Hack icing job and air bubbles aside, it tastes super excellent. The pillowy buttercream, sweet but darkly so, the cake all tender and awash with fragrant flavour. The buttercream is unsurprisingly all you can taste initially when you plunge your teeth into the cake, but the Earl Grey makes itself known at the end, with a pinprick of orange from the bergamot, and the palest suggestion of tea’s clean bitterness.
I haven’t even addressed yet that maple syrup is hellish expensive. I probably only buy it once a year, and what can you do with such an ingredient but send it to the cupboard like you’re Henry the Eighth, too wracked with guilt over price to actually use it, until eventually you forget you have it or it goes past its best-by date and coagulates. My solution to stop turning delicious maple syrup into Tincture of Financial Self-Reproach, is to use small amounts of it in really good recipes where its flavour can shine. So: this cake. Also, I don’t even drink Earl Grey, I’m more of an English Breakfast person, or whatever plain tea is available, consumed black. Well, that was the case until I forgot to have breakfast the other day and so subsisted at work on black tea with spoonfuls of sugar in it till I could meet Tim for lunch. As a result…I think I prefer it sweetened now. It just tastes good. At least, this preference is hardly spurred on by remembrance of the good times I had with it.
Earl Grey tea and maple syrup both have what you could call a complexity of flavour and scent. Earl Grey is all rounded and fragrant with bergamot, while maple is smoky, almost savoury. They are a perfect pair. It’s a dick move, but if I didn’t have real maple syrup I’m not entirely sure I’d use fake – at least, unless I could find a brand that doesn’t put ‘synthetic bouquet’ at the top of its priorities when taste-testing it. Golden syrup is what I’d use itself as intensely flavoured as maple. But seriously, just ignore me and use maple flavoured syrup if you dig the taste and you have it and you want this cake. I don’t want to stand between a person and their hypothetical cake.
Earl Grey and Maple Syrup Cake
A recipe by myself.
Speaking of not a big deal, all you have to do is half-heartedly mix this cake and you’re done. Faint-makingly good though the buttercream is, the cake recipe itself is dairy-free, and if that’s what you’re after you could try baking it in a 22cm tin for about 40 minutes.
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
175g brown sugar
250ml very strong earl grey tea
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup (125ml) plain oil, like sunflower
Set your oven to 180 C, and line the base of two 20cm caketins with baking paper. Or, if you only have one, just do one, but bake two cakes in a row. This is what I did, and it’s annoying, but the price is right. Place the flour in a large bowl, then sift in the baking soda and baking powder (sifting is boring but I’m terrified of lumps of baking soda) and stir in the salt and the sugar. Tip in the cooled tea, the eggs, the maple syrup and the oil, and stir thoroughly till it forms a thick, smooth batter. Either divide between the two caketins and bake for about 35 minutes, or tip half into one of the caketins and bake for 25 minutes, then remove it and scrape in the remaining batter and bake for another 25 minutes. Once cooled, slice off the top if you need to, to make a more flat surface for icing, then…ice it.
Maple Syrup Buttercream
180g very soft butter
300g icing sugar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
This may or may not sound like large quantities of ingredients. This is because you need a lot of icing. So. Carefully beat the butter and icing sugar together (icing sugar is wont to fly everywhere) till light and very thick and fluffy. Tip in the maple syrup, and continue to beat to form a thick, gorgeously coloured icing. Spread a large dollop on top of one of the cakes, sit the other cake on top, then carefully spread the rest of the icing over the top and side of the cake.
Edible glitter entirely optional. I almost covered it in hundreds and thousands, but thought a glint of silver against the pale, buff-coloured buttercream would look devastatingly sophisticated. I…should’ve known better. But I stand by my cake.
Speaking of standing by stuff, while we wait, fingers ever crossed for marriage equality laws to pass in New Zealand, Tim and I were thinking of having an engagement party. Strangely it was Tim gunning for it more than me, even though I love having parties. I was all “but can’t I just hide in bed and ignore everything, like how we’re going to get family all in one place and make sure everyone enjoys themselves and that we don’t get stressed out by people and vice versa.” We also realised, having pooled our life experience, that neither of us really knows what to do at one. The one engagement party I’ve been to was practically a wedding in itself – tears, speeches, large piles of presents, waiting forever to eat. And ones that I’ve seen on TV have been either debutante cotillion-esque, or (*spoiler alert but really*) Leslie and Ben’s awkward meeting of families on the so important Parks and Recreation. Thus, any advice and thoughts and experiences would be appreciated. Especially if it’s given in a friendly way, not in a “if you don’t do this exactly you will be naught but the Bride of Failure-stein.” I mean, I will ask my married friends what they did, I just thought this would get me more comments on my blog. I mean, would engage with my audience. I mean. Honestly: I just want to hear some opinions from people who have done it, is all, and I bet you have a good one.