This Earl Grey Cake is perfect for the tea lover in your life! Earl Grey infused cake layers paired with a silky vanilla bean buttercream.
There is nothing quite like having to call the fire department while you’re in the middle of making a cake. And no, this was not due to another incident with the kitchen torch. It actually had nothing to do with my baking at all (hah!), but it certainly made for a more eventful Thursday than I had planned.
It all started with an odd smell in the kitchen. I went in there late morning to start making the buttercream for this Earl Grey Cake and smelled this weird mechanical/chemical kinda smell (not gas). I thought maybe it was the landscapers with their various electric tool things (lol, I have no idea what they are called), but the smell didn’t dissipate after they left, and actually got stronger.
In typical Olivia fashion, I started to freak out, half-finished cake still sitting on the counter. I have a pretty wild imagination so I started picturing faulty wiring in the walls, smoking and starting an electrical fire (for real). Our place is 30 years old (we’ve only been here for a year) and has had some work done to it. Some of the stuff here has been DIY’d, and I have no idea what’s inside the walls.
Anyhow, due to fears of an electrical fire (lol, sigh), I went and turned off all of the breakers leading to anything in the kitchen. Sure enough, the smell faded away. This confirmed my fears that it was something electrical. So, naturally, I went to Google to see what to do. As always, Google is so helpful. No matter what you look up, you’re either dying or you’re going to die. Everything was like: “Get out of the house!”,”You’re gonna die!”, “Call the fire department”. So I did.
I had to psych myself up to do it though. The thought of a fire truck outside my door, neighbors gawking and wondering wtf was going on, I just didn’t want to deal with it. But I also didn’t want out place to burn down, so… I literally had an internal pep talk before I dialled the number.
Anyhow, the fire department arrives. I could hear their sirens as I was pacing the floor, wondering if somehow they could be discreet (lol). They checked stuff out as much as they could, using their heat sensor things, but couldn’t find anything. I was hoping they’d be like — ok, turn on each of the breakers one by one and we’ll see. Unfortunately, they said they weren’t qualified to assess that and that I’d need to call an electrician, but to leave all the breakers off. SIGH. At least I was assured that nothing was currently on fire? I guess?
So off I go to Google again to find an electrician who can come TODAY. ASAP. I was cringing at the amount I would be charged for this emergency visit. I get off the phone with the guy, who says he’ll be here in a couple hours, and turn the breaker for the fridge back on because, HELLO, I have a cake in there.
As soon as I get back upstairs I smell it again. It’s easy to get behind our fridge, so I pull it out and start smelling the outlet. LOL I am SUCH a freak/loser/whatever. I thought for sure it was coming from there, but then I hear a zap from the back of the fridge. Aha! My nose leads me to the bottom of the back of the fridge, where there is this grate, and that’s where the smell is coming from. Thank god. I was so relived it wasn’t something in the walls!!
I cancelled the electrician (yay!).
I didn’t realize at that point that the fridge had actually DIED. I thought it was just on its last legs and that we should probably look at buying one on the weekend. After the whole ordeal (and finishing this cake), I went into the freezer to get a popsicle (it was super hot that day). The popsicle was basically mush. Oh *&^%. The fridge is DEAD. Ooookay, so off I went to the appliance store (alone, Ryan was at work and the shop closes at 5:30pm, seriously) to buy one that day.
Thankfully they had one they could deliver on Saturday, so it wouldn’t be too bad. We put what we could into our (already packed and very small) second fridge/freezer, but there was still a lot left in the fridge. It was keeping things cool-ish as it died, but by Saturday morning when we opened it up, the air that came out of there was warmer than the air outside. Gross.
So, a bit of an ordeal and some food loss, but it all worked out in the end. And we finally have a new fridge, which I’ve wanted since the day we moved in. Now, let’s talk about this Earl Grey Cake, shall we? Because it’s a winner.
I’d had an Earl Grey Cake on my radar for a while now, but it seemed like more of a “Fall” type cake (cozy sweaters, warm tea, etc.), so I waited until it was closer to Fall season. The days are getting shorter and cooler (I’m actually wearing a sweater as I type this – insert happy face).
Earl Grey is traditionally a black tea that is flavored with bergamot (citrus). I say traditionally because you can now get rooibos and even green tea versions of Earl Grey. I prefer the traditional one, although mine has a bit of a twist too. My favorite is a Cream of Earl Grey which adds a hint of vanilla to the classic beverage. It really takes it to a whole ‘nother level of deliciousness. I used Cream of Earl Grey tea in the cake, but you can use any kind you like.
You don’t have to love tea to love this cake! Ryan is not a tea drinker at all, and he loved the unique flavor it has — though I will say that if you are not a fan of Earl Grey, it might not be up your alley. The Earl Grey tea is infused into the cake layers in many levels, so it is very prominent. I paired it with a simple vanilla bean buttercream to compliment the creamy Earl Grey flavors.
Tips for this Earl Grey Cake:
- If you don’t like Earl Grey tea, you can experiment with other tea flavors. I used Cream of Earl Grey for this cake.
- The Earl Grey syrup is optional (I forgot to add it even though I had it made), but it will enhance the flavor of the cake even more, and will add moisture.
- I used the tea leaves as garnish on the cake for the pictures, but do not recommend doing this as they are rather unpleasant to chew on!
- Be sure to check my Swiss Meringue Buttercream post for tips and troubleshooting.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my Flat Top Cakes post.
Earl Grey Cake With Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Earl Grey Milk:
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1 Tbsp Earl Grey tea heaping, loose leaf
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp Earl Grey tea finely ground
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup Earl Grey milk room temperature
Earl Grey Syrup (optional):
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 Tbsp Earl Grey tea
Vanilla Bean Buttercream:
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Earl Grey Milk:
- Bring milk and tea to a boil in a small pot over med-high heat. Turn heat off and steep for 10mins. Strain and measure out 1 cup. Top up with milk if needed.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 6″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, tea,and salt until well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and Earl Grey milk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Bake for approx. 35mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack. Allow cakes to cool completely.
Earl Grey Syrup:
- Place sugar, water, and tea into a small pot. Bring to a boil and simmer 2 mins. Remove from heat, steep for 5 mins. Strain and cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk until combined.*
- Place bowl over a double boiler on the stove and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot (160F) and no longer grainy to the touch (approx. 3mins).
- Place bowl on your stand mixer and whisk on med-high until the meringue is stiff and cooled (the bowl is no longer warm to the touch (approx. 5-10mins)).
- Switch to paddle attachment. Slowly add cubed butter and mix until smooth.** Add vanilla bean paste and mix until incorporated.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Brush with 2-3 Tbsp of the Earl Grey syrup.
- Top with approximately 2/3 cup of buttercream and spread evenly. Repeat with remaining layers. Frost and smooth the outside with a thin crumb coat. Chill for 20mins.
- Pipe rosettes on top of desired using a 1M tip.***
** The buttercream may look like it’s curdled at some point. Keep mixing until it is completely smooth.
*** I used tea leaves as garnish on the cake for the pictures, but do not recommend doing this as they are rather unpleasant to chew on!
Would it be possible to bake this as a Bundt cake for a friend who doesn’t like buttercream?
Hi Kristy! Yes, for sure. You’ll need to increase the baking time though.
Hi there! How would you go about adjusting the baking instructions for cupcakes?
Hi Rachel! The recipe should make 18-24 depending on size. Start checking them at 15mins or so.
Hi! I’m going to make this cake for my sister’s birthday and she’s okay with butter but requested her cake be made without dairy milk. Would it work to swap out the milk for almond, oat or cashew milk? Should I make any adjustments?
Hi Sam! Yes that should work just fine for a straight swap.
Hello Olivia, may i know if i need to change the baking time and ingredient if i’m going to bake in one 8″ pan and later on cut into 2 layers?
Hi Moo! The recipe as is works for two 8″ pans. For one 8″ pan it would need to be at least 4″ tall but that is a very tall cake. Baking time would need to be significantly increased. I don’t recommend baking it all in one pan as the side will dry out before the middle can cook.
Thanks for replying . How long do i need to bake if i bake in two 8″ pans?
Do i reduce the baking temp a little and bake longer if i want a flat top? I do not have cake strips ;(
The baking time will be similar, but every oven bakes differently so I recommend you check on the cakes as they are baking.
Here are my tips for testing if a cake is done:
1. Peek through the oven window. To see if the cakes are a nice golden brown (doesn’t really work for chocolate cakes).
2. Nudge the oven. Gently nudge your oven (assuming it’s free-standing and not built-in). If there is any jiggle in the center of the cakes, leave the oven door closed and bake for a few minutes longer.
3. Nudge the pans. Open the oven and gently nudge the pans. If there is any jiggle in the center of the cakes, close the oven door and bake for a few minutes longer.
4. Poke the cake. Gently poke the top of the cake with your finger. If the cake is firm and springs back, it’s ready for the next step.
5. Toothpick test. Insert a toothpick into the middle of the cake. When there are a few crumbs on the toothpick, the cake is ready. You want crumbs on there because the cake keeps cooking when you take it out of the oven.
I did a trial run for a 4 inch cake! i love it! The buttercream was nice too, not too sweet or buttery. thanks for the recipe.
Yay! So glad you loved it 🙂
Is the nutritional information per serving?
Hi Sally! Yes, per serving.
This looks like a great recipe, just wondering what the results are if I substitute with oil instead of the butter.
Hi there! It will be fine to use oil instead. It will make for a softer cake with a greasier mouth-feel though. Not a bad thing, just a preferene.