I didn't think I'd be gone for this long, but you know, shit happens.
I put off writing for so long that it became easier not to. First, I was just downright busy. I had more important things to do, like moving a bunch of times, of course! I found comfort in the excuses that prevented me from posting. Then, the prospect of picking up where I had left off after so long became downright scary. I had absolutely no idea how to approach this stifling pressure I had thrust upon myself, which in turn only created more of a problem. Every time I opened up my blog, I had skeletons of near-finished posts staring back at me. Where do I go from here? Do I address the elephant in the room? Do I carry on as if I had been here the whole time? Is anyone even reading this close enough to care? h, how I dread the unknown.
Then I got into a better headspace. And I started working on some of the tough stuff. And all of a sudden I got an idea for the cake I'm sharing with you today, and it all seemed a little easier. I'm sure I'll get to the details of my disappearance in time, but for now, let's focus on the good, shall we? The drippy, caramelly, sticky mess of good you see here on your screen. My "Welcome Home" gift to myself and kickstart to continuing life in Seattle.
Originally, I figured the actual cake part would be my main focus and the point of this post. Don't get me wrong, the cake itself is amazingly delicious. My boyfriend, a staunch tea-hater, happily snatched up some scraps, and if that isn't the biggest compliment I could have received, I don't know what is. It's delicate, airy, and with just the right amount of Earl Grey tea. Soaked with the lemon syrup and slathered in vanilla bean buttercream, ( I used Sweetapolita's Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe here) it truly tastes like a cup of tea with milk and a little sweetness. But, as I started brainstorming flavor pairings, my interests started leaning more and more towards honey. Honey is a useful and spectacular ingredient, and I've always loved it. I wanted to give it some extra love and attention, as I don't feel it receives enough.
Honey conjures up images of warm summer days, golden and sticky and slowly, carefully, consuming itself. Its sophistication demands a quiet respect for the work needed to produce it. It has this way of mingling with bitterness and softening the edges, without disappearing into the background. Honey makes its presence known, in the politest possible way.
It lends it's floral nature to the caramel trickling down the sides of this cake, twirling about the bright bergamot notes in the Earl Grey tea. It adds a subtle complexity to the honeycomb toffee crown atop, ensuring the taste is as dramatic as the appearance.
Simply put, it's the sweet little star of this explosion of spring, as it should be. I used a local wildflower honey from the Ballard Bee Company to make this cake feel even more like home.
I'm not going to tell you it's imperative to do the same, but I do highly recommend supporting your local beekeepers if at all possible. You'll not only taste the difference, you'll be making a difference.
Earl Grey Hot Milk Cake
Makes 3-6” layers
This cake’s method is a mashup of a traditional sponge method and the classic Hot Milk Cake popular during the Depression Era.
FOR THE CAKE:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus 1 yolk, room temp
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup 2% milk
¾ cup unsalted butter
4 Earl Grey tea bags (I used Stash’s Double Bergamot Earl Grey)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of half a small lemon
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 3-6” round cake pans with nonstick spray.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl; set aside.
Carefully cut open tea bags and empty contents into a small bowl; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, and butter, and tea, stirring over medium heat until butter melts, and milk comes to a very slight simmer. Remove from heat and cover with a lid, allowing tea to steep while your eggs whip.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat the eggs, yolk, and sugar with your whisk attachment at medium speed until combined. Increase speed to high and whip until thickened and pale yellow. Whip until the egg mixture leaves a 3 second ribbon when lifted from the bowl. Add vanilla and lemon zest and mix on low just until incorporated.
Carefully fold dry ingredients to the egg mixture, taking care not to deflate your whipped eggs. Mixture will be quite thick at this point. Slowly pour in hot milk mixture, folding until just combined.
Divide evenly between three cake pans and bake for approximately 24 mins, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer pans to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before removing from pan.
Lemon SImple Syrup
Feel free to play with the citrus used in this syrup. Oranges, limes, grapefruits, or a mix would be equally delicious.
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (approximately 3 lemons)
Zest of half a small lemon
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once sugar has completely dissolved, bring to a simmer for one minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain zest from syrup before storing to ensure the syrup doesn’t get too bitter. Refrigerate once completely cooled.
Salted Honey Caramel Sauce
Save the rest of this caramel to drizzle over ice cream or stir into coffee. You can even dip sliced fruits into it for a tasty snack!
1 cup honey
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
generous pinch of fleur de sel sea salt
Combine honey and butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring until butter has completely melted. Once butter has melted, bring mixture to a boil without stirring. Allow to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add fleur de sel, stirring to combine and adjusting salt amount to taste.
Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring frequently as it cools and thickens. Refrigerate once completely cooled. Bring up to room temperature before using.