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Earl Grey Cake with Lemon Curd

A tender and soft Earl Grey cake sandwiched together with lemon curd and lemon Swiss meringue buttercream.

side view of lemon earl grey cake.

I first made this Earl Grey cake for my Mother-in-law’s birthday. She loves Earl Grey tea, so I thought infusing it into a cake would be cool. I paired it with tangy lemon curd because Earl Grey tea naturally has a citrusy twist, so it was a great match. Then, I frosted with a creamy lemon curd Swiss meringue buttercream.

The cake is a two-layer, 6-inch (15cm) cake. I love this size for a small birthday party, and a small cake like this is easy to decorate and stack. You could also make it as a single-layer 8-inch (20cm) cake, and top it with frosting and lemon curd.

Special equipment needed

  • A stand mixer is needed for the buttercream because the egg whites and butter need a long mixing time. A hand-held mixer is used for creaming the butter and sugar in the cake batter.
  • A microwave or stove top to make the lemon curd
  • 6-inch cake pans.
  • I use a mortar and pestle to finely grind the loose-leaf tea for in the cake batter.
slice of lemon curd cake with earl grey specks.

What to make first

What to make first depends on when you are serving the cakes. If you plan to make the cake layers in advance, begin with those, and they can be frozen until you’re ready to serve. If you want to bake and serve on the same day, start with the lemon curd as early as possible so it has time to chill.

Method

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease two 6-inch cake pans and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
earl grey milk
  1. In a small saucepan, combine milk and loose-leaf Earl Grey tea. Bring this to a simmer, stirring regularly. Once it’s at a simmer, turn off the heat and let the tea milk steep and cool.
earl grey tea in flour.
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, the second measure of Earl Grey tea, and salt, and set aside.
creaming butter and sugar.
  1. In a medium bowl and electric mixer or with a stand mixer, beat room-temperature butter, oil and sugar on high speed for around 3-4 minutes until it’s very light in color and creamy.
egg being beaten into butter.
  1. Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and beat in after each addition. Next, add in the lemon juice.
  2. Strain the tea from the milk and measure out 120g (1/2 cup) of the milk.
Earl Grey Lemon Curd Cake batter
  1. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture along with the milk. Fold it until combined with a rubber spatula.
two 6 inch pans with batter.
  1. Divide the cake batter evenly amongst the cake pans and smooth down the tops of the batter with a small offset spatula.
  1. Bake the cakes for around 26-28 minutes until the tops spring back when touched and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
  2. Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes in their pans, then turn them onto a wire cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely before frosting. You can also wrap the still-warm cakes up tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them until you’re ready to frost if you’re making them in advance.

Lemon Curd

  1. In a microwave-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Save the egg whites for the meringue.
  2. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook in 40-second increments, stirring each time for around 3-4 minutes in total. This time may increase or decrease depending on your microwave strength.
  3. You can cook the lemon curd over a double boiler for around 15 minutes instead of in the microwave. I’ve included instructions for that here.
egg yolks and lemon in a bowl.
side view of lemon curd bowl.
  1. Dip a metal spoon in the curd to check that it is thick enough. The curd should easily coat the back of the spoon and be visibly thicker.
  2. Stir the cold cubed butter through the hot curd and stir until smooth. Pour the finished curd through a sieve into clean jars. It will thicken as it cools. Once cooled, store it in the fridge.
butter cubes in a bowl.
birds eye of a jar of curd.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. When the curd has completely chilled, begin the buttercream. Bring a medium saucepan with 1-2 inches of water to a simmer.
  2. Combine egg whites and granulated sugar in the metal bowl of a stand mixer or other heatproof bowl. Balance the bottom of the bowl over the simmering water bath, but ensure it does not touch the water.
Metal bowl with egg whites.
  1. Whisk continuously as the egg whites warm up, ensuring all the sugar has dissolved or the temperature reaches 160°F (71°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
  2. Be sure to keep stirring to prevent any egg whites from overcooking on the edges of the bowl.
a wire whisk with swiss meringue on it.
  1. Once the sugar has dissolved, place the bowl in your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  2. Beat on medium-high speed until the stiff peak stage and the meringue cools to room temperature.
a hand adding a cube of butter to a stand mixer.
  1. Add a few pieces of softened butter to the meringue base with the mixer still on medium-high speed. 
  2. At this stage, the frosting may separate or curdle – don’t panic!
a stand mixer with swiss meringue buttercream.
  1. Just continue beating the mixture until it becomes a thick and cohesive buttercream. This process can take time, so don’t give up if it seems slow – it will come together.
lemon curd added to buttercream.
  1. Once the mixture is thick and cohesive, add 1/2 cup of the lemon curd and the salt.
mixing buttercream in the mixer.
  1. Beat the buttercream until is thick and fluffy.
paddle attachment in a mixer of buttercream.
  1. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat on low for 10 minutes to knock out the larger air bubbles in the buttercream.
A jar of lemon swiss meringue buttercream.
  1. Now it’s ready to start piping and frosting!

Assembling

  1. Place one cake layer on a cake turntable or cake stand. .
  1. Scoop on some frosting and use a small offset spatula to spread it on top of the cake layer, making small higher ‘walls’ of frosting around the edges. This is to hold in the lemon curd
side view of cake with curd and icing.
  1. Add 4-5 tablespoons of lemon curd into the middle of the frosting.
swiss meringue buttercream on cake.
  1. Add the second cake layer. Placing the top layer upside down will give a nice, smooth top to work with.
iced cake.
  1. Add a few scoops of frosting on top, spread it out with the spatula, and add a thin coat of frosting around the cake. Use a bench scraper to smooth it out, then chill the cake for around 10 minutes in the fridge until the frosting has firmed up bit.
  1. Add a thicker layer of frosting to the cake and use a bench scraper to smooth it out. Then, you can use a serrated bench scraper to make patterns on the side of the cake if you like.
  2. Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days, or refrigerated for up to 4.
lemon earl grey cake
side view of lemon earl grey cake.

Earl Grey Lemon Curd Cake

Elien
A tender and soft Earl Grey cake sandwiched together with lemon curd and lemon Swiss meringue buttercream.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
3 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, American, New Zealand
Servings 10
Calories 604 kcal

Equipment

  • Stand mixer
  • 2 round 6-inch cake pans

Ingredients
 
 

Cake

    Milk Tea

    • 180 g milk
    • 1 tablespoon loose-leaf Earl grey

    Cake Batter

    • 190 g all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon loose leaf Earl grey Finely ground. I use a mortar and pestle to grind it up.
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 85 g unsalted butter room temperature
    • 25 g vegetable oil or olive oil
    • 150 g granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

    Lemon Curd

    • 3 large egg yolks save the egg whites for the buttercream
    • 1 large whole egg
    • 150 g granulated sugar
    • 120 g fresh lemon juice
    • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
    • 85 g unsalted butter cold
    • 1/8 tsp salt

    Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

    • 3 large egg whites
    • 200 g granulated sugar
    • 225 g unsalted butter room temperature
    • 160 g lemon curd cold
    • 1/8 tsp salt

    Instructions
     

    Cake Batter

    • Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease two 6-inch cake pans and line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper.
    • In a small saucepan, combine milk and the first measure of loose-leaf Earl Grey tea. Bring this to a simmer, stirring regularly. Once it's at a simmer, turn off the heat and let the tea milk steep and cool.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, the second measure of Earl Grey tea, and salt, and set aside.
    • In a medium bowl and electric mixer or with a stand mixer, beat room-temperature butter, oil and sugar on high speed for around 3-4 minutes until it’s very light in color and creamy.
    • Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and beat in after each addition. Next, add in the lemon juice.
    • Strain the tea from the milk and measure out 120g (1/2 cup) of the milk.
    • Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture along with the milk. Fold it until combined with a rubber spatula.
    • Divide the cake batter evenly amongst the cake pans and smooth down the tops of the batter with a small offset spatula.
    • Bake the cakes for around 26-28 minutes until the tops spring back when touched and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
    • Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes in their pans, then turn them onto a wire cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely before frosting. You can also wrap the still-warm cakes up tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them until you’re ready to frost if you’re making them in advance.

    Lemon Curd

    • In a microwave-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Save the egg whites for the meringue.
    • Place the bowl in the microwave and cook in 40-second increments, stirring each time for around 3-4 minutes in total. This time may increase or decrease depending on your microwave strength.
    • Dip a metal spoon in the curd to check that it is thick enough. The curd should easily coat the back of the spoon and be visibly thicker.
    • Stir the cold cubed butter through the hot curd and stir until smooth. Pour the finished curd through a sieve into clean jars. It will thicken as it cools. Once cooled, store it in the fridge.

    Swiss Meringue Buttercream

    • When the curd has completely chilled, begin the buttercream. Bring a medium saucepan with 1-2 inches of water to a simmer.
    • Combine egg whites and granulated sugar in the metal bowl of a stand mixer or other heatproof bowl. Balance the bottom of the bowl over the simmering water bath, but ensure it’s not touching the water.
    • Whisk continuously as the egg whites warm up, ensuring all the sugar has dissolved or the temperature reaches 160°F (71°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
    • Be sure to keep stirring to prevent any egg whites from overcooking on the edges of the bowl.
    • Once the sugar has dissolved, place the bowl in your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
    • Beat at medium to high speed until the stiff peak stage and the meringue cools to room temperature.
    • Add a few pieces of softened butter to the meringue base while the mixer is still on medium-high speed.
    • The frosting may separate or curdle at this stage – don’t panic! Just continue beating the mixture until it becomes a thick and cohesive buttercream. This process can take time, so don’t give up if it seems slow – it will come together. If your buttercream really isn't coming together, see the notes below.
    • Once the mixture is thick and cohesive, add 1/2 cup of the lemon curd and the salt.
    • Beat the buttercream until it is thick and fluffy.
    • Switch to the paddle attachment and beat on low for 10 minutes to knock out the larger air bubbles in the buttercream.
    • Now it’s ready to start piping and frosting!

    Assembling

    • Place one cake layer on a cake turntable or cake stand.
    • Scoop on some frosting and use a small offset spatula to spread it on top of the cake layer, making higher ‘walls’ of frosting around the edges. This is to hold in the lemon curd.
    • Add 4-5 tablespoons of lemon curd into the middle of the frosting.
    • Add the second cake layer. Placing the top layer upside down will give a nice, smooth top to work with.
    • Add a few scoops of frosting on top, spread it out with the spatula, and add a thin coat of frosting around the cake. Use a bench scraper to smooth it out, then chill the cake for around 10 minutes in the fridge until the frosting has firmed up a bit.
    • Add a thicker layer of frosting to the cake and use a bench scraper to smooth it out. Then, you can use a serrated bench scraper to make patterns on the side of the cake if you like.
    • Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days or refrigerated for up to 4.

    Notes

    What to make first

    What to make first depends on when you are serving the cakes. If you plan to make the cake layers in advance, begin with those, and they can be frozen until you’re ready to serve. If you want to bake and serve on the same day, start with the lemon curd as early as possible so it has time to chill.

    Buttercream notes

    If you’re in the process of making the buttercream, it’s quite common for the mixture to split as the butter is being added in, especially if the egg whites and butter aren’t at the same temperature. Just keep beating it until it comes together.
    If your buttercream is too warm, it will melt and become soupy. To fix this, it needs to cool down. Refrigerate the bowl of buttercream for 10-20 minutes (depending on how soupy it was) until the edges of the buttercream in the bowl harden up. The middle of the buttercream may still be runny, but it will come together when it is whipped. 

    Making the buttercream in advance.

    The Swiss meringue buttercream can be made in advance and refrigrated until needed. As it cools in the refrigerator, it will become hard as all the butter there has solidified. Bring it back to room temperature and whip it to make it creamy. You can leave it to sit out and warm up for a few hours, or I find it easier to gently warm the buttercream bowl over a hot water bath until the buttercream edges in the bowl begin to melt.
     
    Once the edges have melted, place the bowl back in the stand mixer and whip it for 3-5 minutes until creamy again. If the mixture appears to split and become curdled, the butter is still too cold, and it will need a little more warming.
     
    If it becomes soupy and liquid it has warmed too much, so place it back in the fridge to cool it down. Whichever way it swings, there’s a fix for it, you need to get it at the right temperature. 

    Nutrition

    Calories: 604kcalCarbohydrates: 67gProtein: 7gFat: 36gSaturated Fat: 22gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 198mgSodium: 297mgPotassium: 115mgFiber: 1gSugar: 52gVitamin A: 1172IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 77mgIron: 1mg
    Keyword cake, Earl Grey, Lemon curd, Swiss Meringue Buttercream
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