forty three: earl grey cupcakes

I can never get enough of Earl Grey tea. Next to good ol’ green tea (without jasmine, please), I don’t mind drinking cups after cups of Earl Grey tea. But, I’ve yet to taste a dessert with a very distinct flavour of said tea.

Maybe it’s luck, but recently, these daydreams which later turned into little kitchen experiments worked wonders. I was craving for a cake that will deliver the flavour of the tea, and I wasn’t content with just emptying tea bags into the batter. I’ve done that for previous loaves, and found that the flavour diminishes after a few days. I read up online and found a few recipes that infused milk with tea bags. Genius, I thought.

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I promptly started on kitchen experiment #1: Earl Grey Cupcakes. I used my no-fail vanilla cupcake recipe, omitted the vanilla (I thought it would mask the earl grey flavour – just a wild guess, I may be wrong!), and infused the milk with two tea bags. What ensued was a fragrant batch of earl grey cupcakes that were good enough to be eaten sans fancy frostings. True enough, I baked a batch in a loaf pan for my sister a few days later.

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You may not notice the tea in the first few bites, but in the third (or maybe fourth) bite, you’ll be greeted with a strong tea flavour which grows on you on subsequent bites. This is it, I thought. (Hence this entry.)

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Of course, I felt that the cupcakes need to have a swirl to call its own, hence kitchen experiment #2: Lemon Buttercream. I substituted the vanilla essence in the original vanilla buttercream recipe with freshly squeezed lemon juice, and …that’s about it. I suppose you could add some grated zest, but again, I didn’t want the lemon to be overpowering. (For this batch, at least.)

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Few of my friends know about how I am struggling to get my frostings to stay in shape and not taste cloyingly sweet. I managed to fix the former (cornstarch does wonders!), but the latter needs plenty of work. Back to the drawing board, I guess?

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream
Makes 10-12 cupcakes

(for the cupcakes)

  • 120g all-purpose flour
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 40g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 120ml milk + 2 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1 egg


  1. Preheat oven to 170 C.
  2. Heat the milk in a saucepan just before it comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the tea bags, and let it infuse for about 10 minutes. Let it cool before using.
  3. Put flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  4. Remove the tea bags (you may save a tea bag for later) from the infused milk, and gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the mixture is just combined.
  5. Whisk the egg, vanilla essence and remaining infused milk in a separate bowl, then pour it into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated. Optional: you may wish to add in tea leaves from the tea bags you set aside earlier.
  6. Scrape down the bowl, and continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
  7. Spoon into prepared cupcake pans (about two-thirds) and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until light golden brown and the cake bounces back when touched.
  8. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the pan before turning them out on a wire rack to cool completely.

(for the lemon buttercream)

  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 80g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Optional: tea leaves for garnish


  1. Beat the butter in a mixer, before adding the icing sugar gradually.
  2. Add the lemon juice, and beat at a high speed for a few minutes until everything is light, fluffy and well-combined.
  3. Frost cooled cupcakes, and you’re done.

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