Nothing warms me up like a cup of tea. Last Saturday, I made a pot of Chai Spice tea after a chilly morning of apple picking. With every sip, I marveled at how the black tea, peppered with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom, ignited my taste buds.
I started thinking about what I might do with the peck of apples I had gathered. Then, inspiration struck. Apple Chai Spice Cake. Oh, my…
My past attempts to bake with tea have been a bit disappointing. I’ve struggled to capture anything more than a subtle tea flavor. After a little research, I’ve learned the best way to infuse my cakes with a potent (but not overpowering) tea flavor and aroma is really quite simple. Steep the tea in butter.
It’s best to use loose leaf tea, since the tea leaves are a bit bigger. If you’re a true tea connoisseur (I’m not), you’ll probably shudder at my suggestion that you can use bagged tea for this recipe. I had plenty of good quality Chai Spice tea bags in my cupboard, so I cut these bags open and used the leaves. If you don’t mind that some of the tea leaves will, inevitably, make their way into the cake batter, I say go for it.
Place 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) of unsalted butter into a saucepan over low heat. Add 6-8 teaspoons of Chai Spice tea leaves. Melt the butter and tea leaves, stirring occasionally. (This is different from the tea to butter ratio suggested in the above link. Don’t worry, the tea flavor is splendid.) Once the melted butter starts to darken from the tea leaves (about 6-7 minutes), remove the saucepan from your stove. Place the saucepan on a trivet or other heat-safe surface, and allow the tea to steep for about 7-8 minutes.
Place a sieve over a bowl. Pour the tea butter mixture into the sieve. Most of the liquid will strain through the sieve. Since I used bagged tea leaves (smaller than loose leaf tea), I poured the tea butter through the strainer twice to minimize the amount of leaves remaining in the butter. If you use loose leaf tea, you may have to use a wooden spoon to press the leaves against the fine mesh. Allow the tea butter to come to room temperature. It’s now ready to use.
I like to use some of the cake’s ingredients as a garnish. I think it’s a bit of a teaser of the cake that my guests are about to partake. I decided to sprinkle a few Chai Spice leaves all over this cake and then top it off with a couple of cinnamon sticks. It was simple, yet elegant, cake that smelled absolutely amazing. It tasted even better.
Have you ever baked with tea? What did you make?
Apple Chai Spice Cake
An Original Cakediva Recipe
Yield: Two 9″ round cakes
2 ¾ cups (10 ounces) of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 cup (8 ounces) of tea butter – See recipe, above. I used 2 ½ sticks of butter to make the tea butter, since some of the butter will stick to the tea leaves remaining in your sieve.
2 cups (14 ounces) of ultrafine granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) of milk
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground cloves
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of cardamom
2-3 apples – cored, peeled and grated (about 1 cup, heaping)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cake pans by spraying them with a non-stick baking spray. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the baking powder, salt, and spices, and use a whisk to combine them with the flour. Set aside. Next, put the sugar and tea butter into the bowl of your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed (4 on your Kitchen Aid) until light and fluffy. This may take a bit longer than usual, since the tea butter is not firm. Turn your mixer down to a low setting (2 on your Kitchen Aid) and slowly add the vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, and re-start your mixer on low to fully combine the ingredients.
Next, alternate adding the dry ingredient mixture and the milk into the butter mixture, stirring well after each addition. Then, bump up the speed on your mixer to medium-high (8 on your Kitchen Aid) for about 15 seconds. Turn off the mixer. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Slowly fold the grated apples into the cake batter until well combined. Pour the batter into cake pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on wire cake racks.
Honey Vanilla Buttercream
An Original Cakediva Recipe
2 sticks of butter, unsalted – chilled, but not straight from the fridge
4 tablespoons of all-vegetable shortening
3-4 tablespoons of milk
2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of pure honey
dash of salt
4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
In a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening until smooth. Next, while you continue to beat the mixture, add the vanilla, honey, and salt. Then, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. When your mixer starts to strain, add one tablespoon of milk at a time, until the buttercream reaches your preferred consistency. (The more milk you add, the creamier the frosting.) Beat until smooth. If the frosting is too sweet for your liking, add another dash of salt and mix until combined. (Keep doing this until it reaches the desired amount of sweetness.) Lastly, before using, take a rubber spatula and stir the frosting thoroughly to eliminate any air bubbles.