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I'm baking a genoise cake consisting of flour, eggs, sugar, and optionally some melted butter. I want to add a strong tea flavour to it.

The only type of tea I currently have and want to use is loose leaf black tea. I don't want to use matcha powder, tea bags, or anything like that. I also have a bunch of spices that aren't water-soluble.

How can I add tea to the batter without messing it up?

4 Answers 4

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The only way that could possibly work given your constraints would be to infuse the tea in some butter. But as a génoise contains little butter, the taste would likely be very subtle.

I would try putting some butter with the tea leaves in a sauce pan and heat gently for 10-15 minutes, then filter out the leaves and add the resulting butter in the génoise.

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  • I'll look into this! Thanks in advance. Mar 22, 2023 at 9:30
  • +1, that's an interesting one! When I wrote my answer, I forgot that the butter in a genoise is melted and so can be used for steeping.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 22, 2023 at 10:05
  • Not only does Genoise only contain a little butter, the flavour compounds in tea will (mainly) dissolve in the water of the butter, which is only ~15%. You'd need very good extraction to get any noticeable flavour. Adding a few finely ground dry leaves (as in @rumtscho's answer) as well might help (but may bring its own issues as I'll comment there)
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 11:38
  • I was going to add a further comment, but it turned into an answer
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 11:47
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Your requirements are incompatible with each other. You cannot use tea leaves to create a flavored genoise batter. There are ways to get tea-flavor into a cake, but you have to change something in your plans.

  1. Don't use the tea leaves. Nowadays, you can find commercially produced flavoring in almost any flavor. Look for something online, and add it to the cake. It will be either a powder or a liquid, but you'll need very small amounts, so it won't mess with the cake structure. You can also look around for some kind of instant tea, similar to instant coffee, but that wouldn't be my preferred route. The closest product that's widespread are Turkish flavored instant teas, and they taste nothing like black tea. Also, this isn't something you'll get easily - so if you have to search around, at least search for a product made for your purpose.
  2. Don't use a genoise recipe. This is something I mentioned in an answer to your previous question. If you make a different type of sponge, one that takes liquid ingredients, you can steep the tea either in water or in a dairy component, make sure it's quite concentrated, and add that to the cake.
  3. Don't add it to the batter. You already got suggestions in the comments to your other question. Syruping is one way to go. Another is to make the filling or frosting tea-flavored, and keep the sponge neutral or give it a different flavor.
  4. Don't make it black tea. You can buy bergamotte essential oil, and make an Earl grey flavored sponge. Also, the matcha suggestion still stands.
  5. Don't make it strong. If you add some dry leaves directly to the batter (maybe put them through a mortar if they are too large), you can expect to get a slight hint of tea. Or you could try to make a strong alcohol extract, analogously to vanilla extract. I am placing the idea under the "weak taste" proposal, because you can only use it in small amounts, but it's quite likely that a teaspoon or two of tea liquor that has steeped for months will add a stronger taste of a teaspoon of freshly brewed tea, so it could be a project to test.

So there are many different avenues in which you can go, you just have to decide which part of your idea you prefer to forgo.

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  • Instant black tea is available - widely so in the UK from most of the major tea brands. Not being (much of) a tea drinker, I assume it's about as bad as instant coffee, which I avoid even in baking.
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 11:39
  • Adding finely ground dry leaves direct is an interesting idea, but the flavour we get from tea comes from the compounds that extract into hot water, which isn't everything present in the leaves. Eating the leaves is likely to be quite a different flavour, more bitter I'd guess (though of course the flavour will be different in cake anyway).
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 11:41
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    @ChrisH Whatever the mechanism, I suspect that using leaves instead of an extract will suffer from the same problems as using vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract (which gives me a further idea which I will edit in, thanks!) As for the instant tea, I do use instant coffee in baking, and find it a good option - I don't think I could tell the difference in blind tasting cake (sponge or filling), even if I could tell it between two cups of coffee.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 22, 2023 at 11:50
  • I've had better luck with instant espresso powder, but still prefer some form of extraction (about a 1:1 mix by volume of ground coffee and hot milk works quite well if milk is an ingredient, kept warm for a few minutes then strained)
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 11:59
  • I also wonder about the solubility of the relevant compounds in alcohol
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 12:00
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I wonder about something like adding some boiling water to the butter, infusing in the mix, and very gently reducing back down to the weight of the butter. For example if your recipe uses 50g butter, add 20g water to that and loads of tea leaves, weighed. Heat, weighing every so often, until you're down to the weight of the butter plus leaves. Strain. You may want to add a bit more butter, say 10%, as you'll lose some to straining off the leaves. I'd use a candle under my pan for the reduction, rather than a gas ring, which would be too fierce.

On the other hand sitting on the leaves too long will make it go bitter, so you may want to strain part way through the reduction.

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  • This can probably be simplified. My preferred genoise recipe uses clarified butter, both for moisture management and because you want it super hot to set the eggs, which means your water will splatter out anyway if you don't clarify first. But if we assume that a genoise can take 15% of the butter weight in water, then it would be easier to use clarified butter plus 15% of its weight in (reduced) tea, as opposed to trying to mix the two.
    – rumtscho
    Mar 22, 2023 at 11:58
  • @rumtscho that would address the loss on straining. If clarified butter is suitable anyway it might be good. It's ages since I've made Genoise, but I think I used a recipe without butter anyway
    – Chris H
    Mar 22, 2023 at 12:06
  • @rumtscho How about brown butter? Apr 13, 2023 at 2:47
  • I tried this method with brown butter, and although I got it to work in the end, it was really tough. The amount of tea (and spices) was nearly equal to the amount of butter, and it was really difficult to strain it. Plus, the tea made it so dark that I couldn't even tell when it was browned! In the end though, I got a pretty strong flavour. Apr 13, 2023 at 2:49
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For a stronger flavor than steeping in butter, why not pulverize the loose black tea into a powder and toss it into the batter?

You'll get a pretty speckled look as well. I've done similar with shortbread.

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