Sunday, 3 April 2016

Side-by-Side Baking, Tea Flavoured Sponge

Continuing my mini Side-by-Side Baking experiments I explore three different ways of how to make a beautiful tea flavoured sponge.  You may be surprised by the results!

Creating a tea flavoured sponge

Way back in January you may recall I shared a recipe for Russian Caravan cupcakes.  These were generous sized buns which had been infused with my favourite blend of tea, the Russian Caravan.  As I mentioned in the post, I wasn't too sure how to go about encapsulating that wonderful tea flavour into my sponge other than infusing it into some milk.  The vast majority of sites I came across suggested infusing the tea bags into some warm melted butter and then allow it to solidify again before baking.  Although this technique worked well giving a delicate tea flavour, it occurred to me to carry out one of my Side-by-Side Baking experiments to see which method carried the tea flavour in the bake most effectively.

Creating a tea flavoured sponge by infusing in butter, infusing in milk, and simply adding the tea leaves to the batter


This Side-by-Side Baking post is infact a Side-by-Side-by-Side baking comparison.  Rather than two similar yet different bakes, this time I bring you three!  The three bakes have been made to try to identify the best way to incorporate a beautiful tea flavour into a sponge.  It's all about the flavour here!  These were:
  • allowing the tea bags to infuse in butter.  This batch of cakes was made using a Victoria Sponge recipe and was topped with a tea flavoured buttercream;
  • allowing the tea bags to infuse in milk.  These cupcakes were made from a muffin type recipe which mixes its dry and wet ingredients separately before combining the two.  These types of recipes usually have a good volume of milk to them thus lending itself nicely to my little experiment.  The cakes were topped with whipped cream which had been infused with tea; 
  • incorporating the actual tea leaves into the sponge batter.  This batch of cakes were also made from a Victoria Sponge recipe.  They were simply decorated with a water icing, the water coming from a pot of brewed black tea.
Rather than using Russian Caravan tea in these cakes I decided to use Earl Grey, a black tea scented with bergamot.  I have fond memories of drinking this fragrant tea in a local vegetarian cafe on Friday lunchtimes with my dear friend Surjana.  We would always saunter back to the office full of giggles joking that the Buddhist monks, who ran the cafe, had put a little something 'extra' into the teapot ;-)
Earl Grey flavoured cupcakes

So without further ado, how did I go about my mini experiment?  I firstly needed to identify which sponge recipe I was going to use.  The classic Victoria sponge was used for those cakes where the tea was infused into the butter as this recipe contains comparatively generous amounts of fat.  I also used this classic recipe for the cakes which carried the actual tea leaves in the sponge.  However, as the Victoria Sponge hardly uses any milk it clearly wasn't suitable to use for those cakes where the tea was infused in the milk.  Therefore, for this batch I decided to use a muffin recipe which uses a generous amount of milk.  As this was an experiment to identify the method which carried the best tea flavour in the sponge I wasn't overly concerned at using two different recipes.   However, in order to make it a fair comparison I not only aimed to keep the resultant yield similar but also used the same number of tea bags (2) for each batch; my theory being that the same amount of tea strength would be achieved.  One tea bag was used for the sponge itself and the second for the tea flavoured decoration.  However, you will notice that in the recipe where the tea was infused in the butter both tea bags were infused in the fat, but all of this butter was used to make the sponge batter as well as the buttercream.   Again to maintain consistency I also used the same brand of Earl Grey in all three batches.  Different patterned paper cases were used for the three batches, thus preventing them from being muddled up.

Before I divulge the preferred cupcake based upon the strength of tea flavour achieved, as voted for by my small army of tasters, I think it's only appropriate to mention a few other noteworthy remarks about the three separate batches.

Firstly I shall address the tea infused in butter batch.  How to make a tea flavoured sponge by infusing tea in butter

  • As the recipe calls for the tea bags to be allowed to steep in melted butter before solidifying, a relatively large amount of butter is actually 'lost' mainly through the teabag being saturated with it.  It is incredibly difficult to retain the quantity of butter that was started with.  In this recipe, which only made 3 decorated cupcakes, I started with 150g of butter and managed to reclaim 105g from the teabags, therefore losing 45g.  That equates to 30%.  Clearly 45g of lost butter isn't the end of the world, but if this recipe was scaled up significantly then a loss of 30% of butter starts to make the whole bake a more costly (and wasteful) affair. 
  • Another notable comment to make is the length of time it takes from starting to infuse the tea into the butter to arriving at a stage when the butter is solid enough to be suitable for baking with.  It's only around 30 - 45 minutes, but if you're looking for an ultra quick bake this clearly isn't the method for you.         

Secondly, the tea infused in milk cupcakes.How to make a tea flavoured sponge by infusing tea into milk

  • In a similar way to the butter method above, the milk volume was reduced during the infusion stage.  Possibly, though only slightly, due to evaporation, but mainly as a result of the bag holding onto the milk despite it being squeezed out gently.  This said, by percentage, less milk than butter was lost.
  • These took far less time, in comparison to the butter ones, to prepare.  The  warmed infused milk only needed to return to being lukewarm before being used where as the butter needed to return to its solid state.
  • The decoration used for this batch was a double cream which was infused with the Earl Grey tea.  Clearly the colour of tea permeated into the white cream and resulted in it having a slightly grey hue. 

Next, we come to the cupcakes carrying the actual tea leaves.
How to make a tea flavoured sponge by incorporating tea leaves into the batter

  • This was the quickest bake as it simply required the tea bag to be opened and the leaves scattered into the batter.
  • Clearly, the sponge was liberally peppered with the leaves in a similar way to when baking with poppy seeds. 
  • As the leaves were fine in size they weren't noticeable during the eat.  Had they been larger the eater may have had to use a toothpick!   

And finally, the taste results. Which tea flavoured cupcake tasted the best?

Four 'volunteer' taste testers were assembled, including myself.    Although the principal behind this baking challenge had been explained to my tasters, the identity of the specific cakes hadn't been divulged to them.  Only I knew which cupcake was which, so my tasters sampled them blind, so to speak.   The result was a resounding 100% in favour of the cupcakes carrying the actual tea leaves!  A clear tea flavour came through during this eat, though I must say that it wasn't necessarily obvious the tea was Earl Grey.

For those wondering, the first runner up was the butter method.  The preferred cake decoration was that made with the tea flavoured buttercream.  The tea flavoured whipped cream was described as 'wishy-washy'.

I must admit that I was a little surprised by the result.  This batch had only been included based upon the attitude "well, why not", even though my instinct suggested (wrongly) that it wouldn't be a pleasant eat.  When I had initially set about making my Russian Caravan cupcakes back in January I completely dismissed the idea of simply throwing the tea leaves into the batter.  I had visions that the leaves would stick to the eater's teeth and simply not be a very nice eating experience, after all it's not at all pleasant when the tea bag bursts when making your morning pot of tea.  Even Mr E, when I enlighted him about this Side-by-Side bake, let out a little "eugh" sound at the idea of tea leaves being nestled in the sponge.  This was echoed in my internet search when writers expressed their own thoughts.  However, these concerns have, for me and my tasters, been completely blown out of the water.  However, on thinking about it a little more, it actually makes sense that this batch was preferred based upon the brief my testers had been given as the entire tea leaves were used which therefore included 100% of the flavour

So, when I have the desire to make a tea flavoured sponge in the future I shall certainly look at this simpler, and cheaper method, as no butter or milk was lost during its making ;-), and simply throw the tiny tea leaves into the bowl at the creaming stage of making batter!  


So let's get to it and bake! 


Tea Infused in Butter Cupcakes.

Tea flavoured cupcakes, made by infusing the tea flavour in butter
See my recipe for Russian Caravan Cupcakes.



 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea Infused in Milk Cupcakes.     Yum

Tea Floured Cupcakes, made by infusing the tea in milk.
Yield: 5 muffin size cupcakes
Serves: 5
Difficulty: Easy 
Time: hands on time 20 minutes; plus 20 minutes bake time; cooling time; steeping time 
Freezable: Yes, undecorated  

You will need:
2 Small Heavy Based Pan
Wooden Spoon
Electric Hand Held Beater
Sieve

Muffin size Paper Cases
Muffin Baking Tray
Balloon Whisk
Piping Bag
Piping Nozzle

For the flavoured milk
95ml Milk (we used full fat cow's milk)
1 Teabag (we used earl grey)

For the sponge mixture
24g Unsalted Butter, softened
70g SR Gluten Free Flour (or regular SR Flour), sieved
42g Golden Caster Sugar
41g Caster Sugar
Pinch Salt
70g Tea flavoured infused milk
1 medium Egg, lightly beaten

For the tea flavoured cream decoration
150ml Double Cream
1 Teabag (we used Earl Grey)
1-2 tsp Icing Sugar

Decoration
Chocolate Strands or Grated Chocolate


How to make them:
1.  Infuse the tea flavour into the milk and double cream.  Pour the milk and double cream into two separate small pans and add a teabag into each pan .  Set the pans over a low to medium heat and allow the liquids to warm through and almost come to the boil. Periodically swirl the pans to diffuse the tea.  Turn off the heat.   Allow the liquids to cool.  Gently squeeze out the tea bags, aiming to get more of the tea flavour into the milk and cream without breaking the bag. 

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

3.  Make the sponge.  Place the soft butter, flour, sugars and salt into a good sized bowl.  Use the electric handheld beater to mix the ingredients until the butter has been incorporated and the mixture is fine grains.  I'd recommend covering the bowl with a cloth to avoid creating a dust cloud during this step!  Measure 70ml of tea flavoured milk from the pan, and add the lightly beaten egg.  Pour the tea flavoured milky egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with the beaters until combined.  Avoid over beating.

4.  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.

5.  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.

6.  Whip the double cream.  Pour the tea flavoured cream into a medium sized bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk until you achieve soft peaks.  Add a teaspoon of icing sugar to balance the flavour, adding a little more if you like.    Whip the cream again to combine.  Avoid over beating.   Spoon the whipped cream into a piping pag fitted with a star nozzle.

7.   Decorate the cupcakes.  Once the cupcakes are completely cold pipe a swirl of the tea flavoured cream onto the top of each cake.  Sprinkle with chocolate strands or grate over some chocolate.




Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Tealeaf Cupcakes.     Yum

Tea Flavoured Cupcakes, made by incorporating the tea leaves into the sponge
Yield: 3 muffin size cupcakes
Serves: 3
Difficulty: Easy 
Time: hands on time 20 minutes; plus 20 minutes bake time; cooling time.
Freezable: Yes, undecorated  


You will need:

Electric Hand Held Beater or WoodenSpoon
Sieve
Spatula or large Metal Spoon
Muffin size Paper Cases
Muffin Baking Tray


For the sponge mixture
45g Unsalted Butter
23g Golden Caster Sugar
22g Caster Sugar
1 Teabag (we used Earl Grey - ensure fine tea leaves)
1 Egg, lightly beaten
45g SR Gluten Free Flour (or regular SR flour), sieved
1 tbsp milk

For the tea flavoured water icing
4 tbsp Icing Sugar
1 Teabag (we used Earl Grey)
Boiling Water


Decoration
Chocolate Strands or Grated Chocolate


How to make them:
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 190c / Fan 170c / Gas 5.  Place the muffin cases into the muffin tray.

2.  Make the sponge.  Place the soft butter and sugars into a good sized bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until very pale and fluffy.  Open the teabag and add the leaves to the butter mixture. Mix again.   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.  Use a spatula or large metal spoon fold this in gently.

3.  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.

4.  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.

5.  Make the tea flavoured water icing.  Using the teabag and boiling water brew a black cup of tea.  Place the icing sugar into a small bowl.  Add two teaspoons of the brewed tea and mix together.  Add a little more tea as necessary, the mixture should be quite thick.  Spoon a teaspoon of the water icing onto a cold cupcake.  Use the back of the spoon to gently spread the icing out to the edge of the cupcake.  Decorate the remaining cupcakes.  Sprinkle over chocolate strands or grate over a little chocolate.


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

 











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18 comments:

  1. I love these side by side experiments! Plus sticking tea leaves into a sponge is so simple, I'm definitely giving this a try at the weekend! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Martin :-) I was surprised but quietly pleased that the easiest version of the mini experiment produced the best flavour :-) Do let me know how you get on with it,
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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  2. Hooray for the easiest method being the best!! :-) I do love your side by side experiments. I guess this would only work with tea from teabags, as loose leaf tea would be a bit big?? But I wonder if you could blitz up loose leaf to get the same effect. I love Earl Grey tea so these cakes sound lovely :-) Eb x

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    Replies
    1. Hooray indeed ;-) Great idea to blitz up the larger leaves Eb. I recall having afternoon tea in Betty's in York a couple of years ago and Mr E & chuckling that there was a whole branch of tea in the tea pot (well slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean), those leaves may take some blitzing ;-) But, I'd certainly say the smaller the better as far as this bake is concerned.
      Thanks for your lovely comments Eb,
      Angela x

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  3. that certainly is an interesting finding! I would never have guessed that. They all look really pretty too. x

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    Replies
    1. I was surprised too Rebecca, I'm glad I included that third bake ;-)
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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  4. Thank you so much for this experiment, I'm about to start some baking with tea and wondered which was the best way to do it, you've answered that for me and I can't wait to get started now.

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    Replies
    1. Ooh that sounds interesting, I'd love to hear how you get on with your bake Anne. I'm glad I could be of some help :-)
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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  5. Angela, I just love your side by side baking experiments! It's so interesting reading about the different results you get. I'd have had doubts about including tea leaves in the batter as well but as you say, they were nice and fine so they worked well. Thanks for linking up to #CookBlogShare this week.

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    Replies
    1. Aw thank you Mandy. it would have been so easy to not carry out that particular bake because of my assumption but i'm really glad I did :-)
      Thanks for popping by and hosting Mandy,
      Angela x

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  6. Love this experiment and now need a tea infused bun stat! Thanks for linking up to #Tastytuesdays

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha, thank you Vicki :-) I'd send you some but all of the stats have been eaten ;-)
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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  7. How interesting! I have never used tea in cakes before - now I know how! #cookblogshare

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    Replies
    1. It's amazing the marked difference in amount of tea flavour which comes through when the tiny leaves are incorporated into the sponge. It occurred to me to try tea in a sponge bake after OH bought me a lovely set of different tea blends at Christmas (I like tea ;-) ).
      Thanks for popping by Louise,
      Angela x

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  8. This is such a cool post! Thanks for experimenting and sharing. I made black tea and blackberry cupcakes with a honey cream cheese icing a couple of years ago and incorporated the tea by steeping it in milk (I think I followed a Hummingbird Bakery recipe). Although the tea flavour wasn't obvious it gave the sponge an extra richness or depth of flavour, very yummy. I'll have to try adding the tea leaves next time!

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    Replies
    1. Aw thank you Jo, I must say your black tea & blackberry cupcakes sound absolutely delicious. We too found the tea flavour not overly obvious in the two steeped bakes, but the one including the leaves was more noticeable but not overly strong so as to put off non tea drinkers.
      Thanks for your lovely comment Jo,
      Angela x

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  9. I love these side-by-side tests, they're always fascinating. I'll definitely be adopting your approach if I want to make any tea infused sponge in future.

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    Replies
    1. Aw thank you Charlotte, that's so kind of you :-) The tea flavour was definitely clearer in the batch including the actual leaves.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

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