I spent the weekend snowbound, discussing my wedding cake, watching way too many movies, and periodically venturing out into the white, freezing world to slip, trip, and slide down hills on whatever piece of plastic I could find.
Though a day at home can be restorative, multiple days at home can quickly grow tiresome. I feel a burning beneath my skin, an ache to do something besides nothing.
The kitchen starts to call and I sit with my notebook and scribble down ideas until something feels right. Then, the mug of hot cocoa is set aside, and the chilling fragrance of winter is replaced with the aroma of freshly baked cakes, awaiting their chocolatey, buttercream destiny.
I had cake on the brain this past weekend. One of my dear bridesmaids has bravely agreed to bake my rather elaborate wedding cake, and we have been discussing molds, serving sizes, and cake flavors so much that my brain has turned to buttercream, which is by no means a bad thing. It just made me want cake. But, as you know, I do not like baking cakes because they slide, and fall, and make me cry. This is why I love cupcakes.
As I contemplated flavors, I wanted something snow-day appropriate. I craved a cupcake that could deliver the same comforting warmth that I found in the my humble, morning brew of Earl Grey, and a slice of toast with jam. Then, in a rare moment of what I would call brilliance, it came to me. Earl Grey cupcakes.
Real talk. The whole Earl Grey-flavored everything had gotten nothing but a dramatic eye-roll from me up until now. I had made two attempts to incorporate the deep, moody notes of Bergamot into my baking and both failed to deliver any detectable trace of tea. This time, however, I was determined. I googled, I schemed, and I finally contrived a means by which I could harness the powerful flavor of a classic morning brew.
This stroke of brilliance was not exactly extraordinary. In fact, it’s rather obvious.
Cupcakes call for milk. Tea can steep in milk. Milk can be turned into very strong tea that will then be turned into cake batter. The end.
A little anticlimactic? I know. But it works, so stop complaining.
These cupcakes are moist, buttery, and rich with the flavors of Winter. The moody notes of the Earl Grey play wonderfully alongside the poppy seeds, creating a cake that is truly unique.
I love how batter looks.
Though the cakes are truly delicious on their own, they are not overly sweet, and thus, are complimented by the sweet jam, and rich frosting.
This chocolate buttercream is my favorite chocolate buttercream ever. Truly. It's oh-so-rich, and the combination of cocoa and melted chocolate make it silky smooth.
Whether atop a cake, or eaten by the spoonful, it is, quite simply, utterly delightful.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that I am quite distressed by the amount of icing that currently tops most American cupcakes. It's overdone, more for appearance than flavor, and quite often overpowers the cake rather than complimenting it. This is a true travesty. Personally, I like my frosting spread generously and evenly over my cakes with a butterknife. Full and even coverage, keeping the same frosting to cake ratio in each bite.
However, I realize that visually, this technique is not as appealing. Perhaps one day I will defy trends and the ever-judging Pinterest and post my cupcakes frosted the way they were meant to be.
All that is to say, that if you make these cupcakes (which you definitely should) and are taken aback by the amount of frosting this recipe makes, that is because I really prefer a small amount of frosting with my cakes. If you feel differently, you are most welcome to double the recipe. In fact, I would recommend that anyways because you will likely eat half the batch while the cakes are cooling.
Though not necessary, a cupcake filling injector is a very helpful tool when you are trying to pipe jam into the center of each tiny cake.
Mine totally looks like a syringe, I always feel like I'm performing cupcake surgery.
The jam is absolutely essential to these cakes. The pairing of the berries with the Earl Grey is just heavenly.
Robust, familiar tea, crunchy poppy seeds, sweet jam, and rich chocolate. It's all here and it's a wonderful thing.
Thank you, dear snowstorm, for giving me the motivation and inspiration I so desperately needed.
Stay warm, bake often, and make your days as cozy as possible. That is my Winter-survival advice.
Earl Grey Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Blackberry Jam & Rich Chocolate Buttercream
makes 18 cupcakes
for the cupcakes
- 4 bags Earl Grey tea*
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat milk by microwaving for two minutes, or bringing to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Remove from heat source and add tea bags. Steep for 40-45 minutes and then remove tea bags.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift to combine flours and baking powder.
Place butter in a large bowl and beat on high speed with an electric mixer for one minute. Add sugar and beat until fluffy; about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and beat in eggs one at a time. With the mixer on low speed, slowly work in flour mixture and milk alternating between the two. After all elements have been incorporated, beat in poppy seeds and vanilla extract.
Prepare muffin tins by lining with paper cupcake liners. Use a 1-ounce disher to portion the batter amongst the cups.
Bake cakes for 20 minutes, until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean.
Place the cupcakes on cooling racks and allow to cool completely before proceeding with filling and icing.
While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream.
for the buttercream
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1cup confectioner’s sugar
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Place semisweet chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave at thirty second increments, stirring after each, until the chocolate is smooth and fully melted.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for one minute. Add cocoa powder and beat on low speed until well combined. While continuing to mix on low speed add melted chocolate, confectioner’s sugar, and heavy cream. Beat until smooth.
Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag.
filling and assembly
- 1/2 cup blackberry jam
- poppy seeds, for garnish
If using a cupcake filling injector, fill the injector with jam and insert the tip into the center of each cake and fill with one teaspoon of jam.
If using a spoon, scoop a small amount of cake out of the center of each cupcake and fill the cavity with a spoonful of jam.
Pipe a small amount of buttercream onto the top of each cupcake and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve!
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