Friday, 27 June 2014

Earl Grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream

12 Earl Grey cupcakes topped with lemon buttercream and decorated with a garden theme

Delicious Earl Grey cupcakes with a subtle lemon buttercream, decorated with a country garden theme.

My manager retired earlier this month and so her leaving party was definitely an opportunity for some special, extra-effort cupcakes. I had to make a Sticky Ginger Cake, as this is my signature bake at work and much loved by my manager. To accompany this, I decided to make Primrose Bakery’s Earl Grey cupcakes, as she is a big fan of Earl Grey tea. The following recipe is my version of these cupcakes – I have made them in the past and found that the tea flavour was rather faint, so I added in an extra tea bag to give them a bit more oomph!

The PB book suggests vanilla buttercream, but I decided to go for a lemon buttercream to give a bit of gentle zing to the cakes – and I feel that lemon works really well with the tea flavour. The lemon buttercream recipe below is a bit more subtle than the one I generally use – as I didn’t want to overwhelm the tea flavour, so I added a bit of milk rather than all lemon juice to the mix.

As my manager is a keen gardener, I decided on a gardening theme. I flicked through Pinterest for some inspiration and then sketched out my design. I decided on the simple dirt path, as this seemed much simpler and quicker than making paving stones as I did on my Magic Garden set of cupcakes. I had some Lakeland citrus sugar, a bit like this one, that I used to scatter on the paths, but they don’t appear to sell it anymore, so I have suggested just using a mix of brown sugars instead. For the grass, you will need a grass piping nozzle that looks something like the one pictured. Mine came in a set from Lakeland that is incredibly useful! 

You can save time on the day by making the fondant flowers, leaves and other decorative items in advance. To make the cauliflower and cabbages, I used a 5 petal flower cutter like that pictured. However, don’t buy cutters like this separately, there are some fantastic deals for plunger cutter sets on Amazon or Ebay. You don’t need to add the tiny butterflies, but I had a tub of butterfly sprinkles in the cupboard and I think that they add a lovely touch.

I was really pleased with how these cakes turned out. They did take quite a bit of effort, but I think that they were worth it! The tea flavour came through well and worked nicely with the subtle lemon buttercream. I was a bit disappointed that the Bergamot flavour of the Earl Grey tea did not come through as strongly as I might have hoped. I’m not sure how to intensify this without over-doing the tea flavour – Google does not seem to give me any answers! I can’t seem to find a bergamot flavouring and I’m not sure about adding pure essential oil to cakes! I used Twinings Earl Grey teabags, but I may try an alternative next time – perhaps even using tea leaves rather than tea bags.

Earl Grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream
(single batch of 12 cupcakes)

Earl Grey cupcake decorated with a garden path and flower potIngredients
  1. 175ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
  2. 5 Earl Grey tea bags
  3. 110g butter, at room temperature
  4. 225g golden castor sugar
  5. 2 large eggs, beaten
  6. 125g self-raising flour, sifted
  7. 120g plain flour, sifted
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 20ml milk, at room temperature
  3. 40ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  4. 500g icing sugar, sifted
    Earl Grey cupcake decorated with a garden path and wellies
  1. Heat 125ml milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it just begins to boil.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags.
  3. Cover with clingfilm and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes.
  4. Discard the tea bags and add the extra 50ml of milk.  
  5. Preheat oven to 160C.
  6. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  8. Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. It should result in a lovely light mousse-like mixture.
  9. Combine the plain flour with the self-raising flour and all of the spices in a separate bowl.
  10. Add one third of the flours to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  11. Pour in one third of the infused milk and stir gently.
  12. Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  13. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full.
  14. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  15. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling. 

While the cakes are in the oven, make up the buttercream:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, lemon juice and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
To decorate
  1. Food colouring (preferably pastes rather than liquids)
  2. Golden caster sugar / Demerara sugar
  3. Ready-to-roll fondant icing – various colours, including green
  4. Butterfly sprinkles
  5. Writing icing
    Earl Grey cupcake decorated with carrots growing in a vegetable patch
  1. Use plunger cutters to create flowers and leaves and set aside to dry (this can be done several days in advance).
  2. Mould additional decorative items, such as wellies, flower pots and vegetables out of fondant icing (see above for tips on cauliflowers and cabbages). (Again, this can be done in advance)
  3. Use writing icing to add centre to the flowers
  4. Remove ¼ of the buttercream from the bowl and colour this brown.
  5. Colour the remaining buttercream green.
  6. Use a palette knife to spread the brown buttercream onto some of the cupcakes as a vegetable patch and as a path.
  7. Sprinkle a mix of golden and Demerara sugar onto the paths.
  8. Place green buttercream in a piping bag with a grass nozzle attached.
  9. Pipe grass around the vegetable patches, on either side of the paths and onto the remaining cupcakes.
  10. Add flowers, vegetables and other items onto the cupcakes.  
Earl Grey cupcake decorated with a caulliflower growing in a vegetable patch

Lemon Tart

Lemon tart

Lemon Tart is one of my all-time favourite desserts but something that I have never attempted to bake before. With friends coming round for dinner and an afternoon to bake, I searched through lots of my cookery books for inspiration and, as I flicked through my ever-reliable Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, I came across this recipe for lemon tart – perfect!

Well, almost perfect … Having decided to follow this recipe and having made a start on the pastry, I realised that I didn’t have a big enough flan tin (this recipe required a 28cm tin) and, anyway, I really didn’t need to make a tart big enough for 10-12 people! The only flan tin that I own is 23cm and, after some rough calculations with the help of my ever-hungry husband (EHH), I decided to reduce the ingredients for the filling by one-third – fortunately, these quantities worked perfectly! As the pastry is made using one egg, it is difficult to reduce the quantities, so I have retained the pastry quantities: you can freeze the remainder or make some little jam tarts!!

I often avoid making desserts with pastry, or cheat and buy ready-made pastry, but actually, the pastry was easy to make and worked out fairly well. When making pastry, I follow the Biscuiteers’ tip for biscuits and I roll the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment – which prevents me from needing to add lots of additional flour as I roll and this helps to keep the pastry light and crisp. It also makes it much easier to lift the pastry into the flan tin!

Unlike some of my prior attempts at pastry, this pastry did not shrink away from the edges of the tin whilst at the blind-baking stage – which I think was due to very careful placing of the pastry in the tin, pushing it into the side of the tin (taking care not to stretch the pastry and then trimming the majority of the excess pastry, but leaving a 2-3cm overhang.

However, I didn’t roll the pastry dough thin enough and so it was a little thick (although EHH quite likes this!) and, despite following the blind baking rules, the bottom was not as crisp as Paul and Mary would like! Having done a bit more research on “soggy bottoms”, one of the recommendations is that, having completed the first stage of blind baking (with the baking beans), you then remove the baking beans and brush the pastry with whisked egg (or egg whites / yolk) before returning the pastry case to the oven to continue baking. This egg-wash helps to seal the pastry and therefore prevent the filling from seeping into the pastry and making it soggy. I’ve included this instruction in the recipe below and will give this a go next time that I make a tart.

The filling for the tart was quick and easy to make. However, the end result was a little curdled and not perfectly smooth. Some research suggests that this could be a result of the acid in the lemon juice curdling the protein in the egg – the webpages I have read suggest that you mix all the ingredients for the filling and add the lemon juice / zest last – so I have proposed this in my method below.

Overall, despite all my criticisms above, the lemon tart did generally taste good and my dinner guests really enjoyed it. Hopefully, with the improvements discussed above and included in the method below, it will be perfect – I’ll have to make another to test it out! I served it with a very simple summer berry sauce, which would be great with lots of other desserts, and double cream.  However it would also work brilliantly for afternoon tea!

Lemon tart
For the pastry
  1. 250g plain flour
  2. 125g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  3. 60g caster sugar
  4. 2 free-range eggs, beaten

For the lemon filling
  1. 6 free-range eggs
  2. 200ml double cream
  3. 250g caster sugar
  4. 4 large lemons, finely grated zest and juice

23cm flan tin
Baking beans

  1. For the pastry, place the flour in a large bowl; add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the castor sugar then bind together with one beaten egg to make a soft, pliable dough.
  3. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.
  5. Roll out the pastry very thinly between two lightly floured pieces of baking parchment.
  6. Use the pastry to line the flan tin, trim away any surplus pastry, leaving a 2-3cm overhang.
  7. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
  8. Line the pastry-filled tin with baking parchment or foil, allowing it to come up high above the rim to make it easy to lift out.
  9. Fill the lined tin with baking beans.
  10. Place on the pre-heated baking tray and bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven until pale golden-brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and remove the baking beans and paper.
  12. Brush the pastry with the remaining beaten egg.
  13. Return the empty pastry shell to the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until it is completely dry. Set aside to cool.
  14. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.
  15. Measure the eggs, sugar and cream into a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
  16. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
  17. Carefully pour the filling mixture into the cooled baked pastry case.
  18. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Check after about 25 minutes and cover the tart loosely with foil if the pastry starts to brown too much.
  19. When ready, the filling will be just set but with a slight wobble in the middle. It will be soufflé like when it comes out of the oven, but will sink down when it has cooled down.
  20. Leave to cool a little or completely then remove from the tin, transfer to a serving plate and dust with icing sugar to serve.