It seems like the joys of spring have finally descended, and the blossoming trees, gamboling lambs and rolling green fields in Derbyshire are making me feel very lucky to be living in such a beautiful place. Even more excitingly, the hodge podge vegetable garden I’ve assembled in a variety of pots has already started to produce exciting treats. So far that’s just a bunch of radishes and a few handfuls of chard and spinach, but across the summer I’m looking forward to my own peppers, courgettes, tomatoes, herbs, chillis and cucamelons, which supposed taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime, but are the size of a grape.
All of this veg based excitement combined with a new job has meant my baking has trailed off over the last few weeks. However, my mum’s wedding is coming up very soon, and I’m making cakes for the ceremony and the party, which means a lot of practice is in order. I whipped up this Watercolour Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream to try out an icing effect I want to use one one of the cakes. It’s too bright for my mum’s tastes and the colour scheme we’d agreed, but I love the effect and am excited to try something a bit more subtle.
I also wanted to share this cake and buttercream combo, as it’s one of my staple recipes. The cake itself is make with tea infused milk, which gives an amazing flavour. Here I’ve used apricot black tea, but any black tea would be delicious. It works very well with earl grey too. Don’t be scared of the cake mix – it’s basically a batter and thinner than you might expect, but that’s normal.
If you’ve made celebration cakes for special occasions I’d love to hear your stories – what did you make, and what are your top tips? Of course I’ll share photos of the cakes after the event too, wish me luck!
Recipe: Apricot Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream
Makes a 4 layer, 6″ cake
470ml whole milk
6 heaped tbsp apricot black tea leaves, or any flavoured or plain black tea
110g unsalted butter, softened
360g caster sugar
120ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
440g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of fine salt
- First, infuse your milk. Put the tea and milk in a pan and heat. Just before it reaches the boil when you can see little bubbles, turn the heat off, give it a quick stir and leave to one side to cool.
- Prepare two tall 6″ tins, lining the bottom with greaseproof paper and greasing the sides. Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until light. As there’s not a huge amount of butter it won’t look as fluffy as a sponge cake. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to combine. Add the oil and vanilla and mix to combine.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt to combine. Mix into the main mixture in two stages, beating until just combined each time.
- By now your milk should be room temperature. Strain out the tea leaves and discard. With the mixer on, slowly pour a thin stream of the tea-infused milk into the mix until the whole thing is combined. It should be the texture of a thick batter. Pour half into each tin and bake for 45-55 minutes. After about 35 minutes you might need to cover the tops with a loose hat of tin foil to prevent them over browning.
- Cool on a rack.
110g unsalted butter, softened
6 tsbp runny honey
500g icing sugar
pinch of fine salt
Splash of milk
Gel food colourings in your choice of colours
Gold lustre dust
Method: Buttercream and assembley
- Beat together the butter, honey and salt until fully combined and light and fluffy.
- Add the icing sugar in two stages, covering your mixer bowl if possible to try and stop the cloud of sugar dust. As you add the sugar, keep the mixer on low, increasing the speed as it incorporates. Once both batched are added, scrape down the bowl and leave to beat on high for about 10 minutes to get really fluffly. If you need to, add a splash of milk to make the buttercream looser. This will depend on the type of butter and honey you’re using.
- Slice the domed top off of each cake. Put the off cuts to one side for snacking. Cut each trimmed cake into two equal layers.
- Now you want to stack and crumb coat your cake. Spread a thin layer of buttercream on each layer of cake and stack the next one of top of it until you’re out of cakes. Spread a thing layer of buttercream all over the cake and using a cake scraper or a ruler, scrape off most of the icing to trap all the crumbs. Stick in the fridge for at least 30mins for the crumb coat to set. You can skip this step but it will make your cake must easier to decorate.
- Split your buttercream into four. You’ll want one bowl with most of the buttercream to be your case colour, and three with smaller amounts of highlight colours. Frost the cake as usual with the base colour and get fairly smooth. Then use a spatula to add smears of each colour all the way around. Using a flat edge, drag round the edge of the cake to spread the colours out. You might need to do this a few times to get the look you want. Then repeat on top. Using a paintbrush to finish, add gold lustre dust where you’d like it.