I think as a food blogger, one of my most shameful and embarrassing secrets is that I know nothing about decorating a cake. I think it's because when I was learning to bake, I'd always just been so focused on making sure things tasted good, that it's never really mattered if they looked better than just plain edible.
Many years have passed since I started baking, and many desserts have been created (and eaten), but still no cakes have made their way onto my blog. And with the exception of some shoddy birthday cakes, my kitchen has remained distanced from cake all together. Purely because the thought of frosting a cake is so daunting that I'd rather just make cookies.
I've always wondered how people make their cakes look so smooth. And after watching roughly 300 tutorials on YouTube I've figured out the first step. The crumb coat. In which you thinly ice the cake, and then set it in the fridge or freezer before adding a thicker, decorative layer of icing. It's a game changer.
Please don't judge me for just figuring out crumb coating.
But it's not just what's on the outside that counts, because the inside of this cake is something really special. It's a vegan London fog layer cake. Made with a moist batter that's been steeped with earl grey and flecked with a real vanilla bean. It's fluffy, light, and tastes like a warm cup of tea.
Despite the pretty haphazard frosting job (are those supposed to be ruffles?) the vegan London fog buttercream I made turned out to be quite delicious. I infused the tea into the vegan butter, based off of the knowledge that tea flavors are best transferred through some kind of fat, and it worked out better than I ever would have imagined. The shortening adds a lightness, and the frosting spreads very well.
So can you see why I'm so embarrassed of my cake decorating skills yet? Ugh. It's still so challenging! Anyone have any tips? I'm hoping that this year my frosting skills improve a lot, so keep an eye on this space each month when I post a new recipe and new frosting attempt as part of my "Year of Cake." If you feel like challenging yourself maybe try baking along with me, and consider tagging your bakes with #ssyearofcake.
Okay 2017. Here I come. And I'm bringing cake.
London Fog Layer Cake
makes on 9x13'' cake or two 9'' rounds.
Vegan London Fog Cake
- 1/2 cup earl grey tea leaves
- 1 1/4 cup plant based milk
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon Aquafaba*
- 1 vanilla bean**
Vegan London Fog Buttercream
- 1/2 cup earth balance buttery sticks (room temperature)***
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons earl grey tea leaves
- 2 Tablespoons plant based milk
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
In a small microwaveable bowl, heat up the plant based milk until hot. Then add the earl grey tea leaves and steep for 10-15 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Then, In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Then, add in the apple cider vinegar, oil, aquafaba and earl grey milk. Extract the vanilla caviar from the vanilla bean by slicing it lengthwise, and then scraping the caviar out. Add to the cake batter and combine until smooth and fairly thin.
Pour the batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cake should spring back when pressed and a toothpick should come out clean with inserted into the center of the cake. Let cool, and then frost with buttercream.
To prepare the buttercream, begin by melting the vegan butter in a small saucepan. Add in 1/4 cup earl grey tea leaves and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain the leaves out by pouring them through a fine mesh sieve and then place in the fridge or leave on the counter to come back to room temperature. While it's solidifying, heat up the milk in a microwaveable safe bowl, and add in the remaining 2 Tablespoons of tea leaves. Leave this to steep for as long as possible.****
Beat the butter and shortening together, and then slowly add in the powdered sugar. Add in the vanilla bean caviar and earl grey infused milk and continue mixing until you have a spreadable frosting. Add more powdered sugar to thicken or more plant based milk to thin until you've reached your desired consistency.
Cake will store in an airtight container for about 5 days. Buttercream can be made ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 3 days, just bring back to room temperature before using.
** if you don't have vanilla beans on hand, substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in both the cake batter and buttercream. I found the vanilla bean to add an extra element of fragrance that really brings out the London Fog flavors, so I strongly suggest the vanilla beans for this recipe.
*** I've only ever used the earth balance buttery sticks in this recipe, and I'm not sure how well a vegan spread or coconut oil would work in it's place. Be mindful of this if you're planning on straying from the recipe as I have written it.
**** When steeping tea into anything I like to infuse it as long as humanly possible. It makes the flavors much stronger, but if you don't have extra time the normal 10 minutes will work just fine.