A quest for gastro-liberation, an excuse to buy more cookbooks…

Guess who’s coming to tea?

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Not the tiger…

Or Sidney Poitier…


Readers, raise a cup and saucer to Earl Grey.


The Earl has a special place in my heart, the delicate floral notes overlaid with citrus and bergamot. (On a tea connoisseur tip (a PG tip, perhaps?) the best Earl Grey I’ve ever had is the variety with dried cornflowers included).  As far as I’m concerned, Earl Grey is a basic human right at afternoon teas so what could be a more natural pairing that Earl Grey flavoured cake?

I’d previously dabbled in using Earl Grey in baking by adapting Nigella Lawson’s orange breakfast muffins by infusing the milk with Earl Grey. However, I only used one teabag and I found that the orange overpowered our delicate Earl.

So, when it came time for Carly’s birthday, the Belles of the Library Office started speculating on what delectable treats to make for an office tea party. Knowing that Carly is a lady of impeccable tastes and a fan of Earl Grey, I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to experiment with Earl Grey cupcakes.

On initial research of existing recipes there seem to be two methods of flavouring your batter with Earl Grey: adding in raw tea leaves from the bag or infusing milk with the tea and adding to the batter. I’m not a girl to shy away from flavour so I decided to go the whole hog and go for both options.

I adapted a standard vanilla cupcake recipe and added lemon buttercream to reflect the citrus notes in Earl Grey. If you want to follow through with the more aromatic and floral notes, rosewater flavoured icing or buttercream would certainly not be frowned upon.


The Earl’s Best Birthday Cupcakes

adapted from Prima Online



yields 36 fairy cakes or 12 US size cupcakes



125g softened unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

2 large eggs

150g self-raising flour

125g plain flour

150ml semi-skimmed milk

5 Earl Grey teabags


buttercream icing

80g softened unsalted butter

250g icing sugar

25ml semi-skimmed milk

zest of 1 lemon

yellow food colouring (optional)


Preheat your oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Pour the milk into a pan and add four teabags, heat very gently and leave to infuse. Cream the softened butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fully combined and fluffy. Add the eggs individually, mixing thoroughly each time.

Meanwhile, sift the plain and self-raising flour together into another bowl. Tear open your remaining teabag and add the contents to the dry ingredients mixture.

Remove your teabags from the milk and put to one side. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and combine. Add a third of the Earl Grey infused milk and continue mixing to create a smooth batter. Repeat until the dry ingredients and milk are all combined.

Line your cupcake tin with paper cases and fill the cases about one-third full with the batter. If you are making fairy-cake sized cupcakes, these will need 8-10 minutes, larger cupcakes will need closer to 15-20 minutes. The tops should be firm to the touch but not golden yet. Bear in mind that they will continue to cook with residual heat once they are taken out of the oven! Leave to cool whilst you prepare the buttercream.

In a clean bowl, cream together the icing sugar and softened butter (if you are using an electric handwhisk, remember to set it on the lowest setting lest you end up doing a George Clooney/silver fox impression). When combined into a powdery and buttery drift, slowly add in your milk and keep whisking until it puffs up into a sugary cloud. At this point, you can add in your lemon zest and food colouring and ice your cooled buns (ooh matron, etc.) I decorated with periwinkle blue and white Pearl Swirls (available in most supermarkets). Enjoy with the Earl (who else?)

Note: If you choose to make the rosewater icing, you can either make a simple glace icing (100g icing sugar to 1 tablespoon of rosewater). If you are like me and adore the dreamy swirls of buttercream atop a cupcake, substitute some of the milk for rosewater and add a drop of pink food colouring. (By no means make the same mistake as I did and add the rosewater as an afterthought – the mixture will curdle and look thoroughly unpleasant!)





Author: Hong-Anh

Climb aboard the Good Ship Gastrobabble as we voyage upon the unchartered waters of my neglected cookbook library (and muddle my metaphors faster than a KitchenAid on full-speed).

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