your pans.

2. Pour your boiling water over the tea bags in a large glass bowl (or Pyrex jug) and let them steep for 10 minutes. After that time, remove the tea bags, squeezing the liquid out, and let the brewed tea cool for at least 20 minutes.

3. In your mixer, cream the butter and slowly add in the sugar until everything gets light and fluffy. Add your eggs 1 at a time, beating until just blended after each addition.

4. In a large bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Alternate adding this mixture to your butter mixture with 1 cup of the cooled tea, making sure to begin and end with the flour mixture. Discard the remaining 1/2 cup of tea. Pour batter into your prepared pans, if using more than one pan, make sure you get them even!

5. If using a 13 x 9, bake for 35-40 minutes. If using 2 8-inch pans, I baked mine for 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Either way, your cake is done when your cake tester comes out clean and springs back a bit when you lightly touch it. If doing a layerd cake, remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. If doing the 13 x 9, let the cake cool completely in the pan.

6. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese in your mixer until it starts to become creamy. Gradually add in your icing sugar, beating at low speed to help reduce giant messy sugar clouds. I find covering the mixer with a damp tea towel helps reduce it a bit. Once all your icing sugar is in, beat in the lemon zest and juice – then crank your mixer up to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

To decorate my cake, I used really thin lemon slices. However, they tended to leak some juice out – so you may want to set these out on a paper towel to dry out a bit so that there isn’t as much juice.

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

Living in the UK, I’ve come to learn that the British value their cup of tea. So when I came across this recipe for Earl Grey cupcakes, I had to pay sugary tribute to the afternoon cuppa. My only challenge was converting a vegan recipe to a normal one, but it worked out well. I think my favorite part of the cupcake is the super fresh lemon-y taste from the buttercream, and the hint of tea that starts to work it’s way through your tastebuds as the cupcake melts in your mouth. These cupcakes do not rise very much, but are super soft due to sifting in the dry ingredients, so be sure to fill the cases up to just below the brim.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 Earl Grey teabags
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
For the frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar (sifted)
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375° F (approx 190°C). Place cupcake liners into a the pan.

2. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the milk until just before boiling. Add the tea bags, the orange zest, and the lemon zest; stir and remove from the heat. Cover the pan and let sit for 10 minutes. After that time, remove the tea bags, being sure to squeeze all of the liquid out of them.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and tea mixture until all yogurt lumps disappear. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, in a separate bowl then sift into the wet mixture. Mix until all of the large lumps are gone.

4. Fill each of the cupcake liners with the batter to just below the brim. Bake for 15-20 mins, or until a cake tester comes out clean when pushed through the center. Let rest in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. To make the frosting, cream the butter in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Gradually sift in the icing sugar, scraping the bowl with a spatula in between each addition. Add in the lemon juice and lemon zest, then continue to mix on the high setting until the frosting becomes light and airy.

6. Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and pipe onto the top of the cupcakes.