Citrus London Fog - Vanilla Earl Grey Cupcakes

These came to me in a dream.


I was laying in bed one night sleeping, as one often does when they're laying in bed at night, and suddenly, at some ungodly hour, I bolted upright in bed, visions of cupcakes dancing in my head (not sugarplums, because let's be real, dreams about prunes excite me not). I knew the exact recipe I wanted to use, the precise flavour combinations, exactly how I was going to stage my photographs ... everything unfolded before me like a map to awesome cupcake flavour town, and I could not wait to get started ... but I did. I set my alarm for a more reasonable hour, but I had a hard time falling back to sleep. I was just too excited! At some point, though, I did fall back asleep because before I knew it my alarm was yelling at me to get up and put my plans into action. I hopped out of bed, threw my hair up into a messy bun (or as I like to call it ... a bun) and got to work.

I really wanted to emulate a cup of tea within these cupcakes - something comforting, not too heavy, with delicate but refined flavours. For the cake which is, obviously, the base of every good cupcake, I wanted a very pronounced vanilla flavour, so I used both real vanilla extract (SO important. No artificial stuff here) and a vanilla bean, which had the added effect of speckling the cake with the gorgeous vanilla seeds. This cake recipe is generally my go to for vanilla cupcakes and it has not once let me down ... which is such a rare attribute one can find in things these days, don't you think? As expected, these cakes came out of the oven beautifully golden with that light speckling of vanilla and a heavenly aroma (forget air fresheners, I feel like these would be a great thing to just pop in the oven before company comes ... major aromatic bonus points, my friends).

Setting these aside, I started on the frosting, which is a swiss meringue buttercream flavoured with earl grey tea.

*You'll probably notice I do a ton of swiss meringues on my blog and the simple reason for that is ... they're delicious, not just in flavour, but texturally as well. For me, texture is a huge part of my eating experience, and the light, silky, delicately sweetened swiss meringue has such a spectacular mouth-feel when compared to it's powdered-sugar-and-butter american buttercream counterpart. It's a personal preference thing more than anything, but one, I think, that has some merit to it*

There are a few ways to flavour something to make it taste like earl grey, one of which is adding bergamot oil, bergamot being the essential flavour component in earl grey, setting it apart from other black teas such as orange pekoe. For me, though, this makes the frosting a bit too floral (no one wants to eat perfume ... I assume), not to mention it's not exactly something that everyone has on their shelves. So instead, I decided to use loose leaf earl grey tea, ground up in a food processor and pushed through a strainer. The trick with this is you want to make it fine enough that it doesn't disrupt the smooth, silky texture of the swiss meringue, but not too fine so as to essentially dye your frosting a grey colour (though if that's what you're going for, grind the heck out of it, and you're good). The finished product was a beautifully flecked frosting with a perfect earl grey flavour.

The garnish I learned how to do at one of my previous jobs. Essentially, it's a lemon "chip": thin slice of lemon, soaked in a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar) and then put in a low heat oven to dry out and crisp up. This works the best if you're using, say, a mandoline or one of those funky food processors that slice things for you, or if you're better with a knife than I am (not hard to be, I assure you). I ended up cutting my slices too thick so instead of crisping up like I wanted, they stayed soft up until they started browning rather unattractively (and by that I mean burning) ... bummer. But, I managed to salvage one or two (hence the pretty picture) but again, I would strongly recommend the thinnest slices possible in order for this to really work properly.

And now it was time to stage and photograph. This part always makes me the most excited, because finally the picture that'd been in my head all day was coming out and becoming tangible. For the bottom, I took a lace curtain that I had bought once at Goodwill in a fit of DIY inspiration (madness that never quite came to pass) and spread it over my washing machine (this is where I take most of my pictures ... secret's out. It has the best light in the house and it's all white). Next I found the tiniest teacup I had (which was still too big) and stacked two cupcakes inside, frosting the top cupcake generously and garnishing it with my lemon chip, as well as a dried vanilla bean garnish (this isn't edible, but it's pretty. I'll include the "recipe" for this below if you're interested in wowing your guests and warning them not to eat something in the same breath). The last creative step was cutting a tag from an earl grey tea bag (twinnings of course. I was raised right) and placing it inside, which was easier said than done (I cut it way too short so getting it to stay for the shot was next to impossible). I took so many pictures, all with my iphone camera, and I have to say I'm really proud of how this one came out.

My cat Diego wanted in on the photo shoot

It had complexity, it had dimensions, it had character. So much character, in fact, that I decided it needed a name. That's where you came in, dear readers. I took to my facebook page and asked you for name suggestions. I picked my top two, and then had all of you vote for the winner, and after about 40 votes, Citrus London Fog, submitted by Della Stevens-Brain, of Barrie Ontario, was our winner. Della, and a randomly selected voter, won a dozen each of this fabulous flavour (see it pays to participate, doesn't it :p). Thanks to everyone that participated, and keep your eye on the page for more fun contests.

So there we have it, dear readers. The best vanilla cupcake you could imagine, silky earl grey frosting, and beautiful garnishes (one edible, one not). What's not to love? I've already made these babies three times, so I can safely say I'm pretty obsessed. Give these a try and I know you'll be hooked, just like I am.

Happy Baking!

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For Vanilla Cake:

1 cup granulate sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. Stir together, pressing with the back of your spoon to break apart any large lumps of vanilla. Set aside. In bowl of stand mixer, sift together dry ingredients. Add your vanilla sugar and mix until combined. Add butter and mix on medium low speed until batter is a fine crumbly texture, about 3 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and mix well until combined. Slowly add in milk (batter will be liquidy, that's okay). Fill cupcake liners about 1/2 way full and bake for 14 minutes or until tester comes out clean, rotating pan at the halfway mark. Leave in cupcake tin for 15 minutes, then remove cupcakes to cooling rack to cool completely.

For Earl Grey Swiss Meringue:

4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 lb unsalted butter (4 sticks), room temperature, cubed
2 tablespoons loose leaf earl grey tea, blended or pulsed finely (add more to taste)

Put whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set over a simmering pot of water. Whisk together until mixture reaches 170F, or until you can no longer feel the granules of sugar when you rub the mixture between your fingers. Pour into mixing bowl and mix, with whisk attachment, on high speed until mixture reaches med-stiff peaks. Pour your tea through the strainer, and mix just until combined. Taste, and add more if you find the flavour not strong enough for your liking. Add in cubes of butter a little at a time. Mixture will deflate but just keep mixing! Mix until smooth and silky. 

For Lemon Chips:

12 or more thin slices of lemon (about one or two lemons)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 225F. Place sugar and water into a pot and heat to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat, and add lemon slices to the pot, letting sit for 5 minutes. Cover a baking sheet with parchment, and lay lemon slices even widths apart. Bake until crisp, checking and rotating after the 30 minute mark. 

For Vanilla Bean Garnish:

vanilla beans, cut into thin strips

Preheat oven to 300F. Using scissors, cut a used vanilla bean into thin strips, as thin as you can make them without breaking. Place on parchment covered baking sheet, and bake until crisp, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container. 



  1. This looks like such a delicious recipe! I love London Fogs and lemons, so I know I'd love these!

  2. I like these cupcakes! From their look to the use of ingredients. That earl grey swiss meringue and the lemon chip complete it all!

  3. Good to know there are other food bloggers who dream up recipes in their sleep. Your creation is spectacular!

  4. Don't you love it when an exciting and awesome recipe idea just pops into your head?
    I love the combination of flavours you've (literally) dreamed up here... London Fogs are one of my cold-weather obsessions, and the addition of citrus sounds absolutely perfect. I'm very jealous of your lucky readers who get a batch of their very own!



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