The Best Way To Bake With Floral Teas For Irresistibly Aromatic Cakes

Most of us have sat down to enjoy a hot cup of tea (or two) alongside our favorite cake or pastry. But how many of us can honestly say that we've actually baked with tea? It may seem intimidating, considering just how many types of tea there are in the world. However, like cooking with wine or spirits, baking with tea can lead you down a path of irresistible aromatic baked goods that will have you and anyone who enters your kitchen drooling.

Adding tea to a baked good isn't a newly fangled food fad — the Irish have been doing it for a long time. Tea Brack, a riff on barmbrack, is a breakfast-style bread loaded with dried fruit. Irish breakfast tea is used to soak the fruit, usually raisins, and serves as the cake's only liquid element. The result is a moist, strong, fruity bread that is a very popular treat on the Emerald Isle.

When using tea for dessert cakes, a baker needs to be careful that the flavors and aromatics of the tea are not overpowered by the other elements fighting for dominance. In order for tea to be noticed in a cake, it needs to be strong and a prominent part of the baking. There are several ways to that tea flavor into your cake, but by far, the best method is to infuse that tea with the one ingredient most cakes simply cannot do without — butter.

Infuse unsalted butter with tea for a tasty treat

The purpose of tea-infused butter is not just that it imparts flavor but infuses it into the bake itself. The key here is to steep tea in melted butter; you're not just adding steeped tea to butter. Two factors are at play in order for this infusion to be successful. 

First, the butter must be unsalted. Salted butter is not preferred for baking anyway, and in terms of adding tea, the salt will only stand to adulterate the tea in such a way that you may not get the flavor results you're hoping for. Second, you need to use loose-leaf tea. The leaves will have more surface area for the butter to infuse with, and furthermore, they tend to be higher quality than tea stored in tea bags. 

For the infusion, you'll melt the butter and heat it with tea for about five minutes before taking it off the heat and letting the mixture steep for another five. Once it's cool but hasn't solidified yet, sieve the mixture through cheesecloth, so the tea leaves are caught and the butter falls through. Squeeze any remaining butter out of the tea, and allow the butter to solidify before using it in your next cake. For the best results, the tea you're using should be strong and aromatic — think black tea, Earl Grey, matcha, rooibos, or chai.