December 29, 2012

Earl Grey & Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

 Earl Grey & Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

It's my mother's birthday again!  My mom loves tea, so I decided to make her a little earl grey cake this year.  Since earl grey is a pretty mild, delicate flavor, I decided to accompany it with a subtle vanilla bean buttercream.

Rose Candles

My mom also loves roses.  Last year, I made her some pink chocolate plastic roses for her chocolate raspberry cake.  This year, I've done more roses in fondant and used them to hold each of the five candles.  I made them a dusky blue color to go with the earl grey cake, and added a little shimmer using pearl dust.

To make the roses, I once again followed Wilton's tutorial, with a couple modifications.  After making the rose center, I pushed a candle into it.  I also did four blossom layers instead of three to make a fuller rose.

Earl Grey & Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake
For the cake recipe, I started with a Chai Cake recipe from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes.  Instead of using chai tea bags, I used earl grey and left the chai spices out.  I've followed this recipe before, and found it to be a little dry.  In an effort to offset this dryness, I decided to do six layers - each with some creamy buttercream in between.  I was hoping that the abundant buttercream would make the cake more moist.

I still thought this was a little dry, but everyone else (my mom included) said the buttercream did its job and the cake seemed nice and moist.  I was pretty happy with the earl grey - it made for a really nice, interesting cake flavor.  I may re-visit this recipe to try and tone down the dryness, but for now it made a great little birthday cake.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Earl Grey & Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Earl Grey Cake
Adapted from Huntsman and Wynne's Chai Cake (Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes).  Makes 3 6-inch round cake layers.

⅔ cup milk
4 earl grey tea bags
2 whole eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups + 2 tablespoons (160 grams) cake flour
1 cup sugar
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
blue or purple food coloring (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Line three 6" round cake pans with parchment paper.  Grease and flour.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until simmering.  Remove from heat, add the tea bags, and steep for 5 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and allow the milk to cool completely.
  4. Whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  5. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  6. Add the butter and cooled milk to the dry ingredients.  Beat on low until well-blended.  Raise the speed to medium and beat for another minute.
  7. Add the egg/vanilla mixture in three additions, beating well after each addition.
  8. If desired, beat in food coloring.
  9. Divide the batter between the three pans and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 egg whites
1¼ cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
pinch of salt

  1. Cube the butter and leave out at room temperature (make sure you don't leave it over the dishwasher or oven or it will get too warm).
  2. Whisk the eggs whites and sugar together in the top part of a double broiler.  Make sure that the water in the bottom part is simmering, not boiling.  Keep whisking until a candy thermometer reads 160° F.
  3. Transfer to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment installed.  Whip at a medium speed until the mixture is at room temperature (the bowl feels neutral when you touch it).
  4. Lower the mixing speed and add the butter, one cube at a time.  Keep mixing until there is an obvious change in the consistency of the buttercream - from soupy to much more solid (you can usually hear the mixer start making different noises).  If it stays soupy for a very long time, throw the bowl in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so and retry.
  5. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla bean, and salt and keep mixing until they are incorporated.
  1. Level and torte (cut in half) each cake layer so that you have 6 even layers.  I like using a cake leveler to do this.
  2. Place your first cake layer on your decorating surface.  Spread a thin layer of buttercream evenly over the cake layer.  Place the next layer on top, and repeat.  Repeat with the remaining layers.
  3. Spread a thin coat of buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.  Don't worry if you get crumbs in the frosting - that's what this layer is for!  Place the cake in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to allow the frosting to set.
  4. Remove your cake from the refrigerator and frost with a final, thicker layer of buttercream.
  5. Top with fondant rose candles if desired.


  1. This is beautiful. I love the rustic/ old world/ Victorian vibe. The Queen would be proud. High tea worthy! :p

  2. Super pretty cake. Great job Laura. I would love to try it.

    1. I'll have to make it again sometime so that you can - I might tweak the recipe a bit though to try and make it more moist.

  3. As a cake-loving college student who started baking as a way to de-stess, I can't wait to add this recipe to my personal collection. How much food coloring did you use to achieve the shades of blue for the cake and the fondant roses? I'm very inspired by the artistry of your work!

    1. Thanks! I used a combination of royal blue and violet food coloring to get the color for the cake and roses. I use Ateco's gel food coloring ( I add a very small amount at a time using a toothpick until I have the color desired.

  4. This is beautiful! If I were to make it with two square pans as two layers instead, what would be the best way to alter the recipe?

    1. What size square pan would you like to use? You can figure out how to change a recipe by taking the total area of the pans you would like to use, and dividing it by the area of the pans used in the recipe. Remember that for a circle, the area is pi * radius^2 and for a square the area is length^2. So, if you'd like to use a 8" square pan, for example, you would do:

      3.14(pi) * 3^2(radius of my 6" pans squared) * 3(# of layers I made) = 84.8

      and divide that by:

      8^2(length of your square pans squared) * 2(# of layers you'd like to make) = 128

      So, we'd get 84.8/128 = 1.5. So, take my recipe and multiply each ingredient by 1.5. This is obviously going to be a bit tricky with the egg yolk - I usually just do my best to get a half egg yolk in this case.

      Yay, math!

    2. Thank you so much!

  5. I really liked the idea of adding Earl Grey to a cake, so I thought I'd give it a try. I was totally puzzled by the amount of flour you need though. I tried several different ways to measure the cups, but I always ended up with around 200 grams of cake flour. In the end I decided to go with 160 grams rather than the cups and I ended up with a -very- moist cake. I was wondering.. should I have gone with the cup-measurement instead then? Which of the two did you use?

    1. Hmmm. I used the weight value. To truly double-check this, I'll have to remake the cake - I've been wanting to retry this cake, so I'll let you know if this is a mistake.

  6. I absolutely love this cake! If you were to make it ahead of time, say for a party or somthing, about how long would it stay fresh? Or is it best to just make it the day of?

    1. Day of is always best, but if you do make it ahead of time you could probably make the cake layers and wrap them in plastic wrap to keep in moisture. Then, day-of, you could frost and decorate.

  7. I just made this with my mom for my birthday, and it was wonderful!! We ended up doubling the recipe (to feed more people), and it actually ended up being pretty moist (this is possibly due to my mixer mishap where I slopped out a bit of flour). Overall, it was an absolute hit; thank you so much for sharing!! :D

  8. I just made this cake for the second time. I also found it a bit dry the first time around, so this time I increased the amount of mile to 3/4 cup instead of 2/3. I had to increase the cooking time by about 10 or 15 minutes, but the end result was wonderfully light and moist. I also used a lavender earl Grey tea instead of just regular earl grey this time, and really enjoyed the flavor.

  9. Wow nice cake.It is looking so yummy.The birthday cake is the highlight of a party. There is nothing more enjoyable for a child or an adult for that matter than tucking into a big slice of birthday cake.

    Yummy Cake Recipes

  10. This is a fabulous idea... I have tried this method and it works great. This is one of the prettiest of these types of cakes I've seen! The color is beautiful, too!! Thanks so much for sharing this technique. Really, you did a fantastic job!

    Cake shops

  11. Hi Laura,
    This is beautiful.
    I really liked the idea of adding Earl Grey to a cake.
    Congratulations for your fantastic job.
    I'm very inspired by the artistry of your work!

  12. This cake looks amazing and is an inspiration but I have ask, where did you get such a cute little teapot?

    1. My mother-in-law gave it to me! I'm not sure where she got it.

  13. do you remember how many drops of the food dye you used to get that color?

  14. This is such a beautiful cake! Thanks for sharing!


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