Happy Lunar New Year!
Thank you to Wilton Cakes for sponsoring this post, and for their desire to diversify their content while continuing to include collaborators of colour! In partnership with my friends at Wilton, I made this milk tea buttercream cake to celebrate the Lunar New Year! The cake is infused with milk tea flavour from all angles – it features a milk tea cake soak, a tea-infused buttercream and even steeped milk for the cake batter! Admittedly, after I frosted and decorated the cake, I sat down and dunked a bunch of leftover cake scraps into the creamy milky tea soak leftovers and chowed down, haha.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year for our family is usually a big feast of delicious delights at my mom and dad’s place with lots of laughs and heaps of dishes. Crisp iceberg lettuce laid out for sang choy bao, shiny noodles representing long life, piles of soft white char siu and veggie bao, and a dessert table heaped with glistening sesame balls, steamed glutinous rice cake and apple tarts from New Town Bakery. Crisp, red laisee bags containing “lucky money” are placed into the eager hands of our children. This year, due to the stinkin’ pandemic we’re hoping to do a laisee and treats exchange at a nearby park.
What are your favourite treats to eat to celebrate Lunar New Year? For the first time, I made my own nian gao following this simple recipe (pictured above), whisking together the thick batter and steam-cooking it on the stovetop. I love the soft, warm pieces when freshly steamed, but I especially love the sweet, chewy and browned pieces after a good fry-up in a sautée pan. I wrote about some New Year traditions (don’t wash your hair! All your good luck for the year might go down the drain!) and how to celebrate with Lunar New Year desserts over on the Wilton blog!
Milk tea buttercream cake
Now on to the cake recipe. You can use either loose black tea, or good old grocery store tea bags for this cake (just snip the top of the tea bags and empty the contents) – the most important tool however is a fine mesh strainer for straining out the leaves once steeped. We will be steeping a milk and melted butter mixture for the cake. We will also be making a milk tea soak to soak into the baked cake layers once cooled. Finally, we will be making a tea-steeped butter for the Swiss meringue buttercream! We’re going to do a lot of steeping, but it will be well worth it. MILK TEA FLAVOUR BLAST!
Milk Tea Buttercream Cake
For the Cake
- 2 cups (300 grams) all purpose flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs at room temperature, 50 grams each – 200 grams
- 2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
- ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter
- 250 ml whole milk
- 1/8 cup (16 grams) loose black tea of your choice
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the Milk Soak
- 1 354 ml can of evaporated milk
- 1/8 cup (16 grams) loose black tea of your choice
- ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
For the Milk Tea Buttercream
- 2 cups (454 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- ¼ cup (32 grams) loose black tea of your choice
- 1 ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup (150 ml) plus two tablespoons egg whites
- 11/2 teapsoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons steeped milk mixture
Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter three 7×2 inch round pans and line with parchment paper circles.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, baking powder and salt.
- Start the steeped milk and butter mixture: place a small saucepan on the stovetop and heat the milk and butter together until liquefied and hot, but not boiling. Add the loose tea and steep on low for five minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs and white sugar on medium high speed until tripled in volume and light yellow in color, about five to seven minutes.
- When the egg mixture is whipped, add the flour in short bursts on low speed to incorporate, careful not to overmix.
- Pour the steeped tea hot milk mixture, vanilla extract and vegetable oil into a medium bowl. Carefully add two cups of the egg batter into the milk mixture, whisking to combine. Add this mixture slowly back into the rest of the egg batter on low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl if needed and doing a few folds with a spatula to finish.
- Distribute batter evenly into the three prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 23-25 minutes until tanned and golden, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs. Be careful not to overbake.
- Note: while the cake is in the oven, begin to prepare the Swiss Meringue Buttercream steeped butter. In a small saucepan set on the stovetop over medium heat, melt one cup of butter with the ¼ cup of loose black tea leaves. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for five minutes, steeping the tea in the butter. Remove from heat, and allow to steep for five minutes further before straining butter through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Little flecks of tea may remain but not to worry. Refrigerate the melted steeped butter for 20 minutes or so to firm it up to the consistency of room temperature butter. It may appear to be a shade of green at this point but will change to light tea colour once whipped.
- Let cake cool completely before frosting.
Make the Milk Soak
- In a small saucepan set on the stovetop over medium heat, combine the evaporated milk and loose tea leaves until hot but not boiling, a low simmer.
- Steep the leaves for ten minutes in the milk then strain into a liquid measuring cup. Add 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, or more to taste.
- Set aside to soak cake layers and use for Swiss meringue buttercream.
Make the Buttercream
- Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisking to combine. Set the bowl on top of a medium saucepan filled with a few inches of water on the stovetop – creating a bain-marie to gently heat together the egg whites and sugar, heating on medium-high heat, whisking throughout, until mixture registers 160F (70C) on a candy thermometer.
- Carefully remove the bowl from the saucepan and place back into stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stop the mixer, and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the tea-steeped butter and other cup of butter a tablespoon at a time. Add the vanilla extract, increase the speed to medium high and beat until thickened and silky smooth. Add the steeped milk mixture, one tablespoon at a time, continue beating another minute to incorporate.
Assemble the Cake
- I used a gold 10 inch round cake board for the cake to add some Lunar New Year flair. Place a cake board or plate on your cake turntable. Add a dab of buttercream to the center and add the first cake layer. Using a serrated knife, evenly level your cake by trimming off dome shape. Using a spoon, evenly soak the first layer of cake with around six tablespoons of steeped milk mixture.
- Fill your first layer with milk tea buttercream.
- Trim the second layer, and carefully soak the top and bottom of the cake layer with the milk tea mixture. Place cut-side-down on top of the first layer. Repeat with the third layer.
- Using an offset spatula, frost the entire exterior of the cake, using a cake bench scraper to smooth your first layer of buttercream. Chill the cake in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes to set. Frost the cake with a second layer of milk tea buttercream, using the cake bench scraper to smooth to your liking.
- Time to decorate! Fill a piping bag fitted with a large multi-pronged open star tip such as Wilton 6B with remaining milk tea buttercream. Decorate the top and sides of the cake with alternating drop stars with fresh red raspberries or any other red berry, along with gold foil chocolate coins. Place a gold ball dragée sprinkle on top of the piped drop stars or dust the cake with gold sprinkles. You could also decorate with mini sesame balls, mini almond cookies or edible gold leaf.
- The Milk tea buttercream cake is best enjoyed fresh, but it can be covered well and refrigerated for up to three days. Bring cake to room temperature to enjoy!