"When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender, of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries."
- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Years ago, when my sister Laura was a single mom and my oldest niece was only a couple years old, they lived just a few miles away from me in a tiny little duplex. When it was unbearably hot outside, they would escape to my apartment which was air-conditioned but completely devoid of living room furniture other than an over-sized brown recliner chair from my parents' basement and a pile of blankets and pillows on the floor that served as my couch. But I didn't mind, since I was just so thrilled to have my own place.
Most of the time, though, I'd spend weekends at Laura's place, where we'd paint our nails, eat crackers and canned soup for dinner, play games with my niece and watch movies until late at night when we would all three snuggle together in a crowed queen-sized bed.
If I slept over on a Sunday night, Laura would always make me a cup of tea in the morning before I left for work, usually something herbal like Blueberry or Orange Spice. The cozy routine of those steaming cups of tea was just like our sisterhood - comfortable, warming and familiar.
After Jamie and I had gone out on our first few dates, I remember wondering where it was all going to go. Wonder changed to hope as I began to fall in love with him, and then it was no longer a matter of if, but when would we reach that level of familiarity, when would we be comfortable enough to let the other see our weirdness and strange quirks and be completely ourselves. The way we are with our family and friends we've known our whole lives.
Last week we celebrated the 5th anniversary of our first date, and he took me to Pappadeaux for dinner, where we shared a dozen oysters and Greek salad, followed by swordfish for him and the most amazing piece of halibut I've ever tasted, served with lemony olive oil sauce with capers.
I wanted to make a cake for our anniversary. Chocolate seemed like the most obvious choice since we both love chocolate, but as I reflected back over the last five years, I thought of the way our relationship has changed and grown, how somewhere along the way, we reached that level of familiarity that I had been hoping for and dreaming of achieving with the person I would be spending my life with. I thought of those mornings so many years ago at my sister's house, and of the cozy winter weekends when Jamie and I have spent two days straight in our pajamas, and I couldn't shake the idea of a tea cake made with brewed tea.
These days, I don't really care for herbal tea anymore, but I love a good cup of strong, unsweetened black tea. The tea cake was beautifully spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, as well as a little cocoa powder. The small amount of cocoa powder did not add a chocolate flavor, rather it just enhanced the flavor of the black tea. The cake was so moist and ever so slightly bitter from the strong tea, and it paired so nicely with the sweet brown sugar cream cheese buttercream.
I don't think that any of the amazing things that have happened to me in the last five years would have been possible without his support, encouragement and love. After we're married this fall, we'll begin a whole new chapter in our lives, and I can't wait to see what happens. He is my family now. He is my home.
One Year Ago: Baked Chocolate Coffee Cake Doughnuts
Two Years Ago: Photos of an Oatmeal Breakfast
Three Years Ago: Sweet Potato Fries and Beef Brisket
Black Tea Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Buttercream
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup strong black tea, boiled and steeped for 5 minutes
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Baker's Note: Double the recipe to bake in three 8 or 9 inch pans for a standard-sized cake.
Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, vanilla, olive oil and brewed tea and mix on medium low for several minutes to combine - batter will be thin.
Divide batter between the cake pans. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the center of each cake springs back when gently touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Set the pans on wire racks, cover loosely with clean kitchen towels and cool completely.
Make the Buttercream:
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and stir constantly while bringing the butter and sugar to a boil; boil while stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to a room-temperature solid (this can be done one day in advance).
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, beat the butter/brown sugar with the cream cheese and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder and salt. Add by spoonfuls on low to combine, then increase speed and beat for several minutes until light and fluffy.
Frost or pipe the buttercream onto the cooled cakes.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen