Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Earl Grey Tea Cake

I’m a coffee drinker, but I also love hot tea … when I want it! I’m partial to Earl Grey and I have to agree with thousands of other enthusiasts who complained about a change in the blend. About ten years ago, Twinings changed their blend. To me, the blend isn’t nearly as strong or as flavorful as it was prior to the change If Twinings has changed back to the old recipe, I can’t tell it. I use K-cups and I use tea bags. Maybe the loose leaf is better. Earl Grey tea has Bergamot in it. Some varieties have lavender included in the blend. I really like that. Another is blended with the petals of blue cornflowers.

1st Earl Charles Grey

Who is Earl Grey, anyway? The first Earl Grey fought for the British as a distinguished general in America’s Revolutionary War. He rose in rank to become a Commander in Chief of the British forces in America. He was known as “no flint Grey” because he instructed his soldiers to remove the flints from their muskets at night and to fight only using their bayonets.

This peerage was created in 1806 for Charles Grey, who was Baron Charles Grey. He was first given the title Baron Grey of Howick, which is located in the County of Northumberland (his family’s land). Later he was named Viscount and then he was given the title “Earl”. The Grey family was very prominent and there is a very long line of nobles,

Charles Grey, the 1st Earl Grey is not the star of my column today! It is his son, also a Charles, but titled the 2nd Earl Grey! Known as a Viscount as long as his father was living, #2 held many political posts but served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from November 1830 to July 1834. He was a member of the Whig Party and in 1833, it was his government that enacted the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. 800,000 enslaved Africans were freed in Jamaica, South Africa and Canada.

2nd Earl Charles Grey

In 1834, Grey resigned his position and gave up politics completely. His party was arguing over Ireland and he wanted away from the battle. Grey #2 was a friend of the Prince of Wales. He was very well educated and known as one of the finest orators of his time. He was married with children and

Duchess of Devonshire
had many extra marital affairs! It was an affair he had with a married woman, before he had actually married, that resulted in a child that was raised by his parents as though she was his sister (or other accounts say as his niece). Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire was the child’s mother. The 2008 movie, Duchess, tells the story!

Earl Grey tea is named for the 2nd Earl Grey. Why and how is up for debate. One story is that he received a gift of tea flavored with bergamot oil and lemon as a reward for ending the monopoly held by the East India Company on trade between Britain and China.
Another story tells that the 2nd Earl Grey saved the life of a Chinese nobleman’s son who was drowning. The tea was blended as a gift, but Lord Grey never visited China, so there is probably something not so accurate about that story!

What does seem to be accurate is that the tea was first referenced in 1824. The tiny Bergamot orange grows in Italy and the addition to the tea leaves help eliminate the bitter flavor of water with too much lime in it. Lady Grey served it at and made it popular. She was frequently asked to sell the blend, so Twinings came in and established the brand. It was probably first blended by the tea house Jacksons of Piccadilly, which was later bought out by Twinings.

Enjoy the tea but use it to make a wonderful tea cake that probably originated in a Royal household. There are several recipes in historic cookbooks, but the true originator is not known. There are also many recipes online, today. Some call for the addition of lavender. Others actually tint the cake batter a light purple color. Some recipes suggest a glaze or icing. I didn’t do any of that to the recipe I used, and the cake was delicious. Simple, buttery and delicious.

Earl Grey Tea Cake

1 stick of butter, soft

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

2 Earl Grey (or Lady Grey) teabags

Prepare a bund pan by spraying it and dusting with flour. Heat the cup of milk and steep the teabags in it for ten minutes. Cream together the butter and sugar … then cream in the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add half of it to the flour mixture with half the tea steeped milk … blend well then ad the remaining flour and milk and cream until smooth. If you want to ting the batter, do it when you add in the vanilla. If you want to add lavender petals, stir them in at the very end.

Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Invert the cake after it cools about 30 minutes. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar or drizzle on a glaze. I just added a little glitter sugar!

This cake is good all by itself. You can add a little ice cream or whipped cream … or in the tradition of my mother … serve it with a spoonful of fruit cocktail! I’m a fan of canned fruit cocktail, but I’m a bigger fan when I add fresh fruit to it. I received beautiful Kiwi in my weekly produce delivery, so I peeled and sliced them and added them to the canned fruit. I almost always add sliced bananas … sometimes sections of an orange, halved grapes or other fresh berries. The foundation, though, is always a simple can of fruit cocktail!

This post is part of my 2021 Foods Named After Famous People project! You can find similar posts by clicking the menu button. I’ll also share it with a couple blog parties, so check out my sidebar.


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