Some may say I should have opened with the title post, but as any good musical theatre fan will tell you, sometimes the show doesn’t even have a title song (My Fair Lady, Les Miserables…I could go on), but when it does, quite frequently it is not the opening number. Given the natural progression of concepts, I thought it was more appropriate to begin with the Car Bomb Cupcake, which got me into booze cakes in general, then lead you by the hand to the one thing I love more than booze cakes—tea. You may think I thought long and hard about this title, but the truth is, I happened to wake up one morning and think, “You know, it would be really funny if I started a tea and cupcake bar called Tipsy Shades of Earl Grey.” While it wasn’t a totally serious thought at the time, it did get me thinking about how to incorporate both liquor and tea into cupcakes, which was definitely something of a challenge, as I had really only made one tea infused cupcake before (Masala Chai, not Earl Grey). The rules of the challenge were that cupcakes had to include either tea or alcohol, but preferably both, in complimentary combinations. I also decided tisanes, such as Rooibus could be included as tea. Alcohol is exceedingly easy to incorporate, but tea, not so much. Despite being a big tea drinker (I can easily consume several cups a day), most of the tea I drink is flavored, but not necessarily flavors that are as classic as Earl Grey, or Masala Chai.
One would think my first creation along these lines would have been the classic Earl Grey cake, but instead, I was thinking more along the lines of something fit for a graduation celebration, and thus came up with a champagne cake with a champagne and rosewater infused strawberry filling, topped with white chocolate mousse, and champagne syrup. I did in fact make that cake, but the recipe definitely needs to be tweaked before I can share my secrets, so I’ll just leave you with this picture for the time being. (The folly of using an iPhone was that I had a better picture earlier on in the day, which didn’t save, so I hastily snapped new pictures of all the cupcakes I made that day with fading light, and unkempt wrappers).
And now, what I know you have all been waiting for: The Tipsy Shades of Earl Grey cupcake. This cupcake is so steeped in pop culture—from the popular literary reference, to food worlds new obsession with infusing Earl Grey tea into everything—I should probably change its name to the PopCulture Cake (the earl of pop culture?) While it isn’t the booziest cake I’ve ever made, far from it in fact, it has a really unique flavor profile. The cake has beautifully moist, but light crumb, and a slightly citrusy flavor with complex undertone from the intense blend of tea that I used. Due to time constraints, the first time I made the Earl, I settled for just brushing the top of the cake with some Grand Marinier, but really, I wanted to make a Grand Marinier infused custard to inject into the center of the cake. From there, I dipped each cupcake in a rich, Earl Grey infused chocolate ganache. To be perfectly honest, the first time I saw Earl Grey chocolate, I was definitely a little skeptical about how the flavors would compliment each other. I bought it as a gift for my stepmom’s birthday because two of her favorite things are Earl Grey tea and chocolate, and this was a neat little package that was too hard to resist. Luckily for us, it was quite tasty, and she enjoyed the chocolate a lot, so I had a good feeling that repeating the combination on a cupcake would go over well.
What is Earl Grey tea anyway? It is not in fact a specific variety of camellia sinensis, the plant that tea leaves come from. It is simply black tea flavored either with bergamot oil. According to the incredibly reliable Wikipedia, one may also find such delights as “Lady Grey” tea—which includes either lavender or Seville orange peel in addition to the bergamot, “French Earl Grey” which includes rose petals, and “Russian Earl Grey” which includes either more citrus peels, or lemongrass in addition to the bergamot. Given the preponderance of rather complicated tea flavors nowadays, Earl Grey is quite simple, but also exceedingly delicious. (I just wanted to point out, I feel like the register of language I’m using became way more elevated once I started discussing the tea. Clearly my brain correctly associates “tea” and “Earl” with British aristocracy and an elevated form of English).
Earl Grey cupcake (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World):
- 1 c non dairy milk
- 4 Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tbsp loose leaf Earl Grey tea
- 1/4 c canola oil
- 1/2 c vanilla or plain non dairy yogurt (just don’t use the new Greek style yogurts. They are much harder to work with.)
- 3/4 c granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 c all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Heat non dairy milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling. Add tea, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes, then squeeze the tea to remove as much liquid (and flavor) as possible. Discard the tea. Measure the milk mixture and add some more if it is less than 1 cup. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, yogurt, sugar vanilla, and tea mixture until all yogurt lumps disappear. Yogurt tip: if you buy the individual serving cartons, which are usually 6 oz, just dump it in with out measuring, but don’t scrape out the container! It’s much easier than actually measuring out 1/2 a cup but you end up with the same amount.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zests into the wet ingredients and mix until the large cupcakes disappear; some small lumps are ok. Fill tins full, and bake about 20 to 22 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely, then brush with Grand Marinier
Earl Grey Ganache:
- 1/4 c coconut cream (full fat coconut milk works just as well. The cream is just what solidifies at the top of the full fat coconut milk can)
- 1 Earl Grey tea bag or 2 tsp loose leaf Earl Grey
- 1/2 c semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine, as is a bar that has been chopped up)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
Heat the coconut milk in small saucepan until almost boiling. Add the tea, remove from heat, and let sit for about 7 minutes. Squeeze the leaves to extract excess liquid and thus infuse more flavor into the milk. Add the chocolate and maple syrup and stir until smooth. Let cool slightly, then dip the top of each cupcake into the ganache, and let cool until set. Garnish with twists of lemon and orange zest (there are zesters that will take tiny strips off for you, or you can use a vegetable peeler to take of large strips and use a pairing knife to turn them into tiny strips).
If you wanted to fill the cupcake with a Grand Marinier pudding (not giving a recipe since I haven’t actually made this yet), you could leave off the Grand Marinier that’s brushed on top of the cupcake. Or not, if you want to up to booze factor just a little bit.