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)
- 175ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
- 5 Earl Grey tea bags
- 110g butter, at room temperature
- 225g golden castor sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 125g self-raising flour, sifted
- 120g plain flour, sifted
- 110g butter, at room temperature
- 20ml milk, at room temperature
- 40ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 500g icing sugar, sifted
- Heat 125ml milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it just begins to boil.
- Remove from the heat and add the tea bags.
- Cover with clingfilm and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes.
- Discard the tea bags and add the extra 50ml of milk.
- Preheat oven to 160C.
- Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
- 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).
- 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.
- Combine the plain flour with the self-raising flour and all of the spices in a separate bowl.
- Add one third of the flours to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
- Pour in one third of the infused milk and stir gently.
- Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
- Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
- 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:
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, lemon juice and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
- Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Food colouring (preferably pastes rather than liquids)
- Golden caster sugar / Demerara sugar
- Ready-to-roll fondant icing – various colours, including green
- Butterfly sprinkles
- Writing icing
- Use plunger cutters to create flowers and leaves and set aside to dry (this can be done several days in advance).
- 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)
- Use writing icing to add centre to the flowers
- Remove ¼ of the buttercream from the bowl and colour this brown.
- Colour the remaining buttercream green.
- Use a palette knife to spread the brown buttercream onto some of the cupcakes as a vegetable patch and as a path.
- Sprinkle a mix of golden and Demerara sugar onto the paths.
- Place green buttercream in a piping bag with a grass nozzle attached.
- Pipe grass around the vegetable patches, on either side of the paths and onto the remaining cupcakes.
- Add flowers, vegetables and other items onto the cupcakes.