Tea is not just for drinking, I love using flavoured teas in cooking. They add a rich warm note to any bake and the opportunity is there to experiment with countless flavoured varieties. Chai, jasmine, chamomile, or Earl Grey are beautiful in cakes and sponges; they add a delicate floral hum without overpowering the flavour.
Jasmine pairs wonderfully with dark chocolate, orange or spice. Chamomile is gentle and goes well with honey and summer fruits. Chai gives a lovely warm note to autumn and winter bakes.
I have mixed and matched these combinations in many desserts over the years. In today’s recipe I am using Earl Grey with lemon, an understated pairing. Earl Grey tea is a black tea scented with bergamot, a variety of Italian citrus fruit, that happens to be green in colour. Bergamot has the bright sunny aroma and flavour characteristic of citrus, but with much more dimension and depth. Its unique floral and spicy notes in the tea accent the lemon brilliantly, both adding a subtle hint of sunshine to this simple tea cake.
I infuse milk with Earl Grey tea bags to get as much flavour out as possible, but I steep them in the hot milk for only about 10 minutes, any longer and the milk will start to become bitter. Tea leaves can also be used if you have them. I usually substitute two-three tablespoons of leaves for the three tea bags in the recipe.
From there it is a basic sponge cake, using ingredients you most likely have in your store cupboard – butter, sugar, eggs and flour, the usual culprits. The deep tannins in the tea add a beautiful depth of flavour and give the loaf a stunning caramel colour. Once baked, I like to trickle a quick and easy lemon icing over the loaf.
Earl Grey tea leaves are sometimes dotted with vibrant blue cornflowers, and nowadays you can buy these in jars on their own; they add a gorgeous pop of colour to any dessert.
I love straightforward loaf cakes, and this is exactly that – quick, bright and simple, with a unique, tea-infused twist. It will keep perfectly for up to three days in an airtight container, or it can be frozen.
Recipe: Earl Grey lemon tea cake