This Earl Grey Cake Loaf is a fragrant loaf infused with tea in two ways and then brushed with lemon and honey while still hot. This will be the tea cake to have on the table for an afternoon snack with a cup of Earl Grey!
Originally published March 2014, last updated May 2020
Tea has always been one of my favorite hot beverages. I have some happy childhood memories of my aunt teaching me and my sister to drink tea. She would sweeten it nicely for us and make sure it was not too hot anymore so that we wouldn't burn our little lips and tongues.
When morning sickness had me down (any time of day) during the first trimester of this pregnancy, my love for tea grew even more. Coffee was my nemesis in those 3 months, but tea, my saving grace - soothing ginger tea in the mornings and black tea as an afternoon pick-me-up.
Even now that the smell and taste of coffee doesn't make me sick anymore, tea remains my morning beverage of choice (coffee is reserved for the afternoon).
How to Make Earl Grey Cake
The process of making this cake is as easy as making other quick breads like banana bread. The main difference is that you have to start by infusing milk with Earl Grey tea bags as a means of getting its wonderful flavour into the cake loaf. To do this, you simply heat the milk on the stove, then add 2 bags of tea to steep for about half an hour. This will impart the milk with enough earl grey flavour to taste it in your bread once it is baked. The milk can be whatever you have on hand such as whole milk or 2%.
If desired, you could also use tea leaves. Simply use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea leaves for every tea bag, which would result in 4 teaspoons total.
Next, mix the butter, sugar, honey, and large eggs together until creamy. The flour mixture includes all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. You whisk the flour mixture into the butter mixture before combining it with the tea-infused milk, loose tea leaves, and lemon zest. The result will be a spreadable batter that should hold its shape and puff up in the oven.
The batter goes into a loaf pan to bake to perfect soft fluffiness. You can spread it out with an offset spatula. While it is still warm and in the cake pan, poke the pound cake with a skewer or toothpick all over the top. Brush the honey-lemon syrup over the surface. The syrup infuses fresh lemon flavor into the cake and keeps it moist for several days.
If you accidentally over-bake your cake, this should save it. Adding a syrup is a great tip for any cake as it can keep it fresh and soft for longer than it would have kept otherwise.
What is Earl Grey Tea?
Earl Grey is a blend of black tea leaves and bergamot oil. Bergamot is a type of citrus from Italy and the oils impart a delicate citrus taste to this particular tea. It supposedly emerged in the mid-1800s, having received its name from British Prime Minister Charles Grey. Today, it is an incredibly popular blend of tea both to drink and incorporate into tea-based desserts like this delicious cake.
Testing the Loaf for Doneness
Whenever baking cakes and loaves, you shouldn't over bake them as this can dry them out. While this loaf should take an hour or so to bake, ovens can be different. For this reason, it is good to be able to tell when it is done rather than just relying on a timer.
To test the cake, you can insert it with a wooden skewer or cake tester. If it comes out clean, it will be perfect. Sometimes, it is fine for there to be a few crumbs on the skewer as long as they are on the drier side rather than gummy. The loaf will continue baking as it cools to room temperature out of the oven, which should make up the difference.
Another way to test the doneness of your pound cake is to gently push the top with a finger. If this action leaves an indent in the loaf, you haven't baked it long enough. Meanwhile, if the cake springs back, it is a good sign that the loaf is done. Ultimately, the cake should have a set texture, be perfectly golden, and springy and light to the touch!
Once done, allow to cool completely before slicing and serving as is or dust it with some powdered sugar for an extra attractive flair!
Can I Substitute the Milk for Nut Milk?
Regular whole of 2% milk is great in this pound cake, especially as it might mimic what you would normally put in the tea, but not everyone can have it. To make this loaf dairy-free*, you can feel free to substitute the milk with your favourite nut milk. (*You need to use a dairy-free butter substitute as well).
You should just make sure that the milk doesn't have sugar as this may make it an overly sweet loaf due to there already being honey and sugar in the recipe.
Almond milk, cashew milk, or even soy milk should work fine in this bread. The flavours won't be very noticeable, but the one difference might be that they won't contain the same quantity of fat. For this reason, you can expect a slightly denser loaf than it would be otherwise, but it should still be delicious and excellent for serving all your dairy-free friends and family.
Making Earl Grey Cake with Pique Tea Crystals
I am a big fan of Pique Tea - you may have read my review here.* Their tea crystals are convenient, delicious, triple toxin screened. When I got a box of the Pique Earl Grey Black tea, I fell in love with the flavor. It is strong but not bitter. And really refreshing.
Next I started wondering if the tea crystals would work well in this Earl Grey cake recipe. So I made a batch and let me tell you, it came out fantastic! Thanks to the strong, concentrated flavor, 3 packets (instead of 4 tea bags) was plenty to produce a delicious tea flavor throughout the cake.
The crystals don't require any steeping, so the prep time was a lot shorter. I heated the milk and simply dissolved the contents of 2 tea packets. Then I prepared the rest of the batter, including the infused tea milk.
As final step before baking, I folded in the contents of 1 more tea pouch. I didn't want these to dissolve fully into the batter, but rather have small flecks throughout. It doesn't produce the same texture as actual ground tea from a tea bag, but the look and flavor is very similar.
>> If you would like to try Pique Tea crystals yourself, you can use code LEELA to save 5% off your purchase!
Can I Use Other Teas in this Earl Grey Tea Loaf?
If you don't love Earl Grey flavor, you could definitely get creative and try another variety of tea leaves. Earl Grey tea is such a great option because it has a floral and citrus quality from the bergamot that is in it. For this reason, choose something that lends itself to dessert in a similar way. You can use either your favourite tea bags or fresh loose leaf tea for this.
Types of Tea to Bake with:
- Chai - For a lightly spiced loaf.
- Jasmine - For a combination of earthiness and a floral quality.
- Rooibos - For a fruity taste.
Infusing the Cake with Honey and Lemon
One of my favorite ways to enjoy tea is with honey and lemon, and so I added them both to this tea cake. Honey and lemon zest are in the cake itself, and also in the syrup that you brush onto the finished cake while it is still warm. Many people don't consider that as much as honey is sweet, it is also slightly acidic which is great for activating the baking powder in this loaf recipe.
The method of zesting lemon is important as you don't want to get any of the white pith in your cake batter. The pith can be bitter which would add an unpleasant flavour to your tea loaf recipe. The lemon zest oils infuse into the cake mixture and impart a strong lemony taste. You add the lemon juice to the glaze right at the end so that you have the tart, pop of fresh lemon that doesn't bake out during cooking.
Liquid honey is so wonderful to work with because it has a taste that is far more complex than white sugar. It is smooth and creamy with both sweetness and acidity. It really is nature's liquid gold. A small amount goes into the cake batter along with granulated sugar. A little more combines with sugar, lemon juice, and water to brush over the cake, making the outside shiny and sticky. You can make the syrup during the 1 hour baking time and set aside until ready to drizzle all over the loaf.
This is a great recipe because it is almost as dense as a pound cake and so flavourful, soft, and moist with hints of lemon and honey. This pound cake is refreshing, different, and a perfect companion to a cup of hot tea. Enjoy!
Earl Grey Layer Cake Option
If you don't want a cake loaf but round cake layers, you can also bake the batter divided into two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans. This way the earl grey cake layers will bake in about half the time (around 30 minutes but be sure to check frequently).
After baking, invert from the pans and still brush with the lemon honey syrup. Once cooled you can serve the cake in simple wedges.
Alternatively, make a frosting to fill between the cake layers and spread onto the top and sides of the cake. My go-to is this easy Swiss meringue buttercream. I think a simple vanilla flavored frosting would be great, but you can also experiment with adding lemon flavoring or even more Earl grey flavor in the buttercream.
Original Images from 2014
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Earl Grey Tea Cake
- ½ cup milk
- 4 Earl Grey tea bags divided, 2 for steeping; 2 for loose leaves to add to batter
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1-½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup hot water
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan until simmering. Take off heat and steep 2 of the Earl Grey tea bags in the hot milk for half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease or line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper.
- If your honey is semi-solid, melt together with the butter. Using an electric hand or stand mixer cream together the butter, honey and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
- Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
- Remove the teabags from the milk making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add infused milk, lemon zest and tea powder from 2 bags and mix until well incorporated.
- Fill batter into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil towards the end of baking time.
- Combine all ingredients for the syrup and set aside. Let the loaf cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a wire rack. Poke holes into the top and brush syrup on while still warm.
- Store any leftover syrup in a glass jar in the fridge. A couple teaspoons of syrup make a great addition to a cup of brewed tea.
- Let the loaf cool to room temperature before slicing into it.
* Disclosure: Pique tea sent me tea samples to try, including the Earl Grey tea. I am an affiliate and may earn a small commission, if you buy through my link or code.
Yes, Earl Grey tea cake contains caffeine as it is made with Earl Grey tea, which is a type of black tea infused with bergamot oil. Black tea naturally contains caffeine.
The caffeine content in Earl Grey cake can vary depending on factors such as the type and amount of tea used. Generally, the caffeine content is comparable to that of a regular cup of black tea, which ranges from 30 to 50 milligrams per 8-ounce serving.
Yes, you can experiment with different teas such as chai, jasmine, or rooibos to create unique flavors in the cake. Choose teas that complement the dessert's profile, providing floral or fruity notes like Earl Grey.
Yes, you can use nut milk as a substitute for dairy milk to make the loaf dairy-free. Almond milk, cashew milk, or soy milk are viable options. Be mindful of the fat content difference, as this might affect the loaf's density.