This is another one that drew unsure noises from people – they started out going ‘ooooh!’ because they expected me to say something normal and delicious sounding, and it ended up more of an ‘oh?’. It’s comedy gold; I could just make normal sounding cakes all the time, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in making people double take. I think sometimes the enjoyment of a cake is increased by a little initial doubt, too. Of course, sometimes I like to play the guessing game, which I did with the recipient of this cake (sorry Miss S). I get bored of it quite quickly though if people don’t guess, and feel mean for not just telling them, so it doesn’t usually last long. I also say things like ‘oh, good guess!’ to make myself and the other person feel better. If it was a good guess it’d be right, surely?
I’ve seen lots of recipes for sweet things that use green tea, and mostly they use green tea powder – usually sold as matcha, though I think this only applies to a certain type of ground green tea leaf, much like champagne only applies to wines made in that region. What I do know for sure is that it’s expensive, and that by the time I’d decided what flavour of cake to make I didn’t have time to source any, so I went with green tea bags, which are much easier to pick up. I got the idea of emptying out tea bags into cake from making this recipe for mini chai loaves, and I’ve used it since to make a caramel tea cake, which lacked any kind of documentation so I can’t share it with you. I understand that it was lovely, though, if you’d care to take my friend’s word for it? It seems an odd thing to do, at first I imagined that the tea leaves would be dry and would get all up in your teeth and things, like dried herbs would if you tried to eat them straight out of the jar (blargh) but the opposite is true; they have no texture but still give the cake a textured appearance, as you can see from the photo, and the flavour from them permeates the sponge completely.
Let us take a moment to digest the fact that I just used the word permeate. I thank you.
So, to the green tea cake. Here is the recipe for one eight-inch cake:
- 10oz golden caster sugar (because that’s what was in the cupboard)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup olive oil plus 3tbsp
- 8oz wheat-free flour
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 2tsp baking powder
- 4 green tea bags, emptied out of their paper prison
- 1/4 cup oat milk
For the icing:
- 170g dairy free dark chocolate
- 80ml soy cream
I know that taking pictures of all your ingredients before you start out is pretty retro, and probably the blogging world’s equivalent of brown corduroy flares, but there’s something I like about it. I think it’s the progression from ‘bags of stuff’ to ‘lovely cake’ that I like. It also gets me started on taking photos, which means I’m more likely to take them as I go along, which definitely helps to make this blog a lot more interesting.
The green tea cake had to be both wheat and dairy free to accommodate the birthday girl’s dietary requirements, but I like to think that the missing wheat and dairy weren’t noticeable. The chocolate in particular was a nice surprise – it conforms to loads of different dietary restrictions but it tasted just like normal dark chocolate. This is probably because it was just normal dark chocolate but packaged and priced as special chocolate; I thought it was worth trying anyway, so that I know there’s a brand of chocolate that’s definitely safe for the many friends I have with wide-ranging and varied dietary challenges. The soy cream, too, was great and made a ganache just as well as normal single cream. Highly successful experiments all round!
The first thing I did was the beat the eggs with my trusty hand mixer, then gradually add the sugar and beat for what felt like approximately the duration of an ice age until it was thick and creamy – thick enough to leave trails behind the beaters. Then I mixed together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and tea, and added a quarter of this mix to the eggs and sugar. I folded it in, then folded in a third of the oil. I continued to alternate quarters and thirds until there was none of anything left, and then I added the oat milk because it looked for too stodgy to produce a good sponge. Oat milk is another recent experiment I’ve made; I’ve been using dairy free alternatives in my own kitchen for a while, initially because I thought it would help my sinuses (it didn’t) and then out of habit, and because it keeps for longer than normal milk. Oat milk is very thin and very sweet, so it’s not suitable for everything (I wouldn’t dream of trying to make macaroni cheese with it, for example) but it works well for baking, cereal and hot drinks, unlike soy milk which curdles at the very mention of coffee, in my experience.
I scraped the cake mix into a greased (with olive oil) and floured (with wheat-free flour) tin, then baked at 170C for about an hour. The result was a dense but moist cake with a lovely crisp, sweet crust. This suggests to me that there is a little too much sugar in the recipe, but at the same time the bitterness of the green tea needs some sweetness to lift it, so I wouldn’t go changing it. Besides, I liked the crust, and got to eat a fair portion of it as I sliced off the slight dome that formed on the cake so that it would sandwich together better. Also, altogether now, I HAD TO TEST IT. Once out of the oven, I let the cake cool in the tin overnight, protected by a food umbrella to keep out marauding dust, mosquitoes and tigers.
I returned to the cake the next evening, when I made the chocolate icing. I made a ganache, which is so simple to do and produces such amazing results. What’s not to love about a mix of chocolate and cream? It also sets to a fairly robust finish – it’s soft, but not melty the way just chocolate would be if you left it at room temperature. I sliced the cake, then sliced it again since I got it wrong the first time, and this double slice left me, somehow, with the very thinnest slice of cake that you can imagine. You could almost read through it, though why you’d want to do that is anyone’s guess. This is why you shouldn’t hurry cake slicing, and why you also shouldn’t tilt the cake slicing wire, cos you end up with uneven slices and a case of the Rage. I hurriedly applied a thin layer of ganache to the top surface of what was now the bottom slice, then laid the World’s Thinnest Slice on top, patting it in to shape again where it had torn. I applied more ganache here and finished it off with the top layer, which I turned upside down to give an evenly flat edge (I hadn’t managed to mess that up, at least). I was sad about this slicing fail, thinking that all three layers would look completely different thicknesses, but to my delight, the cake looked like this when sliced:
How cool? You can see at the very edge where the slices are wonky, especially the bottom one, but your eye is totally drawn by the tram lines of chocolate in the middle. Yay!
I finished the cake off with some bronze glitter, which looked excellent with the dark chocolate, and some white glitter writing icing. As you can see from picture one, it was for Sally. And you can see from picture two, it’s unwise to use the writing icing in advance, because your cake ends up being for Mr Blobby instead.
I was a little concerned that the overall effect of the green tea and dark chocolate might be too bitter. Certainly it’s not a very sweet cake, but it seemed like everyone enjoyed it and nobody made a face like they were eating a lemon, unless they did it behind their napkin. A lemon icing was my plan B for this cake, if either the chocolate or cream were no good, and I think it would have worked well, as would a vanilla icing. I was going through all the different kinds of green tea I’ve tried in my head – lemon and vanilla are two, as are pear, lotus flower, grapefruit and mint. Mint chocolate might have been nice, in fact, I’ve only just thought of that. Maybe for the best, you don’t want to overwhelm the green tea, as it’s not a very strong flavour in this recipe. Chocolate all the way, that’s what I say. Who’s with me??