This cake, developed by Erin Clarkson of Cloudy Kitchen, is delicately flavored with Earl Grey tea. It’s covered in a German style buttercream and finished with a simple textured edge and some decorative piping on top. You can find tips on how to make German Buttercream in our Baker’s Complete Guide to Buttercream.
Earl Grey Layer Cake with Vanilla Bean German Buttercream
Makes 1 (8-inch) cake
- 2⅓ cups (560 grams) whole milk
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (54 grams) loose-leaf Earl Grey tea
- 4 large eggs (200 grams), room temperature
- ½ cup (120 grams) full-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 large egg yolks (38 grams), room temperature
- 2 teaspoons (12 grams) vanilla bean paste
- 4¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon (602 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2¼ cups (450 grams) granulated sugar
- 3¼ teaspoons (16.25 grams) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (1.5 grams) kosher salt
- 1½ cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- Vanilla Bean German Buttercream (recipe follows)
- In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat just until bubbles form around edges of pan. (Do not boil.) Remove from the heat, and add tea; cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing down on tea leaves to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Let cool to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour 3 (8-inch) round cake pans; line bottom of pans with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1¼ cups (330 grams) Earl Grey milk, eggs, yogurt, egg yolks, and vanilla bean paste.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt at low speed just until combined. With mixer on low speed, add butter, 1 cube at a time, beating until well combined. (Mixture should look like sand.) Add half of milk mixture, beating just until combined. Add remaining milk mixture, and beat at medium speed just until combined. Fold batter using a rubber spatula to ensure that no dry ingredients remain. Divide batter among prepared pans.
- Bake until springy to the touch and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.
- Place 1 cake layer on a cake turntable. (To help hold cake in place, smear about 1½ teaspoons Vanilla Bean German Buttercream onto center of turntable before adding first cake layer.) Spread 1 cup (184 grams) Vanilla Bean German Buttercream onto cake layer. Top with second cake layer, pressing very lightly to secure, and seal edge where cake layers meet with a thin layer of buttercream. Spread 1 cup (184 grams) buttercream on second cake layer, and top with remaining cake layer. (I like to add this one upside down to give a nice smooth top.) Apply a thin layer of buttercream to top and sides of cake, smoothing with an of set spatula or icing scraper. Refrigerate until crumb coat is set, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Spread Vanilla Bean German Buttercream in a thick, smooth layer on top and sides of cake. Create a pattern by holding an of set spatula against sides of cake and rotating the turntable, slowly moving spatula up. Smooth of top edge.
- Place remaining buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a French star tip (Ateco #866). Pipe a shell design or your desired design on the top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Vanilla Bean German Buttercream
- 1⅔ cups (333 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (35 grams) cornstarch
- 3 large eggs (150 grams), room temperature
- 3 large egg yolks (56 grams), room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
- 2¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons (570 grams) whole milk
- 3 teaspoons (18 grams) vanilla bean paste (see Note)
- 4½ cups (1,021 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Add eggs, egg yolks, and salt, whisking to combine.
- In a medium saucepan, heat milk and vanilla bean paste over low heat just until bubbles form around edges of pan. (Do not boil.) Pour half of hot milk mixture into sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk until well combined; return mixture to saucepan, and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. It will thicken quickly. Once it has thickened, cook for 1 minute. Pour into a shallow container or the bowl of a stand mixer, and cover with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing wrap directly onto surface of pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. (If you need to speed this process up, place pastry cream in a bowl, and place bowl in an ice bath. Stir frequently.)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat pastry cream at medium speed until creamy and smooth. Add butter, a few cubes at a time, beating until well combined after each addition. (Mixture may look curdled at some point, but it will come together.) Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat at low speed for 2 to 3 minutes to help release any air bubbles. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. If refrigerating, let stand at room temperature to warm slightly, and rewhip until smooth before using.
The vanilla flavor in this buttercream comes from vanilla bean paste, which also gives the buttercream little black flecks of vanilla bean seeds. Vanilla extract will work well, too.
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