Friday, July 16, 2010

MBCC: Spiced Vanilla Honey Tea Cupcakes

I am beyond excited to share this recipe! But first, I should give a little background. The owner of a blog I really like to visit, Jamieanne of The Sweetest Kitchen, has decided to hold a cupcake competition each month. She's called it the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge (which I have shortened to MBCC in the title), where each month there is a secret ingredient that is revealed and then competitors have to create a cupcake that incorporates this ingredient. This is the very first month and I immediately knew that if I got the time, I wanted to enter. At other blogs I like to visit, I've seen people competing in such cupcake competitions as Iron Cupcake, and I always wanted to try my hand at it because it seemed like a lot of fun. And not only that, but it would give me the chance to try and create my own recipes and expand my horizon as a baker. This competition has given me just the chance! I would encourage anyone to check it out as I have already had a lot of fun with this month's challenge and am going to continue entering each month that I get a chance! For all the info, Jamieanne has compiled all of the rules and guidelines right here.

So, onto the actual cupcake! This month's secret ingredient was tea. Tea! I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it before, but I absolutely love tea. It's my favorite drink and we drink it like crazy at my house. We can make a huge pitcher of black tea and have it be gone or close to gone the next day. (And did I mention there's only 3 of us?) After my last adventure of creating my own coconut muffin recipe, I was super excited to try and create another recipe I could call my own. I started thinking of flavor combinations that I thought would be good. Spice, of course. But what about vanilla? And honey? How about all of them?! Sounds good to me! So I took my favorite yellow cake recipe and started tweaking and changing it to my liking.

For the spices, I knew I wanted cinnamon, and nutmeg sounded good too, but what about some ginger? I've actually never used ground ginger in a recipe before, but it sounded like it would be a good addition, so I added it in. I changed the regular sugar in the recipe to vanilla sugar and cut the sugar down a bit to replace some of it with honey. And of course, I put tea bags into the warm milk called for in the recipe to steep. For the frosting, I was thinking either a honey Swiss meringue buttercream or a cooked frosting that had spices in it. I've made a cooked frosting before and wasn't too sure if I liked it. I've been meaning to try one again to see if I like it any better, but because I knew that I already loved Swiss meringue buttercream, that one won. I knew that I had to go through multiple trials with my coconut muffins to get them perfect, so I was prepared to do so again with this recipe. So with a determination, I went off into my kitchen to bake.
After the batter was prepared, I tasted it. It was good! But still needed a little something extra. I doubled the cinnamon, and although I had initially decided not to add vanilla extract because I had already used vanilla sugar, I went ahead and added some anyway and tasted the batter again. Wow!! It was delicious! I never expected it to be that good. My spirits flew. Could these cupcakes actually turn out really good on the first try? I put them in the oven and crossed my fingers. I pulled them out and let them cool and then started on the SMBC. I subtracted a little sugar from my usual standards (1/4 cup of sugar per egg white) since I was adding honey. The butter remained at 1/4 cup per egg white. After making the cupcakes, I actually didn't have too much honey left. But that didn't matter as only a small amount sufficed just fine. My planned recipe had called for more, but it didn't need it. I added some vanilla to keep with the vanilla honey theme and it was delicious! So after frosting the cupcakes and snapping pictures, I bit into one. WOW! It was out of this world! And there are really no words to describe how proud of myself I was. The cupcakes were so tender and had lovely flavor and the buttercream was perfect for them. I am so thankful to Jamieanne's contest even if I don't win, because it has given me the chance to see that I can come up with my own recipes and have them turn out well, and allowed me to have so much fun and gain confidence as a baker at the same time. I look forward to entering her contest again and again!

Spiced Vanilla Honey Tea Cupcakes (original yellow cake recipe from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman; all tweaks and changes made by yours truly)
Makes 12 cupcakes (**Again, I will warn you as I did with the coconut muffins, I have only ever made half of this recipe before, never the full recipe. But I will state again that I have never had problems scaling up or down recipes, so this full recipe should be fine.)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 black tea bags
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup vanilla sugar (If you don't have vanilla sugar, you can use regular granulated and increase the amount of vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons.)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard cupcake pan with liners.
  2. In a small, microwave-safe, microwave the milk for about a minute or until hot. Remove from the microwave and add the tea bags. Let the tea bags steep in the milk as you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Retrieve the tea-infused milk and squeeze out any milk that was absorbed by the tea bags back into the rest of the milk. With the mixture running, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the tea-infused milk. Mix just until combined.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Vanilla Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from my own mind)
Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Fill a large saucepan with about an inch of water and bring it to a simmer. In a heat friendly mixing bowl, place the egg whites, sugar, and salt, and fit the bowl over top of the pan, making sure that the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk the egg mixture constantly until a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees, about 5 minutes. If you don't have a candy thermometer, dip your finger into the egg mixture and rub it between your fingers. If it feels hot to the touch and it no longer feels grainy from the sugar, the mixture is ready.
  2. Place the egg mixture in a bowl of a stand mixer and fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk the mixture until it forms a meringue and comes to room temperature, about 5-7 minutes. (Feel the bowl in order to tell if it has come to room temperature. If the bowl no longer feels warm at all, it's good to go.)
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and put the mixer on low speed. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, waiting a couple seconds between each tablespoon. Once all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer on high and beat it until it forms a smooth, creamy buttercream, about 6-10 minutes. If at any time the mixture looks curdled, don't be alarmed. This is normal; just keep beating and the mixture will come back together. Also, if it ever appears to be very soupy, again, keep mixing, it'll thicken up.
  4. Once the buttercream is smooth and creamy, add the honey and vanilla on low speed and continue mixing for a minute or two to completely incorporate the ingredients and to remove any air pockets. Use to frost cupcakes and enjoy!!

The winner of July’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:
Thank you to all our prize sponsors!


  1. I love your spiced vanilla honey tea cupcake, I'd definitely like to try this one myself! I will be looking forward to more of your entries in the coming months! :)

  2. Thanks so much, Jamieanne! :)

  3. I loved this recipe. I'll vote in you!

  4. This sounds really good. Did the tea flavor show through with all those spices in there?

  5. @ Marta: Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!

    @ Anna: I think I got a little bit of the tea flavor after the spices. The flavors kind of came in waves, which I loved. You get the warm spices first with a nice sweetness of the honey and occasionally, I would get hit with a very subtle tea flavor, which I really loved. I might try upping the amount of tea bags next time just to see if they flavor can come through more. :)

  6. I love how these are like a mug of tea, complete with milk and honey!

  7. Vanilla, honey and a pinch of cinnamon? I love that simple (yet super tasty) combo. For some reason, I could imagine eating one of these with a cup of warm apple cider. Absolutely lovely recipe!

  8. Thanks so much you two!! =)