Monday 4 May 2015

Reduced-Sugar Earl Grey Honey 'Basket of Flowers' Chiffon Cake

My mum's birthday falls on the same month as Mother's Day so we usually celebrate these two events any time in the month of May but avoiding the weekend of Mother's Day where restaurants are usually more crowded. We decided to celebrate early this year and I decided to surprise her with a cake :)

Basketful of roses and daisies!

Mum doesn't get to eat cake often as she has diabetes (thankfully not too serious). We don't believe in using artificial sugar to replace natural sugar as artificial sugar is...well, Artificial. So reducing intake is the way to go. I made this cake with mum's condition in mind so the egg yolk batter has almost no sugar and the meringue has minimal amount of sugar. Just enough to form a proper, stable meringue (in my experience, that's about 9-10g of sugar to 1 egg white). Honey is added to give the cake extra flavour and some sweetness.

In order to make an Earl Grey chiffon basket without all the black specks of bergamot tea leaves in there, I used some instant Earl Grey powder to enhance the Earl Grey flavour without adding the leaves. I bought this instant tea from Yamakawa.

Of course I still "brewed" a proper portion of milk tea by steeping some earl grey tea bags in hot milk. I added about 1/2 tsp of lavendar to enhance the overall fragrance and 2 tbs of honey.

This photo was taken right after the hot milk was poured in

I adapted from my earlier recipe and used steam baking to make the cake more soft and moist. Inspired by Susanne to try steam baking! This is the first time I am baking chiffon cake in a chiffon tin after a hiatus of 6 months!! I used to use cake strips to make the cake rise more slowly and evenly but thought I would give steam baking a shot without cake strips. The cake still rose too fast for my liking so I may have to adjust the temperature when I try again. However, the cake is still fragrant and so very soft :).

My first chiffon cake in 6 months!

Make an Earl grey layer cake and cut into wide and narrow strips to create the basket weave pattern. Stick on the pieces using marshmellows melted with a bit of water. The sequence of sticking the pieces on is the same as how you would use cream to pipe on the basket weave design on a creamed cake. For a chiffon tin of the size I am using, I cut about 22 strips of 7x0.5cm and 44 strips of 6.5x1.5cm. These measurements are approximate.

I have been wondering what surprise to put into the hole that is suitable for diabetics and gave up because I don't have suitable snacks on hand and didn't have time to bake savory biscuits/cookies. Homemade popcorn came to mind but I couldn't get hold of the ingredients in time. I baked small cake in a shallow metal bowl to cover the hole. You may also cut a circle from the layer cake to cover the hole. Stick the cake on with some melted marshmellow.

Bake some layer cakes in ombre pink and green colours for the flowers and leaves.

You may refer to this post for the assembly of chiffon roses. If your layer cake is too thick, you may want to cut the slice thinner to make the rose look more realistic. Thinner slices are easier to roll too!

Make some chiffon daisies if you wish :). It's less tedious and requires less cake to make. I realized I didn't make enough roses so I made some daisies.

16 chiffon roses! I haven't glued on the petals when this photo was taken.

Cut out some leaves with a leaf cutter or you may cut it out with the help of circle cutters if you don't have a leaf cutter. Stick the leaves on.

All done!

Well almost. Brush some simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar:water) on the flowers, leaves and sides of the basket to keep those small cake parts moist. I steep the hot water used to dissolve the sugar with some dried lavendar to add more floral fragrance to the cake. Refrigerate the cake in air tight container until ready to serve.

Here's a peek at a slice of cake which we had after eating Dim Sum...

Cake is so soft that it almost can't support the weight of the flowers...

And so super bendy after 2 days!!

I had some leftover layer cake and after storing for two days (never rolled the cake after baking), I decided to test to see if it is still as yoga-like. Pleasantly surprised to see that it still is!

My parents loved the cake as it is very soft and very fragrant. The generous amount of Earl Grey with a touch of lavendar and honey really helps in this aspect. Level of sweetness was just nice for everyone too! If you have a sweet tooth you may prefer it to be sweeter so just add more sugar in the egg yolk batter as I suggested.

Blessed birthday to Mum and Happy Mother's Day to all mummies!

Update: My mum wanted to share the cake with my grandma and aunts so they had some the day after the cake was cut. It was still very nice and soft!

With lots of love,
Phay Shing


  1. Dearest Phay Shing,
    Thank you for your yummy cake and wishes.

    1. Thanks Mummy for your love and care all these years :)! Glad to make something yummy and pretty for you!

  2. Hi Phay Shing,
    Blessed Mother's Day to you too.
    It's a very lovely cake with pretty flowers. You are so thoughtful. Indeed made with lots of love for your mom ^-^!

    1. Thanks Karen :). Blessed Mother's Day to you too!

  3. Hi Phay Shing,
    I melted my marshmallow in a ceramic bowl over gently boiling water. It was so sticky even when melted. Is it ok to add just a few drops of water to reduce stickiness? but wondering if the water will cause my flowers to b over moist? Please advise method (eg apply marshmallow in dots/line at the base of petals?)& how much melted marshmallow to use to stick the petals? would using white choc to stick petals b ok?

    Thank you !
    Grace Chen

    1. Hi Grace,

      Yes please do add some water a few drops at a time otherwise it will be hard to apply the glue. It won't cause the flowers to be over moist :)

    2. Thank you, Phay Shing!