Monday 11 September 2023

Earl Grey Pear Chiffon Cake

 If I had a choice, I would rename the title of this post as "Earl Grey Honey Milk Tea Vanilla Pear and Lime Chiffon Cake" but that would be too long and a big mouthful to read out aloud 😆. But that's the true representation of this really aromatic, refreshing and yummy cake!

I made not just one but two such cakes! One for my dad's birthday and another for my uncle's birthday.

The pears on top are actually made of chiffon cake. This is the Instagram reel on how to make it:

The large cakes are made up of:
- Earl grey honey milk tea chiffon sponges
- Earl grey pear tea with honey agar jelly 
- Pear and lime compote with brown sugar and honey
- Chantilly cream

I have to thank Lizzy (@homecookinglizzy Instagram account ) for the inspiration for this cake flavour and the recipe for the pear and lime compote. It's amazing 😍.

I was trying out baking without using steam baking but with a different baking temperature profile to see if it works too. Fan mode was used when I usually use top and bottom heat only. My conclusion is, there isn't really much difference in results from my usual temperature profile which starts at a higher temperature and then gradually lowering it, while using steam baking.

Earl Grey pear tea
This is used for making the chiffon "pears" and the agar jelly.

1 large ripe Packham pear, peeled and grated
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1/2 tsp black tea powder (or 1 Earl Grey tea bag)
1 stick of cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
400ml water

1. Place all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

2. Turn off heat and leave it to cool completely. Discard cinnamon stick. Squeeze out the tea bags. Sieve the Earl Grey pear tea through fine sieve. Store in airtight glass container refrigerated until needed. You may prepare this 1-2 days in advance.

Earl Grey pear tea chiffon cake "pears"
Ingredients (makes about 15-16 pears):
Egg yolk batter
2 egg yolks
28g vegetable oil
28g Earl Grey pear tea
40g cake flour
Pinches of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Green and yellow gel food colouring
1/2 tsp Earl Grey tea leaves from tea bag (optional)
Cinnamon stick cut to thin slivers (for pear stems)

2 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
38g caster sugar

1. Wash egg shells and remove membrane inside. Air dry completely before using. Use silicone hemisphere tray, muffin cases or disposable cupcake cases to hold each eggshell upright.

2. Preheat oven to 120-130C fan mode.

3. Prepare egg yolk batter. Whisk egg yolks until pale and thick. Add oil and whisk until well combined. Add tea, salt and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Gradually sift in flour and whisk until no trace of flour is seen. You may add some tea leaves from a tea bag to the flour before sifting together to add black specks on the pear to mimic real pears. Set aside.

4. Make the meringue. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until firm peaks or just reach stiff peaks, gradually adding sugar once egg whites are foamy. 

5. Quickly but gently fold meringue into egg yolk batter in three additions. Transfer into large piping bag. Cut a hole about 7-8mm. Fill the egg shells about 2/3-3/4 full.

6. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Increase temperature to 160C and bake for another 5 minutes. Leave to cool completely before cutting off the excess cake that rose out of the egg shell. Crack the egg shells with the back of metal spoon and gently releasing the cake. Adjust baking temperature and time according to your oven as each oven is different. 

7. Use a strip of cling wrap to tie a knot at where you want the "waist" of the pear to appear on each cake. Leave it for 10-15 minutes before untying it. I was impatient and didn't want to use so much plastic so I just did it one at a time, using the time to unmould each cake as the length of time to "strangle" the previous cake. The sponge would bounce back a little but I just shape it with my fingers again.

8. Insert a sliver of cinnamon stick for the pear stem. You may use chocolate if you wish but I prefer something that is less fragile and easier to handle in hot and humid Singapore. 

9. Brush the surface of the sponge with syrup (1:2 sugar: hot water) and store in airtight condition in the fridge. You may store at room temperature too if consuming within 3 days.

Don't they look cute?😍

Earl Grey pear tea with honey agar jelly
I portion the jelly ingredients such that the jelly layer I set in my silicone tray is about 7-8mm thick. My tray is about 8" in diameter.

270g Earl Grey pear tea
40g honey
5g agar powder
Zest of 1 large lime (calamamsi), optional

1. Put cold or room temperature tea in saucepan. Scatter agar powder over and whisk. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. 

2. Add honey and lime zest. Bring to boil while whisking frequently.  Simmer for 3 minutes while whisking. 

3. Pour mixture through a very fine sieve into tray. Leave it to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 1 h.

4. Use a small teardrop shaped cutter (or any other shape you like) to cut out pieces for lining the sides of the cakes. Finely chop the remaining leftover jelly for adding to the filling in the middle with the pear and lime compote. Keep the cutouts and finely chopped pieces covered and refrigerated until needed.

Pear and lime compote 
3 ripe but firm pears, peeled and finely chopped
2 large limes (calamamsi), zest and juice
45g light brown sugar
15g honey
15g water
1/8 tsp salt

1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until pear appears translucent.  Set aside to cool completely. You may prepare this a day in advance. Store in refrigerator if preparing in advance.

Earl Grey honey milk tea chiffon cakes
Ingredients (makes one 15cm and one 17cm chiffon cake in tube pans*):
Egg yolk batter
7 egg yolks
80g vegetable oil
110g Earl Grey honey milk tea**
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
5g black tea powder***
145g cake flour

7 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
105g caster sugar

*Please scale recipe according to your chiffon cake tin size. Use 2 or 3 egg portion for 15cm and 4 egg portion for 17cm tin.

** Dissolve 55g of honey in 100g of milk by heating and stirring in a saucepan. Remove from heat once honey is dissolved and milk is steaming hot. Soak 6 Earl Grey teabags for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze out as much tea as you can from the tea bags. Portion out 110g for use. Top up with more milk if amount is not enough.

***Extra notes: You may replace tea powder with more Earl Grey tea bags if you don't have it, adjust amount according to taste and brand. The tea powder I use is able to dissolve in water. You may add milk powder if you wish the taste to be milkier. I omitted it although Lizzy added it, because the sponges are eaten with dairy cream instead of eaten alone or without pairing with something milky.

1. Preheat oven to 120-130C fan mode. Set oven rack to second lower position.

2. Dissolve black tea powder in Earl Grey honey milk tea if using. Set aside.

3. Prepare egg yolk batter. Whisk egg yolks until pale and thick. Add oil and whisk until well combined. Add tea, salt and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Gradually sift in flour and whisk until no trace of flour is seen. Set aside.

4. Make the meringue. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until firm peaks or just reach stiff peaks, gradually adding sugar once egg whites are foamy. 

5. Quickly but gently fold meringue into egg yolk batter in three additions. Pour into chiffon cake tins until batter is about 1" below the rim. Run a chopstick along the base and sides of the tin to pop any large air bubbles.

6. Bake for 1h - 1h 10 minutes. The cakes don't brown at all in my oven at this temperature. Increase temperature to 160C and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until tops appear a little browned. Immediately invert the tins to cool completely before unmoulding by hand. Slice each cake horizontally into 3 slices. I sliced into 4 so that I can fill the hole in the middle with circular cutouts from the fourth slice.

Chantilly cream
You may use any type of cream or combination of cream you like according to taste preference and ambient conditions that you are serving the cake. Non-dairy holds up the best, is pre-sweetened and impossible to overwhip. Heavy cream tastes the best but may need stabilizers like gelatin and sugar, and tends to be over whipped more easily if not careful. You may also use double cream which has higher fat content than heavy cream, tastes great too but able to hold its shape better in warmer conditions. I use a combination of non-dairy and double cream to get the best of both worlds of taste, stability and ease of handling. I use a ratio of 2:3 for non-dairy : double cream.

Make sure sponge cakes are sliced and all filling ingredients are ready before whipping the cream. Use it immediately to assemble the cakes.

250g Whip topping (non-dairy whipping cream)
375g double cream (45% fat)

1. Whip non-dairy whipping cream until stiff. Set aside.

2. Whisk double cream until loosened and able to hold some soft to firm peaks. Be careful not to over whisk or it will split. That's why I recommend using the hand whisk instead of electric mixer for this.

Whisked double cream till soft-firm peak

3. Gradually fold in whipped non-dairy cream into double cream until well combined.

1. Place a slice of sponge on 7 or 8" cakeboard. Wrap an acetate sheet around the cake and tape it in place. Fill the hole with a sponge cutout if you wish.

2. Brush the sponge with some syrup from the compote. 

3. Spread a thin layer of cream over the sponge.

4. Slide agar jelly cutouts down the sides of the acetate sheet so that there is no air gap. Line the whole circumference of the cake with the jelly.

5. Transfer some cream into piping bag with a small hole (4-5mm) cut. Pipe cream around the jelly cutouts, making sure there is no air gap. Use a skewer or chopstick to nudge the cream if you see air gaps from the outside. 

6. Fill the middle with pear and lime compote and chopped bits of Earl Grey pear tea jelly.

7. Cover with cream and smoothen it relatively flat.

8. Carefully insert second sponge layer. Fill hole with sponge cutout if you wish.

9. Repeat steps 2-8.

10. Cover the top with cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before removing the acetate sheet. You may leave the acetate sheet in place if you wish until ready to serve. Keep refrigerated and consume within 3-5 days. 

My family loved the cake because it is so light, refreshing and fragrant, with a good balance of flavours! I thought the addition of lime to Earl Grey and pear an unusual one but it turned out very well! Here's a peek at the messy yummy slices!

To be honest, I would have filled the "pears" with some cream and compote as well but these cakes came at a very busy period for me with multiple deadlines happening around the same time. I decided to keep things simpler. If you would like to know how to fill the pears, you may refer to my apple black tea chiffon cake apples or chiffon strawberries posts.

with lots of love,

Phay Shing

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