Earl Grey Cupcakes with Honey Buttercream and Candied Lemon Peel

There's a few things you should know, dear readers:

1) There are very few things I enjoy more than a good cup of tea (apart from a good cupcake of course!)
And why not? It's warm, it's inviting, it looks great in purple ... oh no wait, that's me (ha ha).

2) When it comes to his beverages of choice, my boyfriend is extremely boring (or, to put it a different way, he "likes to stick with a good thing". Hey he's with me isn't he?) (Also, I promise this is relevant to the blog ...)

3) My boyfriend suggested I should make an earl grey cupcake (when I mentioned before that his flavour profiles were limited, I wasn't really clear. It basically comes down to two choices: gingerale, or earl grey tea).

Anyway, because of the first two points on the list, the cupcakes you will see below were born ("when a flour mommy and a flour daddy love each other very much ..."). I will again note that these were made in the years of old when no one cared what I was baking (or that I was baking for that matter) so sadly I only have a mobile upload of the finished product ... but what a photo it is! (you'll see).

I had an idea of how I wanted them to be done, but I just wasn't sure about the frosting. Typically, good combinations with earl grey are honey and lemon, and I was flip-flopping between those two choices for about two days straight (yes, cupcakes rule my life). When I searched online for some inspiration, I found countless recipes for earl grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream, and lemon cream cheese buttercream, and lemon with more lemon and a heaping helping of lemon buttercream ... but no honey! Well being the pioneer that I am (shut up) I decided right then and there to go the road less travelled by and create my own frosting, with honey.

But first (as one does) I had to start with the cake portion of the cupcake (the cup portion would come later ... haha. oh me ...) The base that I started with told me that I had to soak four earl grey tea bags in scalded milk, and let sit for half an hour ... this is a problem for me. Something you may not know about me, is that, especially when I'm baking, my patience level is not incredibly high. By ten minutes, I had gotten everything together that I would need, and had begun to pace the kitchen. By fifteen minutes, I was rearranging my ingredients alphabetically, and by height (though the baking powder couldn't be next to the butter ... they were in a fight). By twenty-five minutes, I was playing musical chairs with the dry ingredients (I won) and by the time that thirty minutes rolled around, I was in the middle of naming each individual strand of hair on my head (I may never be able to cut the right side of my head ever again ...). Finally, the milk was sufficiently saturated with earl grey-y (doesn't really work does it?) goodness! Hurrah!

Compared to that step, the rest of the process flew by and before I knew it I was spooning the batter into the cupcake liners (though I don't literally mean "before I knew it" mind you. It wasn't like I was humming away and then suddenly looked down and went "oh my god! I'm making cupcakes!") and putting them into the oven. Next came the frosting.

This, my friends, was an annoying process. I whipped up the ingredients and took a taste: it tasted like butter. I poured in more honey and took another taste: it tasted like butter. I poured in more honey and took a taste: it tasted like friggin butter. I poured in even more honey and had another taste, and you know what it tasted like this time? A pony. Just kidding, but it may as well have because it didn't taste anything like honey (I think I would've welcomed the pony taste over the butter at this point ...). It took about half the bottle for the frosting to resemble anything like what comes out of a beehive, but when I got it, I got it. It was sweet and creamy and ... well you'll see when you make it (and you will riiiiiight?). I couldn't wait to pipe it on top of the cupcakes.

At this point, something was bothering me dear readers. I had chosen to go the honey route, and I didn't regret that decision, but I was missing my citrusy friend. Lemons and me, we've always been tight. I was always the kid at the chinese buffets that came back to the table with a plateful of lemons and a grin. Didn't end too well for the lemons, but now my tolerance for sour things is epic. Anyway, I wanted to think of some way to incorporate them into the recipe, but how? How?! Well, I'll tell you how. I unsheathed my vegetable peeler. I pulled out a lemon. My hand was a blur as I swiftly brought down the blade. I skinned my finger (ouch). Eventually, after several more tries and acid seeping into my wounds (me with a vegetable peeler is truly a sight to behold, I'll tell you), I managed to peel the lemon and cut it into strips (this time avoiding my fingers). I was going the adventurous route; I was going to candy those babies. And candy them I did. And there was much rejoicing. 

**The fact that I did this successfully actually shocked the hell out of me, but that just shows you that ANYONE can do this. And so you should, because it was a FANTASTIC garnish for my finished cupcakes**

Finally they were all assembled, and they looked absolutely beautiful (as you will see below). I had to take a picture right then and there before I did something to somehow screw it up. After marvelling at them like a proud mother I decided to commit cupcake cannibalism and take a bite. As my teeth sunk into the moist cake I experienced a variety of flavours: I tasted the lemon (seriously go that extra step and candy the peels; they're easy and so worth it), I tasted the honey (finally) ... but I only tasted a hint of the earl grey. Don't get me wrong, they were delicious cupcakes, and they had a nice flavour. But being the tea lover that I am I really wanted the tea flavour to pack a wallop ... and it really only grazed the proverbial chin of my palate ... disappointing. BUT, I know how to fix this for you, dear readers, so if you're like me, an avid tea lover, and you really want that flavour to shine through, add six to eight (not four like the recipe says) teabags to the milk. This will give it the kick you are (and I was) looking for. 

So when you bake these, and I know you will (riiiiiight?) I hope you enjoy them as much as my taste-testers and I did.

And, be careful with the vegetable peeler okay? She's a vicious one ...

Happy Baking!

Makes about 12 regular cupcakes
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk, at room temperature
4 Earl Grey teabags
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 large eggs, free-range or organic
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat and add the teabags. Cover and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes, then discard the teabags.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth, which should take 3-5 minutes using an electric hand mixer. Add the almond extract, if using, and the eggs, one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition.

Sift the two flours together into a separate bowl. Add one-third of the flours to the creamed mixture and beat well. Pour in one-third of the infused milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added.

Carefully spoon the mixture into the cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until slightly raised and golden brown. To check they are cooked, insert a wooden skewer in the center of one of the cupcakes - it should come out clean. 

Remove from the oven and leave the cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes before carefully placing on a wire rack to cool.

Honey Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey plus 2 TBSP (or more if you find it necessary. Taste as you go!)
4-5 cups powdered sugar
milk as needed for thinning out frosting

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the honey for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar .

Start on low speed on the mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.

Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.

Use milk to thin out frosting to reach desired consistency.

  • For The Lemon Peels:

  • 3 lemons
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white sugar, or as needed


Cut lemons into slices, and remove the fruit pulp. Scrape off as much of the white inner layer as you can, this part is bitter. A spoon or butter knife will work well.

Bring water to a boil in a small pan, and add lemon peels. Boil for about 5 minutes, until tender. Remove peels from water, and stir in sugar. Return to a boil, add peels, and boil until transparent. Drain, and allow to dry before storing. Liquid may be reserved and used as lemon simple syrup.


  1. Great blog as always, Sarah! I love your writing style and the stories are always comical and entertaining to the last. Keep up the great work!

  2. Mmm I'm addicted to Earl Grey tea at the moment, so I should totally make these!! Thanks for sharing! :)



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