Saturday, 9 January 2016

Russian Caravan Cupcakes

Infused with a full-bodied Russian Caravan tea and finished with a ruffle of tea flavoured buttercream and faux tea leaves in the form of a few chocolate sprinkles, these simple Victoria sponge cupcakes are packed with flavour! 
Russian Caravan Cupcakes

If you could gauge how quintessentially 'English' somebody is by the volume of tea they drink then I firmly believe that I'd be perhaps a little more 'English' than many others.  I just love a good cup of tea; I drink it with all of my meals and many many times in between - you know elevenses and afternoon tea.   A cup of the finest Rosie-Lee solves any problem, or so they say.

I usually brew up de-caffeinated teas these days due to the bucket load of tea I drink.  I must admit it does have a slightly different flavour to regular tea but after a couple of cups I was sold.  This said, I do still indulge in 'regular' tea twice a day; a green lemon tea after my evening meal rounds things off nicely.  But of a late afternoon, when Chester, our feline friend is rounding me up wanting a fuss, we will sit on the sofa together with a couple of biscuits each and a teapot full of a good, full-bodied, Rosie-Lee.  

Russian Caravan Cupcakes, made with tea infused butter and finished with a sprinkling of chocolate strands

Now, Mr E, knowing my love of tea, very kindly bought me a gift set of Whittard Teas (apologies for the Amazon link, we could no longer find the gift set in Whittard's on-line shop) a couple of years ago and remembering how much I had enjoyed them he spoilt me with another gift set of their teas this year.  This year's gift set contained a slightly different collection of teas, however I was very pleased to see that it still held the Russian Caravan, arguably one of my favourite blends.

Russian Caravan Cupcakes, made with tea infused butter and finished with a sprinkling of chocolate strands

Russian Caravan Tea, as described by Whittard's packaging is an aromatic and full-bodied tea with a sweet & malty taste.  Its name comes from the 17th century when camel caravans transported China teas to Europe.  During the journey the teas apparently took on the smoky taste of the campfires.  I understand that the Russian Caravan blend contains Assam for the malty taste and Lapsang Souchong for the smoky element.  Now, I was actually surprised to learn that the Russian Caravan, which I love, contains the smoky Lapsang Souchong which, in all honesty, is a tea I can live without.  If there ever comes a day when the only tea that becomes available is Lapsang Souchong then I will simply drink water and, perhaps, the occasional coffee!  For me, I pick up more of the malty notes in the Russian Caravan than anything else, which is lovely.  So, if you're not a lover of the smoky Lapsang Souchong don't let that put you off trying the Russian Caravan.

Russian Caravan Cupcakes, made with tea infused butter and finished with a sprinkling of chocolate strands

It occurred to me over the festive season that the Russian Caravan blend would be great if it could be encapsulated in the form of a cupcake.  My quandary was how to go about imparting that flavour into the cake without actually popping the leaves into the sponge, that would simply be wrong - eugh!   My first thought was to allow the tea to steep in milk, but that would only be useful had the sponge recipe included a decent amount of the white stuff and given that my chosen sponge was to be a Victoria this obviously wouldn't have worked.  After a little internet surfing, many sites suggested placing the tea bags into melted butter to allow the flavours to impart and be caught.  I tried this method and it worked well.  The butter's colour was clearly darkened after the tea was infused but this reassured me that the method had worked.  I used 300g of butter for the six cupcakes and frosting.  This may sound somewhat excessive but after infusing the teabags in the warm butter and then allowing them to steep meant that the removed teabags held onto a fairly large amount of butter, despite trying to squeeze it out.  In other words, after infusing the tea into the 300g of butter I was left with just over 200g of flavoured butter!

Russian Caravan Cupcakes, made with tea infused butter and finished with a sprinkling of chocolate strands

The tea flavour carried through beautifully in the cupcakes.  I must admit that had we tasted them blind neither of us would necessarily know that they specifically contained the Russian Caravan blend, but that said you could certainly tell that the cupcakes and frosting carried a full bodied, malty, tea flavour.   The cakes themselves were beautifully light, having been made with gluten free flour which I had experimented with a little in this post.   As for the frosting, well it's a simple buttercream made with the tea infused butter.  I tried to pipe the buttercream onto the cakes as a ruffle using a petal piping nozzle, No. 127, another gift from Mr E.  I must admit I'm not terribly good at piping, it's one area I definitely need to develop, so if you want to try a ruffle for yourself this You Tube Video by My Cupcake Addiction demonstrates it really well.   I then scattered a few chocolate strands on top of the cakes to, vaguely, resemble tea leaves!  Well they do look likes tea leaves if you squint your eyes and imagine a little ;-)

Russian Caravan Cupcakes, made with tea infused butter and finished with a sprinkling of chocolate strands

Talking a little about Christmas gifts, I'm so excited about the main gift Mr E thoughtfully bought for me that I just have to tell you about it!  Did you watch The Great British Throw Down back in the autumn?  It was the pottery world's take off of GBBO.   I was enthralled with it.  I watched every episode and marvelled at their creations.   Well,  Mr E has excitedly bought me a set of 10 lessons to begin learning how to use a potters wheel!  :-)  Seriously, I can't wait until they begin.  My home thrown tea service will probably consist of wobbly plates and leaking cups, but who cares as they'll be unique and full of character!  There'll not be another set like it, with the same wobble and cracks ;-)   I'll aim to tell you more about it all when the lessons start, that's if you want to know about it, or I'll probably just tell you all regardless out of sheer excitement! :-)


So let's get to it and bake! 


Russian Caravan Cupcakes.     Yum

Russian Caravan Cupcakes
Yield: 6 muffin size cupcakes
Serves: 6
Difficulty: Easy 
Time: hands on time 20 minutes; plus 20 minutes bake time; cooling time; steeping time 
Freezable: Yes, undecorated  

You will need:

Small Heavy Based Pan
Wooden Spoon
Electric Hand Held Beater
Sieve
Spatula or large Metal Spoon
Muffin size Paper Cases
Muffin Baking Tray
Piping Bag (optional)
Piping Nozzle (I used a petal nozzle, No. 127) (optional)

For the flavoured butter

300g Unsalted Butter
4 Russian Caravan Teabags

For the sponge mixture

90g Unsalted Butter, infused with the tea
45g Golden Caster Sugar
45g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
90g SR Gluten Free Flour (or regular SR flour), sieved
1 - 2 tbsp milk

For the tea infused buttercream

120g Unsalted Butter, infused with the tea (or what ever you have remaining)
250g Icing Sugar (or to taste)
2 - 3 capfuls Milk

Decoration

Chocolate Strands


How to make them:

1.  Infuse the tea flavour into the butter.  Cube the butter into the small heavy based pan, this will help it melt at an even rate rather than being in one large block.  Sit the tea bags on top of the butter.  Set the pan over a low to medium heat and allow the butter to melt.  Once it starts to melt stir it periodically with a wooden spoon, being careful to not damage the teabags.  Allow the butter to heat up until it is very warm for about 20 - 30 seconds (though not boiling).  Stir again.  At this point you will notice the butter is darkening due to the tea infusion.  Turn off the heat.   Allow the butter to cool, but continue to give it a gentle stir every 5 minutes or so. 

2.  Remove the teabags.  Once the butter has started to solidify carefully remove the teabags.  Aim to remove as much of the flavoured butter from them as possible by squeezing them (without damaging the bag as you don't want leaves in the butter).   Discard the teabags.

3.  Pre-heat the oven to 190c / Fan 170c / Gas 5. Place the muffin cases into the muffin tray.

4.  Make the sponge.  Place the soft, flavoured, butter (90g) and sugars into a good sized bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until very pale and fluffy.  Gradually add the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the milk.  Sieve the flour into the mixture.  Using a spatula or large metal spoon fold this in gently.

5.  Fill the muffin cases.  Using a teaspoon, fill the cases with the batter mixture.  You're aiming for them to be half to two-thirds full.  You may decide to weigh each muffin to ensure equal sizes.  Each cupcake will weigh about 60g.

6.  Bake.  Place the muffin tray in the centre of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.  You may need to rotate the tray after 15 minutes of baking.   Once baked, remove from the oven and place on a cooling tray.

7.  Make the buttercream.  Place the remaining flavoured butter into a good sized bowl.  Sieve most of the icing sugar into the butter.  Use a wooden spoon to combine the two ingredients.   Once combined beat well to create a creamy frosting.   Taste and add more icing sugar if necessary.  Add a little milk if the mixture feels particularly thick.  (I added 2 capfuls)

8.   Decorate the cupcakes.  Once the cupcakes are completely cold beat the buttercream again for a few seconds. Place your chosen piping nozzle into the piping bag which has had a small amount cut from the piping end allowing the nozzle to fit snuggly.  Half fill your piping bag with the butter cream.  Decorate the cakes with your chosen style of piping.  I attempted a ruffle.  You may prefer to apply the frosting with a knife rather than piping it. 

9.  Sprinkle with chocolate strands.  Once the tea flavoured buttercream has been applied, sprinkle a few chocolate strands on top of the frosting to mimic tea leaves.

Enjoy, with a good cup of tea of course ;-)








Post Script:  Since publishing this recipe I have carried out a little Side-by-Side Baking experiment looking three different ways to capture tea flavour in sponges and which the preferred method is, according to my small army of tasters!
  

This post has been shared with


Tea Time Treats co-hosted by Janie over at The Hedgecombers and Karen at  Lavender and Lovage.  This month is hosted by Janie and the theme is open.

Cook Once, Eat Twice, hosted by Corina over at Searching for Spice

Perfecting Patisserie hosted by Lucy over at Baking Queen 74
CookBlogShareThe Mummy Toolbox Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com Casa Costello Link up your recipe of the week





31 comments:

  1. You might not think you're an expert but the piping of the icing looks great to me! I love how you did all your research and managed to get a tea flavoured cupcake. I'm afraid I'm not a tea drinker but they look lovely and great for people who do love tea. Thank you so much for linking up with #CookOnceEatTwice!

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    1. Aw thank you for your kind comments Corina :-), but I certainly do need to practice my piping some more. Tea drinkers should certainly enjoy these little cakes - especially with a pot of the stuff :-)
      Thanks for popping by and commenting and of course for hosting,
      Angela x

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  2. I'm with Corina, your piping looks pretty good. I'm not great at faffing around with piping bags and usually end up in a muddle, so I avoid it as best I can. Love the idea of the Russian caravans wending their way from China. I like the idea of your malty tea flavoured cakes too. I think I might have gone for a slightly wetter sponge and used very dark tea - I can't bear the thought of all that butter being wasted.

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    1. Thank you Choclette, I too don't pipe too often but I must admit that I love the aesthetics of a nicely piped cake/bun. Mr E has kindly bought me a good set of nozzles so I can try different effects and have a play around when I have some spare time. Yes, I was surprised by how much butter I lost - I didn't anticipate it being quite as much as it was to be honest. I shall certainly have to try it with a wetter batter and see what happens.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting Choclette,
      Angela x

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  3. Lovely post Angela, I loved learning about Russian Caravan tea and how you managed to get that flavour into the cupcakes...how very clever! I am the total opposite of you tea-wise Lapsang Souchong is one of the only black teas I like...Earl Grey being the other one...clearly I prefer the aromatic end of the market!! Your piping looks amazing...it's something I'm pretty rubbish at so I will be checking out the video link you included! YouTube is so useful when it comes to cake decoration...my kids are always asking for complicated things for their birthdays and someone somewhere has always made one already and posted a tutorial on YouTube! Phew!! Eb x

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    1. Aw thank you Eb :-) and for your kind comments regarding the piping work - my effort doesn't quite look like the YouTube tutorial I watched, but it's all a leaning curve. YouTube is fabulous for tutorials like that, isn't it - imagine trying to provide a useful description for intricate things! You may well be offered the Lapsong Souchong if Mr E decides he doesn't like it also ;-)
      Thanks for popping by and commenting Eb,
      Angela x

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  4. These look wonderful and the piping much better than I can do. Love the sound of the tea as well.

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    1. Thank you Alison :-) Everybody is being so kind about my icing attempt, I must have tried to show the sides showing the slightly better ruffles! The tea was great in them, it came through really well.
      Angela x

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  5. What a fantastic post! Really enjoyed reading this, although I now have a hankering to go off travelling to Eastern lands in search of smoky campfires and chests of tea... I love how innovative you've been with getting the cupcakes to taste of the tea - must try this one as soon as I get a chance. Thanks for linking up with #CookBlogShare x

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    1. Hahaha, is the back-pack being dusted off and airline ticket being booked ;-)
      Thank you so much for your kind comments Mandy, it's very much appreciated :-)and of course thank you for hosting,
      Angela x

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  6. I love tea, but I've never thought to put it in cupcakes - what a great idea! And I love your faux tea-leaf sprinkles :-)

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    1. :-) Thank you Helen. Our whole family loves tea too, and should coffee drinkers occasional visit we have to dig out the small jar from the back of the cupboard, dust it off and check to see if it's still in date ;-) ! I think the sprinkles just finish the cupcakes off - even if I have to squint and do a lot of imagining for them to actually look like tea leaves!
      Thanks for popping by and commenting Helen,
      Angela x

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  7. Your piping looks excellent to me. I love the idea of tea flavoured/infused cakes. I might try this one for myself! Ray xx #CookBlogShare

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments Rachael :-) Do send me a picture of them if you give them a go, I hope you enjoy them as much as we did,
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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  8. I've never heard of this kind of tea!! But it looks and sounds delicious in your cakes. I want to reach out and eat one right now!

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    1. Thank you Vicki :-), we'd never heard of Russian Caravan either until we received the tea gift box - it's definitely up there as one of my favourite teas.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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  9. I've never heard of this kind of tea!! But it looks and sounds delicious in your cakes. I want to reach out and eat one right now!

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  10. Wow these look incredible, love the styling too. Thanks for linking up to #tastytuesdays x

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    1. Aw thank you Vicki :-)
      Cheers for hosting,
      Angela x

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  11. wow I have never considered using tea to flavour cupcakes! they definitely look tasty! and your piping is way better than mine! Thanks so much for linking up to #YumTum, I love your recipes :) x

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    1. :-) Thank you Charlotte. The tea flavoured cupcakes came to me quite randomly when I was busy ironing - you know what it's like!
      Thanks for hosting,
      Angela x

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  12. These look amazing! I'm a big tea drinker but I have never used tea in baking, it's now on my 'to eat list'!!

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    1. Ooh if you love your tea you definitely need to try infusing it into a bake Hayleigh, it's amazing how well it comes through in the flavour.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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  13. It was really interesting to learn about Russian Caravan tea - I had never heard of it.I know that some people put tea in fruit cake and various other cakes, but I don't think I have seen a cupcake recipe with tea - certainly worth a try as I am a tea drinker too. They look delicious :) #YumTum

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    1. Thank you Sara, if you're a tea drinker you must give it a try when you have chance, the tea flavour comes through really well in them. Do let me know who you get on if you give them a try,
      Thanks for popping by and commenting.
      Angela x

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  14. Nice to know someone drinks as much tea as we do! My hubby should have an urn on the go! Love the retro feel of the Russian Caravan cupcakes. Thanks once again for joining in with #Bakeoftheweek New Linky open now x

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    1. Ooh a tea urn sounds a great idea - tea literally on tap ;-)
      Thanks for popping by and commenting, and of course for hosting,
      Angela x

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  15. What a great idea, to make tea infused cupcakes, they sound delicious and I love that you used your preferred blend in there! I think the ruffle piping looks great, it must be tricky to work on small cakes too as there isn't much room. Thanks for joining in with #PerfectingPatisserie!

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    1. Thank you Lucy, they really were delicious :-) The piping was a little tricky I must admit, because of the size of the cake but also for the fact that I'm still very much learning how to pipe! ;-)
      Thanks for popping by Lucy, and of course for hosting,
      Angela x

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  16. I love adding teas to bakes but usually use herbal teas as we are not big black tea drinkers. These look lovely and your piping is fab! Thank you for sharing with #cookblogshare x

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    1. Ooh I bet the herbal teas are lovely in bakes Kirsty,
      Thank you for your kind comments, and cheers for popping by :-)
      Angela x

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