Internal Editor slaved away for two days trying to put this cake together! She has newfound respect for bakers and the beautifully decorated cakes she sees on her Instagram or TikTok feed.
One of my favorite things to do in the world is watch videos of people decorating cakes. That’s why I like watching the Great British Bake Off so much— it’s so comforting to watch the way the icing smoothes out under the gentle touch of the baker and so impressive to see the beautiful final product. Then I realized that there’s no better time than now to pick up a new skill. I then ordered a cake decorating kit on Amazon, waited for its arrival, and started brainstorming what kind of cake I should make.
I wanted to make a cake that wasn’t common. Not a chocolate cake, nor a vanilla cake, not even a red velvet cake. I wanted to make something with a sophisticated flavor profile. I decided to explore some of my favorite flavors, and settled on an earl grey cake. A quick google search landed me on a few recipes— some were easier than others. I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to go all out, so I picked the recipe with earl grey milk, earl grey cake, AND earl grey syrup.
EARL GREY CAKE
Recipe is based on the first Google result for “earl grey cake” linked here.
Earl Grey Milk:
- 1 1/2 cups of milk
- 1 tablespoon of earl grey tea (I cut open 2 Harney & Sons tea bags, but you can use loose leaf too)
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp Earl Grey tea
- This should be finely ground, but I didn’t have a mortar, so I used a small bowl and the rounded back of a cheese fork
- a pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used a little bit less than 1.5 cups)
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup Earl Grey milk room temperature
Earl Grey Syrup:
Earl Grey Syrup (optional):
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 Tbsp Earl Grey tea (loose leaf)
Earl Grey Milk:
- Put the loose leaf tea in the milk and boil it on the stove top. Once it starts to boil, turn heat off and steep for around 10 minutes. Then strain out the tea and measure out 1 cup!
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 7 inch cake pans. Honestly, I could’ve split it into 3 cakes but I only had 2 pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, tea, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy. I used a hand mixer but a stand mixer is preferred. Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
Alternate adding flour mixture and Earl Grey milk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk), fully incorporating after each addition.
Bake for approx. 35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack. Allow cakes to cool completely.
Earl Grey Syrup:
Place sugar, water, and tea into a small pot. Bring to a boil and simmer 2 mins. Remove from heat, steep for 5 mins. Strain and cool completely.
And that’s the cake! The buttercream that this recipe used was very very complicated, so I decided to look up a different recipe for the buttercream. From what I remembered in my cupcake-baking days, buttercream or icing was just confectioner’s sugar and butter. Simple enough. But after a lot of research, I found out that this is just how you make American buttercream, and there are actually many many different ways to make buttercream. What makes American buttercream distinct is that it is very very sweet, albeit easy to make. I REALLY dislike how frosting can be really sweet, so I decided to go with a different option. The Swiss meringue style is the easiest of the other styles that use eggs, and supposedly pretty stable and significantly less sweet. American buttercream is the ONLY type that doesn’t use eggs. All other types use a double-boiler method and egg whites.
I decided to go with a simple vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream as this was my first attempt.
VANILLA SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
I found my recipe from this website and I also watched the video maybe five times.
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cups of butter
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
To make a successful meringue that achieves stiff peaks, all the bowls and whisks, etc, need to be EXTREMELY NOT GREASY. No grease can touch any of the baking apparatus.
- CLEAN all baking apparatus (bowl, whisks, etc) with white vinegar. You can also use lemon juice.
To make Swiss Meringue buttercream, you have to use the double boiler method. Most people do not have a double boiler so what you have to do is boil a pot of water, then bring it down to a constant simmer. You then place a bowl (with the ingredients) on top of this pot.
- ASSEMBLE your double boiler. Boil a pot of water then bring it down to a simmer.
When separating the egg whites, NO EGG YOLK can get into the bowl because the egg yolk will stop the meringue from peaking.
- Separate the egg whites and put egg whites into the cleaned bowl. Make sure you do the eggs one by one in a separate bowl so that if you mess up you don’t have to waste all of the eggs!
- Add the sugar and combine with a whisk. No need to whisk for too long, just until they are pretty much incorporated within each other.
- Put the bowl on top of the simmering pot of water, and whisk until it reaches 160ºF. I used a food thermometer.
- If you have a stand mixer, this is the BEST option. But I only had a hand mixer so right after it reached the temperature, I took it off of the heat and started whisking.
- You have to whisk until the mixture reaches STIFF PEAKS, which means that when you lift your whisk up, the mixture should have pointy triangular tips that do not bend over. I whisked mine for 35 minutes straight, and still did not see stiff peaks.
- The website says to put the mixture in the fridge, and then whisk again if it doesn’t reach stiff peaks. However, I tried everything and my mixture still didn’t reach stiff peaks. So I just went on with the recipe and the buttercream tasted fine!!! Keep in mind mine were medium-stiff, just not completely stiff.
- Let mixture cool to room temperature, then incorporate the butter with the hand mixer/stand mixer one tablespoon at a time.
- Add vanilla and salt!
Now that the cake is done, and so is the frosting, it’s time for assembly. I used a cake stand that spins, a cake leveler, icing spatula, and piping bag with tips.
- Level off the cake so that it is flat. I tried using a cake leveler, but it didn’t really work for me so I just ended up using a knife. As for the bits that are extra, I ate it throughout the day :)
- Poke holes in the cake, and then drench the cake with syrup.
- Place one layer on the cake stand, then spread icing all over.
- Place second layer on top.
- Start spreading icing all over the sides and top until everything is level and smooth.
- Using food coloring, I colored separate bowls of icing.
- Pipe your colored icing in any pattern you desire! I made tons of flowers!
That’s it! I took a ton of pictures of my cake and sent it to everyone I knew, then I finally cut a piece and tried it! This was A LOT of work and I CANNOT believe people do this every single day.
Final masterpiece via me