Sunday 20 February 2011

Earl Grey cupcakes and nutritous ganache

Once upon a time I thought I liked to drink regular tea. One of my favourites was Earl Grey tea. There was nothing like a cup of tea to warm me up. But I liked my tea weak. So weak that people used to joke I only needed to wave a tea bag over the cup. After a while, I discovered that I didn't like the taste of tea with tannin. I switched to herbal tea.

I do however like the idea of tea in baking, whether it be traditional fruit cake with dried fruit soaked in tea, or new fangled cupcakes tinted green with matcha tea. When Choclette announced that the theme for the We Should Cocoa blog event was tea and chocolate, I hoped to find an inspiring recipe. So I was pleased to find a recipe for Earl Grey Cupcakes in one of my cookbooks. Though I don't drink Earl Grey any more, I still like the smell of the bergamot oil that gives it the distinctive aroma.

These cupcakes had optional crystallised orange in them and Earl Grey infused chocolate ganache. I was actually hunting for cupcakes to trial Ricki's chocolate frosting which was a healthier alternative to the ganache. It was also an opportunity to used up my mixed peel, and I couldn't resist adding some extra chopped chocolate for taste and wholemeal flour for health. I resisted adding too many flavours because I didn't want to overwhelm the Earl Grey.

I loved the cupcakes warm out of the oven. I could have (and did) eat them without frosting. It was merely my dedication to research that made me go ahead and try the frosting. The cupcakes were a bit dry the next day so I was glad I had decided to make the frosting.

The frosting was amazing. It has sweet potato and cashew butter in it for texture and to reduce the GI. Ricki made it to be sugar-free but I don't need to so I used my regular icing sugar rather than coconut sugar and stevia. I was very happy with the taste. In fact I think this could be a sort of fudge or truffle to eat by itself. Less successful was my presentation.

I had decided that I would pipe glamourous swirls of icing onto the cupcakes but I am still not very familiar with my icing gun. Not surprising, giving that I hardly use it. My piping looked more like messy scribbles than neat lines spiraling upwards. I was so unhappy with them that I grabbed a butter knife and smoothed over the piping. (Note to self: learn how to use icing gun!)

Today was my niece Ashton's christening. Both my mum and my sister-in-law's mother put on a great lunch. There were huge bowls of salad and my mum made me a delicious eggplant bake to have instead of the hunk of meat from the bbq. Ashton is one of the smiliest babies I have ever seen and had a lovely time. Her brother Cooper wasn't quite sure of her outfit until he was convinced that she was wearing black and white because they were the colours of his football team. My niece Quin kept my nieces happy with her piano playing. Sylvia wore her new pink party frock and had a good time eating chips, cake and fruit. When we got home she was so tired that she lay on the floor and cried. That's no way to treat a party frock!

I took some of the cupcakes down for the lunch. There was an impressive spread of sweet food. Above is the lemon meringue tarts made by Ashton's maternal grandmother. She is a chef and I was impressed to watch her crisp up the tops with a mini blow torch rather than bake them. The table also heaved with caramel tart, pavolva, hedgehog, profiteroles and fruit. My favourite dessert was the chocolate cake specially decorated for the occasion (see below).

I enjoyed asking a few of my family to guess what was in the frosting. No one could. My brother Andy guessed potato but I suspect that was because he was traumatised by my addition of mashed potato to chocolate cake many years ago. My sister Susie said it was weird because she thought icing was normally really sweet. I had thought it was sweet enough but E had also commented that the cupcakes weren't that sweet.

Fran said that the cake tasted like jaffa. Indeed the orange and chocolate flavours were more dominant than tea. Earl Grey is flavoured with bergamot orange, so I guess the orange flavour is no surprise. Sylvia ate some of the cake - and crumbled some to sprinkle over her high chair - but refused to eat any frosting.

As for me, I enjoyed these cakes so much that E now seems to be nervously watching his posh Harrods teabags. The cupcakes were just sweet enough with a slight bitterness of chocolate and peel. The frosting was smooth and more like ganache than buttercream icing. Best of all I am excited at an icing that is more than just a sugar hit. While it is not low fat, it has far more nutrients than most icings I have come across. Definitely to be repeated!

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Serendipitous Plum Jam
This time two years ago: MLLA8 Dal Makhani
This time three years ago: HoTM #12 Prune and Bean Casserole

Earl grey cupcakes with chocolate cashew ganache
cupcakes adapted from Gail Wagman's Cupcakes Galore
makes 12 cupcakes and 7 mini muffins

160ml milk
2 earl grey tea bags
125g butter
2/3 cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
2/3 cup white plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp dried mixed peel

Chocolate cashew frosting:
adapted from Diet Dessert and Dogs

150 ml cooked sweet potato (preferably baked)
5 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup cocoa
30g dark unsweetened chocolate (I used 70%)
1/4 cup smooth 100% cashew butter
2 Tbsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 180 C. (If you need to bake sweet potato for the frosting, this is a good time to put it in the oven until after cupcakes are baked - test doneness with a skewer.) Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

Place milk and teabags in a small saucepan. Gently bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to cool to the touch - at least 30 minutes. Squeeze out tea bags and discard.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add flours, baking powder and salt in batches alternating with infused milk until just combined. Gentle fold in the chocolate and mixed peel.

Spoon into prepared cupcake tins and bake for 25 minutes or until cupcakes are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool on a wire rack.

To make frosting: blend the sweet potato, icing sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt in the food processor. Add cocoa and blend. Melt chocolate, coconut oil and cashew butter in the microwave or on the stovetop and add to the food processor. Blend until creamy. Spread or pipe over cupcakes. It makes quite a lot so you may have a little over depending on how much you use.

On the Stereo:
Selected Ambient Works by the Aphex Twin: Vol II: Aphex Twin


  1. oh my. the frosting is soooo interesting! You know, I am trying it!

  2. I am so intrigued by that ganache! I've done avocado in frosting but never sweet potato. Definitely trying it.

  3. Oh wow, this takes ganache to a whole new level - I am going to have to try that at some point. I did make some ganache recently with tahini but using sweet potato too is something else. Am quite envious of your stevia, it's illegal to sell it here in the UK. We grow our own, but in leaf form it has fairly limited usage. I too have yet to master piping - CT bought me a piping bag for Christmas, but I still haven't dared use it. Anyway, I think your cupcakes look delicious, so who needs swirls! Thanks for entering We Should Cocoa.

  4. Hi Johanna! I've been popping in to read your blog here and there but have never commented. Today your Earl Grey cupcakes caught my eye as I am hands down a Tea Jenny as my mom would say, and Earl Grey was my favourite for a long time.
    Your cupcakes sound amazing! I love all the creative recipes you share on your blog and just wanted to say thanks from someone who loves food and wishes she were more creative in that department herself!

  5. What a spread, that cake is amazing! Above all else thought he combo of your chocolate and tea in the cupcakes for this months challenge sound like a wonderful combo. Thanks for taking part ;0)

  6. Please tell me my last comment was saved - I'm having so many problems with blogger today!!! Grrrrrrrrrr

  7. I'm not a huge fan of Earl grey tea on its own, but I bet I'd like those cakes! And I am so glad you enjoyed the frosting. I generally don't worry too much about the fat as long as it's healthy fat and I'm not going to be eating buckets of it. And so funny that your family found the icing a bit under-sweet--considering that your version uses chocolate with sugar as well as actual sugar and mine doesn't--and I found my own to be plenty sweet! Funny how taste buds change over time, and when you're not consuming sugar! ;)

  8. Wow that is one of the most interesting frostings I have ever heard of!!

  9. Lovely combination of flavours in the cupcakes, I'd like to try this recipe. I enjoyed your tea story. For me, it's pears. I don't enjoy them raw but think they are wonderful cooked in a dessert.

  10. Eeeep! Johanna, I love when you post recipes I've already bookmarked but forgotten about! Definitely definitely have to try the frosting soon. I wonder if it would work with butternut squash? Maybe that wouldn't be sweet enough...

    P.S. I wonder what these cupcakes would be like with rooibos, too? I don't like Earl Grey :(

  11. These look wonderful - and I'm not at all surprised that Ricki's icing was to your taste...her sweet things are always to mine, too!

    Hope you managed to get Sylvia's dress back to party-perfect. X

  12. HI Johanna,

    I am going to have to try this frosting.

    I recommend using a disposible piping bag and a wide star tip, start with piping roses and then try a swirl with a peak. I have literally only just started making and decorating cupcakes and am already an addict.

  13. This frosting is a revelation for me - I've made raw cashew chocolates before but never thought for icing ! What a great way to give body for frosting without adding bucket loads of sugar and butter.

  14. Sweet potatoes in the frosting, Earl Grey in the cupcakes, how very intriguing. And that spread, wholly molly, incredible!!!

    I'm sure there aren't any left but boy oh boy, I sure wouldn't mind just a bitty taste of just one cupcake.

    Thanks for sharing, Johanna...

  15. That cake is very pretty! I have to ask, have you ever tried Himalayan salted butter tea? It's not very strong and is delicious!

  16. I am a big tea drinker but I've never tried baking with it. This looks wonderful. Can't wait to try it.

  17. thanks Anh - it is great!

    Thanks Joanne - you try sweet potato and I must try avocado (as my dodgy raw brownies doesn't count)

    Thanks Choclette - I haven't used stevia (though ricki did in her version) but I have seen it on sale here - didn't know it was illegal in the UK - glad I am not the only piping novice - good luck with your piping bag

    Thanks Heather - lovely to hear from you - E says that "tea jenny" is a good scottish phrase that his granny would have used - so glad you enjoy the recipes I post

    Thanks Chele - sorry blogger is messing you about - but yes I got the comment - and I am most grateful to you and choclette for a little chocolate inspiration - looking forward to the round up

    Thanks Ricki - after my family's comments about sweetness I wondered how this ganache would compare to your version - if I ever get into stevia and coconut sugar I will have to try it - I think it isn't too under-sweet compared to a ganache but is less sweet than a buttercream frosting

    Thanks Lisa - yes, I had to make it when I saw it on Ricki's blog

    Thanks Quince Poacher - cooking can really change foods - myself, I prefer my pears raw and find them quite odd cooked

    Thanks Hannah - I had thought of doing the ganache with pumpkin - I often use it interchangably with sweet potato so I am sure it would work - am sure the cupcakes would work with other teas (the flavour was not that strong anyway) but can't imagine why you don't like earl grey :-)

    Thanks Lucy - yes ricki's recipes are always what I am looking for - as for the dress, it did well in the wash but got so manky today that I wonder how it will go next wash

    Thanks Helen - great advice - I meant to try it with some frosting this week and then got too disorganised to experiment - need a bit more time to practise - hope you enjoy the frosting

    thanks foodie and the chef - there are so many things I would prefer to eat rather than sugar and butter - cashew butter chocolate and sweet potato are definitely among them

    thanks Louise - yes the cupcakes didn't last too long - wasn't certain if they would freeze but I didn't need to try - otherwise I would have loved to wing one your way

    Thanks Lorraine - never heard of Himalayan salted butter tea but will look out for it (though it doesn't sound commonly available)

    Thanks Rivki - baking with tea is great (esp for me as I love tea but it doesn't agree with me from a cup) - you should check out Choclette's round up at the start of March for other ideas too

  18. Your cupcakes look amazing. Really love the flavour combinations. I've never seen sweet potato and cashew butter in frosting -I wonder what it tastes like.

  19. Your cupcakes are gorgeous! Nothing wrong at all with the presentation. Have you tried loose leaf green or black tea? I don't like bag tea because, as you said, the tannins make it really astringent and not good. Loose leaf tea is much smoother. I thought those lemon meringue tarts were pieces of corn cobs!!

  20. I'm inspired. Just found your blog after making garbanzo bean and beet chocolate cupcakes. Looking for a nutritious icing...sweet potatoes and/or tahini sounds awesome. I'd have to sub the cashew butter since I'm allergic to nuts these days. My quest had been to make cupcakes that are nutritious enough to eat for dinner and this blog is definitely helping...


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