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.

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  1. oh my god. i adore things with earl grey in them.

    yes, you are right, i do prefer twinnings because of the mild bergamot factor but i LOVE stash’s earl grey (regular, of course) and tazo is much to floral for me.

    i recently made chocolate truffles for a girlfriends birthday and my friend claire (another earl grey lover) suggested that i make earl grey truffles. when heating the cream just throw two bags in and let it infuse. they are amazing.

    oh, and you’re not the only one in the family who doesn’t drink coffee. mum has never had a cup in her life and she only started making tea when she started dating my dad because she couldn’t make coffee.

    i cannot wait to try this one out. right after the plum cake…

  2. These look delicious! I made Chamomile cupcakes a few weeks back and I remember that the cake tasted so great because of the subtleness of the tea in the batter. I don’t think I really like kick-you-in-the-face flavors and that’s why I’m a tea lover, like you. Give me a cuppa herbal tea over Coke any day!

  3. ooooh this makes me want a cupcake tonight! have you tried Silk Road tea’s “Canton Orange”? I would highly recommend it…as a girl who is a big fan of double bergomot – I can say I think we might have similar “tea taste” :)

  4. OH MY GOSH.

    I love, love, love Earl Grey–it is the best tea ever, and have you had Earl Grey cookies? Martha’s recipe is to die for.

    Adding these to my list of MUST-BAKES!

  5. YUMMY looking cupcakes! I found your blog on Tastespotting, and I love it! I am definitely going to be trying out some of your recipes. :) Thanks for sharing.

  6. i am really into your blog. keep up the good work! i just started one.

    and i love love LOOOOOVE early grey tea. have never cooked with it though…this post may change things

  7. These look fantastic. I love earl grey too. FYI, bergamot isn’t from a fruit…it’s an herb, looking a bit like mint, that has a citrus-y flavored oil in its leaves that give earl grey tea that little kick.

  8. Brilliant! Except I love English Breakfast tea and can’t stand Earl Grey*sorry*
    I think I am going to try this recipe with English Breakfast. Mmmmmmm! :)

  9. I adore recipes using tea, and lemon is one of my flavorite fruit. So this recipe is right up my alley! I am sure the cupcakes smell heavenly right out from the oven.

  10. I made these tonight after seeing them on Tastespotting, but with a simple lemon glaze rather than the buttercream… your frosting looks fantastic but I only had a wedge of lemon, not enough to get 2 tbsp of juice from, and wanted something a bit lower fat. I also did 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/4 cup butter in the actual batter, and they turned out really well. I used 2 teabags but the flavour is still not that strong – but I really like them. Next time I might throw some lemon zest into the batter as well, and maybe try your frosting.

    thanks for posting this!

  11. these look good and could be easily transformed with other flavors…. chocolate and coffee, orange and a spicier tea, or other types of tea!

  12. These look so fabulous! They’re giving me ideas. Earl grey madelines dipped in lemon icing ideas…

    I’m not a coffee fan either – there’s a stash of assorted black teas in my desk at work…

  13. So I made these last week and I used English Breakfast Tea because I was actually out of Earl Gray. I am thinking that next time I will warm the milk just a hint when I begin and put the tea in the milk to steep before I start mixing everything.

    My main problem might also have been the lack of Earl Gray too! :)

    The frosting was AMAZING! every time I went into the kitchen I had to get out a spoon and have a little tast-like it was candy. mmmmmmmm!

  14. So I did try these and they were delightful. My one issue was I’d have liked them more with the tea run through a food processor first. I don’t know if it were the type of Earl Grey I used or something, but I ended up with a few chunks bigger than I’d prefer.

    Flavor-wise, though: Oh, Early Grey with lemon is awesome.

  15. These Earl Grey Cupcakes are the most delicately delicious smelling things I have ever made. I enjoyed inhaling the batter’s aroma so much that I was a little reluctant to put them in the oven.

    I topped them with a little lemon glaze. They were very light and tasty–it reminded me of lemon poppy seed cake only better.

  16. I LOVED the pairing of tea and lemon. We added two bags of tea instead of just one to increase the flavor. Thanks for the recipe!

  17. Just to clarify, you mean tea as in brewed and not tea leaves, right? Just as in a recipe that calls for a cup of coffee means brewed coffee and not coffee beans. Reading comments it looks like some people did it one way and a few the other.

    1. Nope, I mean just the tea leaves. I imagine brewing the tea would also be delicious, but I’m not sure how to compensate for the additional liquid. Good luck!

      1. You can heat the milk and steep tea bags (I used 2) in it for ~20-30 minutes, so the flavor is infused. I love the tea so I additionally ground the contents of one bag of double-bergamot earl grey using my coffee-grinder, so it’s very fine.

  18. This recipe is fantastic, I’m doubling for a layer cake. As for brewing the tea…I make earl grey ice cream by steeping the tea in the hot milk/cream base before blending with yolks and sugar, so I guess the tea could be “brewed” in the milk for this recipe so there’d be no extra liquid. However, I really like the specs of tea in the cake and find the flavor and aroma to be delicate and just right as is! Thanks so much, and great blog!

  19. Thank you for such a fantastic recipe. I was at a loose end this morning and so I emailed my friend in the UK and asked her to tell me what I should do today. I left the fate of my day in her hands and promised to take photographic evidence of me doing whatever was sugested (within reason)! She replied quickly and told me that I “must either a) bake and eat a cake b) do/photograph something involving the letter L c) do something 1950s style.

    Well…your site accomplished all 3!!! I even baked my cakes wearing a Cath Kidston apron and listening to La Roux on my iPod. I excelled in challenges today! My cakes came out beautifully and I have just eaten my first one. I took some of the advice from the other replies you have had and warmed my milk so that I could steep two Stash teabags in it first to add even more flavour. I also added a splash of vanilla essence. I am so excited with the results.

    You have a great blog and I will definitely be coming back for more!

  20. Love your blog – a mutal friend pointed me towards it recently.

    I read this post a few weeks ago and, as a fellow lover of all things lemon, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So last night I broke down and put my apron on.

    I used three teabags and was concerned because the batter tasted so bitter.

    But it mellowed out during cooking and the result was a truly fabulous cake. (Though I might only use two tea bags next time.) Thank you for the inspiration!

    I’m hoping you can make this recipe below at some point and tell us how it turned out. I just love the idea of boiling and blitzing whole lemons. I’d make it myself, but my stomach has a sadly violent reaction to almonds. :(


  21. Love this recipe but did make a few changes also….i used salted butter and did not add salt. Used two tea bags in batter, I also sifted dry ingredients for a softer fluffy cupcake. They came out great . I frosted with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Thanks for the great recipe.

  22. Damm Earl! These cakes be tight! I was bakin with ma mates and DAMN we ran outta those cups. But its all right, we gots us s ome more. So we be bakin, listening to that groovy toones, and these mini cakes come out hella good. We be puttin TWO bags of tea in fo that extra sumthin sumthin. Ya know what I’m sayin girl? Bitches lovin them cakes. Thanks fo the bakin ideas blog woman!

    1. It’s been four years since I’ve made this. I’ve grown into a spiritual and changed woman. These remind me of my youth. Will be remaking these soon!

  23. wow these look good! i am really into tea cupcakes because i love tea and cupcakes! i dont know if the frosting recipe looks good. i think i will make my own frosting.

  24. These looked so delicious, but unfortunately I added too much baking powder and they imploded. I’ll give it another try, but the batter was delicious anyways.

  25. Excellent commentary. Last week I was told about this site and wanted to let you know that I have been gratified, going through your site’s posts. I shall be subscribing to your blog’s feed and will wait for your next post.

  26. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this recipe!

    I work customer service and promotional outreach for a small antique store in my college town, and for our fifth anniversary sale, I made a surprise triple batch of these for our staff and loyal customers. They turned out PERFECTLY and looked so delicate and beautiful in white papers with black detailing! I was originally a bit nervous about Earl Grey being bitter, but I followed your recipes carefully and they have a superbly balanced flavor, especially with that fabulous sweet lemon buttercream. These treats are absolutely delicious, unexpected, and unique. They were such a hit with my friends and the crowd at the shop, that I made another batch to take to a job interview (and I’m fairly sure they made a bigger impression than my resume in getting me hired). I just love this cake and frosting. These are so very lovely and I can’t wait to make them again for my family for Thanksgiving this year. I just know that my bergamot-loving relatives will gobble them right up!

    For anyone thinking about trying this recipe, don’t wait. The result is well worth the effort of making cupcakes and frosting from scratch. These aren’t boring old box mix cupcakes. These are truly classy gourmet treats, and sure to be appreciated!

    Happy baking, and thank you again!

    1. Alyssa, what a lovely comment! I’m so pleased you liked them and shared them with so many people. Happy baking!

  27. I love Earl Grey. I use the Tetley Earl Grey Vanilla and it’s so good. Vanilla and Earl goodness. The smell is incredible and the taste even more so. Great recipe! I used two teabags and found it to be perfect!
    Thanks and yum!

  28. just stumbled upon this recipe looking for something to make with some extra chai tea packets. Doesn’t taste super like chai (not enough tea in it, probably), but the cake is so incredibly moist and the buttercream is so delicious that I just wanted to leave you a note :)

  29. Made these for Constitution Day at my daughter’s school. We had to make representative food for the day. Loved the idea of tea based cupcakes. They were FABULOUS!!! great recipe. We tripled it to have enough. Can’t wait to make it again.

  30. Earl Gray is my favorite of all time. I buy it loose leaf from Teavana. These cupcakes were awesome. I made some with the lemon butter cream icing and some with browned butter butter cream and I couldn’t decide which one I liked better! I also make jasmine tea cookies and matcha green tea cupcakes. I love anything infused with tea. Thanks for the recipe!! Definitely will make again. By the way, I did double the recipe and used 1 1/1 TBS of tea. It was perfect!

  31. Hi,
    I was just curiously searching for earl gray cupcakes, as i made a batch last night and thought i’d leave you a comment :)
    Mine involved steeping the tea bags in the hot milk, then allowing it come back to room temp before beating int the cake mix. Meant that there were no flecks of tea in the sponge, and lovely delicate flavour of the tea through out – not normally a fan of early gray – but i definitely like it in a cupcake!!

  32. Hey!
    Just wanted to let you know that I tried your recipe and they turned out great! I took your advice and used two bags of tea instead of one and they ended up perfect. Thanks!

  33. Hi-
    When I make tea flavoured cupcakes, I infuse the tea with the milk for quite some time, and then I just add it normally, works really good.


  34. Amazing cupcakes! I used 2 tea bags of double bergamot Earl Grey tea, plus heated up the milk and soaked another tea bag in the milk. At a couple of the ones that weren’t pretty enough to serve. Perhaps that explains why it is 1:30 am and I’m still wide awake!

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