Sunday 10 June 2018

London Fog Cake

I bet that unless you've come across it in your coffee shop you're probably think what on earth is London Fog!? A London Fog traditionally is a flavored tea latte combo, made with sweetened earl grey tea, some steamed milk and vanilla syrup. So, in cake form... that equates to one coated in a delicately flavored earl grey and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. 

I've always wanted to make a London Fog cake and when I started having a look around for recipe inspiration the one name that countless bloggers kept referring back to was Tessa Huff and her book - Layered. Her beautiful cake recipe seems pinnacle in (probably) creating one of the first London Fog cakes going.  Tessa's recipe involved a chocolate cake, whereas a few other recipes I found used a vanilla cake - both obviously with a hint of earl grey in there too. I decided to opt for chocolate because everyone loves a chocolate cake and I was intrigued to see how the more dominating flavor would match up to the earl grey.

I just knew that I had to use my own chocolate cake recipe for this because I seem to have one of those fail safes which I always come back to time and time again, it really is just a great chocolate cake recipe, it never dissapoints at any cake occasion (and if you'd like to look back at this said original recipe, you can click here for my Milk Chocolate Birthday Cake post.)  When you've had this cake, trust me, you can't see the point in trying out anything different from what you know so I just adapted that recipe by flavoring the milk with earl grey tea to keep it true to a London Fog theme.

Now, onto the subject of Swiss meringue buttercream. I feel like the time and extra care given into making this type of frosting IS worth it for when you want something a bit special and to push the boat out. I don't often make it for that reason because it does take more time, but, since this was a birthday cake for my mum it seemed the right occasion.

I do get a bit nervous making Swiss meringue buttercream because it can have more areas for things to go wrong. That said, every time I make it, it does work, so do have the confidence to give it a go, even if this recipe seems scary with a lot of steps! I would recommend you only make this buttercream if you're equipped with a sugar thermometer and some sort of electric whisk! You can NOT make it without either of these things, you will have a dead arm if you attempt whisking it by hand, even using my electric hand mixer was tiring enough holding it for at least 15 mins. Seriously though, it's so worth it, a gorgeously fluffy buttercream (less sweet than standard buttercream) that is stable enough for big layer cakes, but is rich, smooth and the addition of earl grey is subtle'y smokey that complements the chocolate well. Tessa's recipe also includes a salted caramel drizzle over the top but I decided to keep it simple and wanted it less indulgently sweet by decorating with some pretty summer flowers from the garden and a sprinkle of white chocolate chips. 

London Fog Cake


For the Cake:
225ml (1 cup minus 1 tbsp) milk
1 earl grey tea bag
275g (2 cups + 4 tbsp) plain flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
215g (1 cup) caster sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
3 large eggs
225ml (1 cup) sunflower oil

For the earl grey Swiss meringue buttercream:
(Adapted from Layered )

340g (1 ½ cups) butter
10g loose leaf earl grey tea, equivalent of about 4 teabags emptied
3 large egg whites
185g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Non toxic flowers to decorate 
White chocolate chips to sprinkle


Preheat the oven to 160°C/300°F/gas 3. Grease and line the bases of two 20cm (8 inch) loose bottomed cake tins.

To make the cake, heat the milk with the teabag in a small saucepan until boiling. Remove from the heat and leave to brew for 10 minutes. Remove the teabag and leave the milk to cool slightly. 

Place all cake ingredients including the cooled earl grey milk into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for at least 2 minutes until the batter is smooth, shiny and there are no pockets of flour left. Pour into the prepared cake tins. 

Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until well risen, and when a skewer is inserted it comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and peeling off their parchment bases. Leave to cool completely. 

Meanwhile to make the buttercream, place half the unsalted butter in a medium saucepan with the loose leaf earl grey tea. Place the saucepan over a medium heat until the butter melts, before reducing the heat to its lowest setting and simmering for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the tea brew for 5 minutes more. Strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and refrigerate the strained butter until it reaches the same consistency as softened butter, around 20 to 30 minutes. Don't worry if there are small bits of tea in your butter, that's okay and will make for a pretty speckled buttercream. 

Place the egg whites and caster sugar in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer, (you can also do this in a regular bowl with a hand held electric mixer). Whisk the egg whites and sugar together gently until just frothing and combined. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place it over a medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler — the bottom of the bowl containing the egg whites and sugar should not be touching the water.  Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160° F (71° C)  on a sugar thermometer. Once it reaches this temperature, remove immediately from the heat and attach the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer if using. 

With the whisk attachment (or electric hand held whisk) beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. At this point, the outside of the mixer bowl should be room temperature and no residual heat should be escaping from the meringue. 

With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla extract. Once the vanilla is incorporated, add the tea-infused butter (which has been chilling) and remaining unsalted butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, only adding more butter when the previous butter pieces have been fully incorporated. Once all the butter has been added, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, around 3 to 5 minutes, don't worry if it still looks a bit thin at this point, just keep mixing and eventually it will suddenly turn thicker and resemble more like buttercream. 

Once the cakes are cool enough, use the buttercream immediately by assembling. Slice each cake layer into 2 so you have 4 cake layers in total. Sandwich each layer together with a generous coating of buttercream. Smooth more buttercream on top of the cake and to create a naked cake look, spread thinly onto the sides so that you can still see some of the cake layers. Top the cake with whatever you fancy, such as flowers and white chocolate chips. 

Store the cake in the fridge and bring to room temperature when ready to serve, making sure to remove the flowers if not the edible type. 


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