Kung Hei Fat Choy! Yes, Chinese New Year has rolled around again, with Sunday marking the start of the year of the Snake. In celebration, I've been thinking up Chinese-inspired cake recipes (what else?) so we all have an excuse to get a bit of baking in before the batter-madness that is Shrove Tuesday.
Rather like the boy and his poison's dilemma when coming up with his Shanghai Fizz, I was in a quandary over flavours. How could I get five-spice into a cake? Where on earth does one buy red-bean paste at eight o'clock on a Thursday night? Then I remembered that I had a tin of lychees in the cupboard and green tea by the teapot. Simplicity scored. This recipe is adapted from one by the Hummingbird Bakery, and of course, you can substitute any flavoured green teas for plain, if you're that way inclined!
I used standard green teabags here
Tinned lychees are actually perfect: no need to faff with skins or stones, and you get all that gorgeous syrupy juice...
Green Tea and Lychee Cupcakes (makes 18-24 small cakes, or 12-14 larger)
You will need:
For the cakes:
- 3 green tea bags
- 80g unsalted butter
- 225g caster sugar
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 200ml of milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 medium eggs
For the frosting:
- Juice from 1 tin of lychees
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp agar flakes (I'm veggie so a bit of a squeam when it comes to gelatine. It would work fine here, just refer to the guidelines on the packet)
- Lychees from 1 tin, fully drained and pureed
- 300ml double or whipping cream
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Lightly grease your cupcake cases and place in the trays. (Deep muffin tins work best for this, but shallower tins will do for smaller cakes.)
- Steep your teabags in around 35ml of just-boiled water and leave to brew for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and mix until they combine to a consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
- Squeeze out the teabags. Add the strong tea and vanilla to the milk in a separate jug or bowl. Beat in the eggs and mix together until well-combined.
- Pour half the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until smooth and thick. Add the remainder of the milk in splashes, stirring gently until everything is incorporated and it looks smooth and lovely.
- Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each about three quarters full. Add more cases to the trays if you need to. (Hurrah for 'test' cakes!)
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are light golden and feel springy.
- Whilst the cakes are still warm, make some small holes in the surfaces with the tip of a skewer, and spoon a little lychee juice over each one so that it soaks in. About half a teaspoon per cupcake should do it.
- Now for the frosting! Pour the remaining juice into a small saucepan along with the caster sugar. Sprinkle the agar flakes over the surface and set over a low heat.
- Allow to come gently to a simmer without stirring, then simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring every so often.
- Remove from the heat and place the bottom of the pan in a bowl of very cold or iced water to allow the agar to set.
- In a clean bowl, add the icing sugar to the cream and whip-whip-whip until stiff. (Hmm hmm) If you have an electric mixer, you can look smug, otherwise it's exercise time for you and that whisk.
- Spoon the pureed lychees and the agar mixture into the cream and whip again lightly until it has an airy, mousse-like consistency.
- Use a piping bag to decorate or spread the frosting on top of your cakes with a pallet knife. If you're feeling frivolous, decorate with pretty (edible) things.