Monthly Archives: September 2008

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

I don’t drink coffee.

I know, I know. Take a minute to digest that fact. It is a bit strange.

Solo cupcake

But I grew up in a household where there was always a pot of tea sitting around. And it was always Earl Grey. And it still is.

I’m sure it’s partly that because I grew up with it, but it’s still my favourite flavour of tea. But I also love the taste of perfume-y Bergamot — an essence from the skin of a sour fruit. While my family likes Twinings for it’s faint Bergamot taste, I prefer Tazo, which has a bit more of the essence in its mix. Even better? Stash Tea’s Double Bergamot.

And, full disclosure, I like the smell of Earl Grey tea so much, I even bought the Demeter fragrance of it.

While here at home I drink it with milk, at my parents’ house I always have my Earl Grey tea with lemon and sugar. So when I came across a recipe for Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Icing, I immediately bookmarked it. And then, like about a thousand other recipes, I forgot about it for some indeterminate amount of time until I got bored and began going through the aforementioned bookmarks looking for something to surf to.

The stars of the show

Earl Grey tea

I had some extra lemons lying around after making Whiskey Sours on the weekend, was bored and basically wanted to hang out in my kitchen baking and listening to good music. So, I whipped up these babies, ate two and then realized I was going to have to take the rest to work the next day lest I eat them all.

These will be made again. I might add more tea next time. Also, it was a particularly juicy lemon I used in the buttercream and, in hindsight, I should have measured instead of squeezing through a sieve and right into the bowl. So, it wasn’t all that surprising the icing was quite sloppy. Another cup or so of icing sugar did the trick, but next time I’ll be more careful.

Then again, when I took some into work (I think my colleagues were more excited about me launching a food blog for the inevitable leftovers), almost every comment revolved around the icing. It seems I’m not the only one that loves a lemon dessert.

This recipe originally comes from Desert Candy. Here is her post on it.

She made 24 cupcakes, but I halved it to make 12. This is the version I used. Double if you wish. Also, the original recipe called for self-rising flour. I didn’t have any, wasn’t going to go out and get some (is it even available in Canada?), so some googling led me to several versions of how to make “self-rising” flour (which basically just has leaveners and salt added already). The recipe below uses all-purpose flour.

I also “lemoned up” the icing by using the zest of an entire lemon and more than the required amount of lemon juice. Feel free to tone it down, if you wish.

Earl Grey Cupcake Batter

Just before the oven

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. Earl Grey tea (I used 1 bag and didn’t measure. I might add more next time.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are thoroughly combined before adding the next one. Mix together the dry ingredients, including the tea. Beat in half of the dry mixture with the wet, then add the milk and the rest of the dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Line the cupcake pan with 12 cups and fill them about two-thirds full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly before frosting.
Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Cream butter, then add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the lemon zest, juice and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

Brown Butter Plum Cake

It’s not often that I see a recipe, print it off and then make it immediately. But when I saw Julie’s post on what she has called Browned Butter Bliss, I was intrigued.

Not only had she raved about this baked dessert, but it sounded delicious and ridiculously easy. If that doesn’t tempt someone (namely me) to try it out, what will?

Brown Butter Plum Cake

Plus, making such a fantastic looking dessert also meant I would have to purchase a pie plate. Any excuse to buy new kitchen goodies! Of course, now I might actually have to learn how to make pie.

A cake/cobbler type of dessert, its flavour is heightened by browning the butter before making the dough, adding a nice nuttiness. But, other than the added step of watching and swirling the melting butter to make sure that it doesn’t go from browned loveliness to black, this recipe is a cinch.

I ate a piece as soon as it had cooled enough for, you know, scientific, recipe-testing purposes. And then I ate another piece a few hours later when it was well and truly cooled to room temperature for, you know, comparison purposes. And I have to say that while Julie seemed to prefer it fresh from the oven, I had different feelings. Once it had cooled, the purply plummy juices had soaked more into the cake, which had solidified slightly.

Plums

Plums and spices

Ready to bake

Plum Cake and Ice Cream

This recipe is adapted from Julie (see her post here), which in turn appears to be adapted from elsewhere. That’s one of the things I love about cooking: it’s about taking something and making it your own.

Brown Butter Plum Cake

  • 8 or so plums, thickly sliced (or try peaches, apples, apricots)
  • 3/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a pie plate.

Toss the fruit in a bowl with about 2 tbsp. of the sugar, the cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread into the plate.

Melt the butter in a saucepan or small frying pan and keep cooking it for about five minutes until it turns golden. (Swirl the pot occasionally and watch it carefully; it goes quickly from brown to black.)

Pour the butter into a bowl and add the 3/4 cup of sugar, then the eggs and flour. Pour over the fruit and sprinkle with one tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden and the juices are coming up around the edges.

Delicious with vanilla ice cream.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction

I have virtually given up on tomatoes. The ones from the supermarket are bland, flavourless faux tomatoes and are hardly worth buying. Grape tomatoes are about the only ones I bother buying any more because they still seem to have some tomato-y taste.

As a kid, summers were spent with my grandparents on one of the Gulf Islands. They grew their own tomatoes and I would eat them off the vine, warm from the sun and bursting with that summery taste. I loved too the green, fresh smell that came when I brushed up against the dark green plants. Years later I bought a perfume from Demeter called Tomato that has somehow recreated that smell of the tomato vines. When I put it on, I’m transported back to my grandfather’s garden with its tall chicken-wire walls to keep the deer out.

So, when I saw a package of Heirloom Tomatoes at the farmer’s market recently, I ignored the price tag and put them in my basket. It was an odd little collection of cherry tomatoes, green tomatoes, some purplish ones and pear-shaped ones.

Heirloom Tomatoes

When I got home, I started eating them right out of the cellophane package, some straight up, others split in half and sprinkled with a bit of sea salt.

Most tasted like tomatoes, with the exception of the Green Zebra.

Heirloom Tomato

While I could have eaten them all just standing at the kitchen counter, I decided to make a very basic salad with just tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and some reduced Balsamic vinegar.

I know I have already mentioned my love of all things vinegar, but reducing Balsamic gives it a sweeter, more syrupy consistency. Which makes it great for this type of salad because then you don’t need to make a full vinaigrette. It’s also great on sliced strawberries or on tomato tarts, among other things.

Making a Balsamic Reduction is super simple. Just pour a cup of the vinegar in a saucepan, put it on medium-high heat and let it reduce until it is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Some recipes suggest adding some sugar, but I have always liked my dressings tarter than not, so I don’t bother.

Drizzle over cut tomatoes and then add a bit of olive oil.

This would also be great on a more traditional Caprese salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.

Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction