A nice butter cake provides a wonderful base for all sorts of lovely infusions from tea and coffee to flowers and spice. For cake with a heavenly scent and delicate flavor, my go to choice is tea, especially a lovely nutty one like Oregon Breakfast Tea with its fragrant layers of honeybush and black teas mingled with rich hazelnut and sprightly orange.
This tea infused cake is a cinch to make, and I always start with the tea so it's wonderful strong by the time I stir it into the batter. Simply pour just-boiled water over your tea leaves and set them aside while you whip up the batter.
Mix together the basics -- flour, rising agent, a pinch of salt -- then blend in good quality butter until the mixture resembles wet sand. Stir in the sugar, then mix together all the wet ingredients -- eggs, milk, a hearty dose of vanilla extract, and the tea infusion.
At this point you have a choice to make: either strain out the tea leaves and flavor the cake with tea alone, or stir in the leaves to add speckled flair to the cake, help keep it moist, and enhance the tea flavor. I personally like adding the tea leaves since they add both color and texture to the cake. My only note of caution is that if you're using whole leaf teas, be sure to chop them finely before stirring them into the batter. A hint of tea leaf is a lovely thing, but a big soggy piece is decidedly unpleasant.
If you're using a nutty tea like Oregon Breakfast, you might like to enhance the hazelnut flavor by stirring in a handful of chopped hazelnuts or sprinkling them on top of the batter before baking. If you can find it, hazelnut extract will add a luscious richness to your cake and make the fragrance even more heavenly while its baking. Or play up the citrus notes by adding the grated zest of an orange, mandarin, or clementine. A tablespoon of finely chopped crystallized ginger would also not go amiss in this versatile tea-infused cake.
Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Tea flavored cake is beautiful served warm as-is or with a scoop of ice cream studded with nuts. Once it cools, I like to cut each piece in half and smear it with salted butter before putting it back together for a rather marvelous cake sandwich. It's also lovely served with a hearty dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream and a spoonful of preserves such as marmalade or crab apple jelly.
It's even better when served with a hot cup of tea -- perhaps the very tea you used to infuse it.
Hazelnut Tea Infused Cake
- 1/2 cup water, just boiled
- 1 tablespoon Oregon Breakfast tea leaves
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 375F. Line square baking pan (8” by 8”) with baking paper and set aside.
In small bowl, pour just-boiled water over Oregon breakfast tea leaves and set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and, using fork or fingers, blend until mixture resembles coarse sand. Stir in sugar.
In small bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, milk, and tea leaf/water mixture. And to flour mixture and stir just until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Serve warm or cold with butter or cream.