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Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Somewhere between the gentle rolling hills and foggy mists of England, I fell in love with black tea. After moving to the United Kingdom for a few months, surrounded by a new culture and colorful accent, afternoon tea seemed like a very British tradition to experience. Up until this point, I had never been much of a tea drinker, perhaps only stealing a cup of chai when my mother set the teapot to boil, but I still felt like I would grow to enjoy it.

Originating from a nation of coffee drinkers, tea sounded like a fresh, bright alternative to the acidic touch of a rudimentary coffee maker.

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

I remember my first trip to a British supermarket well. I paced up and down the aisles with an unusual level of fascination with the food lining the shelves. When I reached the tea section, I needed to take a moment to look over the vast display, feeling overwhelmed with choosing a place to begin my tea journey. I looked over different boxes in earnest, but with no concept of the difference between Earl Grey and Rooibos or English and Irish breakfast tea, it all felt as foreign to me as the new country I was in. I eventually snatched a box of PG Tips off the shelf, gambling with my future in tea.

Since that very first cup, brewed hot and fresh in my small dorm kitchen, I have not been able to turn back since. Black tea had utterly captured my heart.

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Even now, I much prefer a mug of black tea to a mug of black coffee. On the weekends, when the morning is slow and responsibilities have been forgotten, I boil the water and brew the tea, adding a splash of milk and a drizzle of honey. You could, in many ways, call it my drink of choice.

Last weekend, while sipping a mug of tea and watching a winter storm turn the world white outside my window, I envisioned the flavors of my cup of tea as a slice of cake. Staying warm in my apartment, I started up the oven and turned my faint imaginings into a reality, creating a lovely little cake for two. My boyfriend, a strong believer in the powers of a good cup of coffee, fought me for the final piece. I think that speaks more about this cake than anything else.

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream is a cup of tea turned into a slice of cake. The black tea cake is made by pouring the contents of three tea bags into warmed milk and allowing it to brew before adding the milk into the cake batter, tea leaves and all. The batter takes on a wonderful color, with specks of tea leaves to add a unique twist. After baking, the cake is topped with a honey buttercream that keeps the flavor without so much of the sweetness. The cake and buttercream taste just as their namesake, giving the classic cup of tea a new life. Tea lovers, this cake is just for you.

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Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream

Yields 9-inch cake (2 5-inch cakes or 18 cupcakes)

Black Tea Cake
1 cup (235 ml) milk
3 tablespoons black tea (or the contents of 3 tea bags)
1/4 cup (55 grams) butter, room temperature
1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

Warm the milk until near boiling on the stove or in the microwave. Cut open the tea bags and add the tea directly into the milk. Allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the tea brewed milk, mixing until batter is uniform and smooth.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes (18-22 minutes for cupcakes), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting or serving.

Honey Buttercream
1/2 cup (110 grams) butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
2 cups (250 grams) powdered sugar
Pinch of salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and honey until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and salt and continue mixing until the frosting comes together. If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar until it reaches the right consistency. Likewise, if the frosting is too stiff, add more honey (or a splash of milk) to thin it out. If the frosting is too sweet, add a pinch more salt until the desired sweetness is achieved.

Spread or pipe the honey buttercream onto the cooled cake and serve.

Reader Comments (64)

This is all kinds of awesome! What a fabulous treat!
PG Tips--definitely had those before (my favorite everyday though is Tetley's British Blend). Tea time is my favorite time of day! This cake is beautiful, I love the frosting, especially! Perfect roses :)
This looks magnificent. I think I'll attempt the cupcake form this weekend, as my cakes usually turn out wonky but somehow cupcakes don't o.O Thanks for sharing!
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
This is a stunning cake. I love the styling and it sounds unbelievably good.
What a beautiful little cake. It makes me want to visit England even more than I already do. :)
Really nice idea. I saw muffins with Earl Grey tea. Now I know, that I have to try it :-)
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatka
It is very inviting and nicely done; I can't wait to bake it today!
I loved your post, it is absolutely delicious to read!
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSahar
I have totally turned into a tea drinker so this cake is calling my name!! Drool.
I'm not much of a tea drinker. Actually I dislike tea very, very much. But your photos are absolutely beautiful and the cake looks amazing. :)
This sounds wonderful. I have had an earl grey milkshake and wanted more tea inspired desserts since! We drink a lot of tea, but down south, it's iced and sweet!

What kind of cake pan did you use?
I know the directions say 9" but was wondering since I love that cute little cake and it's the perfect size for 2 ...(or 1) :)
My mother is English, so I sort of grew up with tea. I am convinced though that the tea tastes so much better when she makes it. She adds the perfect amount of honey and a little bit of milk. It's so comforting.

I love little cakes like this. So cute! And it sounds absolutely wonderful!
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha
Eliz-- I used a 5-inch spring-form cake pan for this cake. You can find the pans at most specialty baking/cooking stores (and always online). Bonus: if you do make a 2 layer 5-inch cake, you'll have enough batter left over for 6 cupcakes.
02.21.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
These look amazing! I've always loved tea cakes but never made them myself. I think I'll have to give this recipe a try!
The cake looks gorgeous, I´ll have to try it next weekend!!!
Did you pass the milk through a sieve before adding it to the batter?
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAna
As a tea-drinking Brit, it's so strange to be reading your take on afternoon cups of tea. My sister and I were out this afternoon and it got to 4pm and we both looked at each other and decided we should head back because our urge for a cuppa was too strong. I love (loveloveLOVE) tea flavoured things, and you know that if you have a tea-flavoured dessert with cake, your body actually only registers the tea calories once? That's science for ya!
This cake looks so beautiful! Can't wait to try the recipe!
Tea is a part of my daily routine. Tea in a cake? That sounds heavenly! And I can never say no to a drizzle of honey in my tea cup, so the addition of the honey buttercream is simply perfect!
You have the most wonderful blog! And such a treat how often you post. Your recipes are creative, elegant and totally manageable for us average home cooks. I have made many of your desserts and breads and all have turned out really well. Much better than other recipes from popular blogs out there. Thank you for sharing with us!! I'll be making this cake this weekend.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
Divine! This looks just heavenly :)
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMairi @ Toast
If this is how I end up drinking more tea, sign me up!
Your beautiful frosting flowers add a wonderful touch! Mine never turn out that well, but it's fun to try. I love tea and will have to try this recipe.
02.21.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristie
Ana-- I did not pass the milk through a sieve. You simply add the brewed milk to the batter, tea leaves and all. Trust me, it will turn out and taste great. :)
02.21.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
STUNNING!!! What an amazing talent you possess!!!
I went through the very same thing in a tea Aisle in a British Supermarket when I fell in love with the tradition on my first trip to England! I gasped when I saw that you also chose PG Tips! I always have it on hand now in my pantry--because some days simply beg for it!. Typhoo is another favorite. Those are rather everyday, run-of-the-mill brands in the UK , I later found out....but special and wonderful non the less. This cake is the perfect accompaniment.
02.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSheree White
I've never tried tea in a cake, but I've seen a few recipes. This looks beautiful and it may have given me the final kick up the bum to make a tea cake!! :D
Looks so good I would have fought you for that last piece too I bet! glad I stopped by :)
02.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Minton
What a fantastic recipe! I made these earlier as a treat for my parents' anniversary and the cakes themselves turned out delicious! Very moist with a nice crumb and the little tea leaves in the batter looked adorable. However, my buttercream frosting turned out kinda strange! It was very sweet and I think that I may have overbeat my butter because it seemed to have separated! Do you have any advice for my frosting next time?
02.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarlisa
Marlisa-- There are a couple things: 1) If the buttercream was too sweet, you needed to add more salt. I will gradually add up to 1/2 teaspoon or more, tasting as I go, when I find it too sweet. Salt is your friend! 2) It sounds like your buttercream is broken. It happens to the best of us! The Kitchn has a great guide on what to do when this happens:
02.23.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
These photos are so delicious.
02.24.2013 | Unregistered CommenterWaniliowa Chmurka
im torn between coffee and tea most of the time and cant decide which i love more. but this certainly looks fantastic. the method of brewing milk with tea leaves makes this sound like a milk tea cake. cant wait to try this. :)
02.24.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchelle
So Beautiful!
02.25.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdivialicious
Beautiful as always. Your pictures and recipes are always very inspiring :)
The cakes are adorable! I'd devour the cake without any hesitation but would probably pass on the frosting (though it adds a cute touch).
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSchweet Life
hi! I love reading your blogs - I've tried a bunch of your recipes and they call come out amazing. Yesterday I tried your black tea cake and it really blew my mind. I re-blogged about it and thought you might like to see the changes I made...
02.27.2013 | Unregistered Commentermichelle
I am making this cake right now, and I cannot wait until it's good and frosted. I didn't have any vegetable oil, so I used olive oil, and I didn't have any milk, so I used soymilk (man, I need to go shopping or something). Next time, I might add another teabag of black tea, as my cake seems a bit light. Your photography, though, really sold this cake to me! Some restaurant should hire you to make photos of all of their menu--I bet that restaurant would become really popular!
02.28.2013 | Unregistered CommenterN. Bodenstein
Made this cake last week. It turned out divine! In fact, it was such a big hit with friends and family that I am baking another one right now. Thanks for the fabulous recipe!
03.2.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Having a similar experience as you, Kristen, with becoming a black tea lover, I had to try your cake. I have made it twice now. Once as a cake for my family. My non-sweets loving husband LOVED it! The second time I made cupcakes (not a fan myself of cupcakes, too messy) for work and I have had SO many co workers say it was THE BEST cupcake they have EVER eaten! I can only take credit for execution, not creation. I tell them to keyword "black tea cake and honey buttercream". The one and only!!
03.6.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTina Ige
I'm going to try this with Early Grey! Thanks for the wonderful recipe!
03.20.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
I made this recipe in cupcake form today and they are divine! Thank you for the lovely recipe. I love your blog, especially the photos and quotes.
03.26.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMutsa
I'm waiting for my cake to bake now. Just used assam leaves this time (regular black tea). But would love to try with Russian Caravan or Lapsang for a stronger flavour. I'll be re-blogging the results so will let you know.

Great recipe and am looking forward to tasting it in an hour or so... with a cup of tea of course
03.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
Love the recipe! Salted or unsalted butter? Any % on the milk ok?
04.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKendall
Kendall-- Truthfully, it doesn't really matter. I used salted butter and almond milk, but any % of milk will work just fine. A milk with more fat will lend a more decadent cake.
04.9.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
oh my, that looks & sounds delicious!
04.17.2013 | Unregistered CommenterVickie
I love your recipe! It sounds delicious and it looks amazing. I can't wait to make it. I would love to pipe my cake like yours. What tip did you use for the roses and how did you make the frosting look so good for the layer? Did you use the same tip for both? Thank you so much for posting such an amazing and beautiful recipe! :)
05.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBritt
Britt-- I used a 1M tip for the roses and layering. For the middle, I used a spatula to spread on the frosting and then ran a loop of frosting around the edge with the 1M tip before putting on the second cake layer. This way the piped edge stuck out, but I could still control an even amount of frosting in the center. I hope that helps. Good luck with your cake!
05.1.2013 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Just wondering if you've tried this Paleo-style or not? I'm wondering what would work in place of the cake flour and sugar. Hmmmm....
05.6.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAshly Hood
As an English person AND tea addict who needs at least two mugs before I make any sense of a morning... I think I just fell a little in love with you. Thank you so much for this recipe - not sure my partner will be happy about me finding another way to indulge but I'm sure if I share he won't complain to much ;)
05.22.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen
I just baked this cake for my boyfriend (he is a tea addict) and he loved it! The honey frosting makes a perfect combination. I added 1Tbsp of milk to the frosting because my honey was too thick, now it's just perfect! Thanks for this amazing recipe! x
05.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCecilia
As a an avid UK tea drinker ( I don't drink coffee) I find this cake concept very appealing and am itching to try it. I find it amusing (not in an insulting way) that you like the "everyday teas" from our super markets. My preference is a stronger blend made in the North of England, where I am from originally, called Yorkshire tea.

Happy to send you a sample to try xx

06.6.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLouise
I have this in the oven as we speak! I made the mistake of tasting some icing just now and it's taking a lot of restraint not to eat the whole bowl! I'll post back after i've tasted it...but the batter tasted great so i'm sure the cake will be even better ;)
06.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMimi-Louise

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