London Fog Earl Grey Tea Cake
I’ve had Tessa Huff’s London fog cake bookmarked for a while now. Since making her honey butter layered cake, I’ve been obsessed with her creativity and aesthetic. Growing up in a British Colony, I’ve had my fair share of high teas, which are often accompanied by cups of steamy hot tea. In fact, Hong Kong-nese love this afternoon beverage so much we created our own version – Hong Kong milk tea. Black Ceylon tea is boiled and steeped into a strong, dark liquor, then mixed with evaporated milk and sugar. Local cha-chan-tangs fight to be crowned to serve the silkiest, creamiest milk tea. One in particular called Kam Fung, is known to strain their tea with close-mesh stockings, resulting in the smoothest texture, and enriched with high quality black & white brand evaporated milk.
With years of sampling the stronger, rather aggressive version of milk tea, I was intrigued by its more elegant cousin, the London fog latte. The name itself evokes the romantic in me, and a sip of the vanilla-infused, bergamot scented earl grey tea, immediately transports me to a foggy English morning.
Despite how beautiful Tessa’s cake is, I’ve declared it unfeasible to make for two reasons. 1) Contrary to common belief, I own a mini fridge and don’t have a freezer stocked with cookie dough and stock base. 2) E and I can barely finish a quarter of what I usually bake, and it’s hard for him to carry a layered cake to work on his Citibike.
Instead, I found an equally beautiful Earl Grey cake on Not Quite Nigella. This rendition is more rustic, and requires less decorating skill. I’ve never made a Victoria sponge cake before, but I know how temperamental it can be. After educating myself on The Great British Bake Off, I’ve set off to recreate the exact texture endorsed by Mary Berry.
If you can, try to sort after loose earl grey tea leaves that have cornflower petals mixed in. Although it doesn’t greatly alter the flavor, the blue petals look absolutely divine sprinkled on top of the pillowy soft whipped cream.
I altered Lorraine’s recipe to fit my 8”-round springform tin, which if perfect for a small dinner party. Since I knew our party of four won’t be able to finish the cake, I simply brushed on a layer of tea-scented syrup for a chewy coating, and served the cream on side. Serve it however you want to, I assure you the flavor will be great regardless.
London Fog Earl Grey Tea Cake
Makes 1 8" layered cake. Adapted from Not Quite Nigella.
For the cake:
200g butter, softened
200g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs, at room temperature
200g all purpose flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4g loose Earl Grey tea leaves, crushed until fine
1/4 cup whole milk milk
For the Earl Grey syrup:
3/4 cup water
3-4g loose Earl Grey tea leaves
3/4 cup granulated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
450ml/16 fl ozs. cream
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
Edible flowers or more crushed tea leaves
Prep work. Preheat oven to 160C/320F. Butter a 20cm/8inch round tin and line with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
Make the batter. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the butter and sugar together for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then eggs, one at a time, whisking until combined. Remove from the mixer and sift in the flour mixture from a height. This is to make sure you are adding air to the mix, which will give it a better rise in the oven. With a rubber spatula, fold in the Earl Grey tea leaves, using the milk to keep the batter moist.
Bake the cake. Pour the batter into the tin and smooth over using an angled spatula if you have one. Place in the oven gently and bake for 55-60 minutes. Victoria sponges are notoriously temperamental so don't slam the door, don't open the door while it is baking, and don't turn on the oven lights. When a skewer comes out clean, remove from oven and let cool completely in the tin.
Make syrup. While the cake is baking, boil the water, tea bag and sugar together until it becomes a syrup. Add vanilla and cool completely.
Assemble the cake. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into half horizontally. Poke holes in the two halves of the cake and drizzle or brush on around 1-2 tablespoons of the Earl Grey syrup. This depends on how moist and sweet you want the cake to be.
Using an offset spatula, spread half of the whipped cream on the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top and spread on the remaining cream. Top with flowers or more crushed tea leaves. The assembled cake can keep for a day or two in the fridge, or unassembled and covered for up to 5 days, where the flavour develops over time.