Baking interlude: Earl grey and citrus birthday cake

This weekend I needed to make a birthday cake for a friend, and I wanted to do something a little unusual, because she’s the sort who enjoys quirky flavor mixes. I also did not want to go grocery shopping, because I’m in the middle of back to back conferences and I’m BUSY! I took what I had on hand in the kitchen and came up with this little beauty:

Earl grey and citrus birthday cake

Take one vanilla cake, add hints of earl grey and a nice kick of citrus, then bake to golden perfection. Sandwich with homemade berry preserves and ice with an ultra-lemony frosting for the ultimate in grown-up birthday deliciousness. The recipe is also entirely vegan (though you can use regular milk and butter if you prefer). And without further ado, here it is:

Earl Grey and Citrus Birthday Cake (makes 2 8″ cakes or 2 slightly thinner 9″ cakes).

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
2/3 c. vegetable oil
1 3/4 c. soymilk
1/4 c. lemon and orange juices (I used 1 lemon and then topped up to 1/4 c. with half an orange)
zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
4 earl grey teabags or several heaping spoonfuls of loose leaf earl grey

1/3 to 1/2 c. huckleberry preserves (or other berry preserves)
2 tbsp margarine or butter
1/4 c powdered soymilk
Juice of 3 lemons
1 1/2 -2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Heat the soymilk for 2-3 minutes in the microwave, it should be almost boiling. Add the tea, lemon, and orange zests and leave to steep for 10 minutes. While the tea and soymilk are steeping, assemble the remaining ingredients, preheat oven to 350F, and grease two cake pans. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

When 10 minutes are up, strain soymilk into a bowl, discarding tea and zests (you can leave the zest in for extra citrus kick, but my pieces were very coarse so I left them out). Add the oil, sugar, and citrus juices and stir well.

Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix quickly–it’s okay if there are a few lumps left. Pour batter into pans and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove cakes from oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. When cake is completely cool, add preserves and ice it:

Spread the preserves on top of one cake, then stack the second cake on top.

Prepare the icing by beating margarine until fluffy, then adding lemon juice and powdered soymilk. Add 1 c. confectioner’s sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the remaining confectioner’s sugar slowly, stopping when you like the consistency. I prefer my icing slightly runny. Spread icing over top and sides of cake. Smooth the icing by dipping a butter knife in hot water and then slowly running it over the iced cake. Place cake in refrigerator to set the icing. You will probably have some icing left over, you can color it and use to write on the cake or add other decorations if you like.

Serve with ice cream and (naturally) tea!

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