I remember with fondness my visits to southern India when I stayed on tea estates and received incomparable hospitality at the hands of the tea estate managers and their families and those in their employ. But, in particular, I cannot forget the civilized tradition of “bed tea” when pots of estate grown tea brewed to perfection (and rounded by milk, sugar and some spices) took the chill off of brisk mornings. Upon arising early (I had full days of visiting the tea estates and other local sightseeing ahead of me), there was a tray awaiting outside the door with a pot of tea and two china cups before the thought of breakfast entered my mind. The memory of that luxury has stuck with me though I have transformed the practice to suit my somewhat different regular routine. I make a pot or at least a cup of tea and enjoy it just before retiring for the night. (Caffeine ingestion before bed seems not to disturb me; perhaps I’m in the minority on that one). There is a comforting warmth, particularly on the now finally chillier nights in southern California. But sweets-lover (and -maker) that I am, there is usually something to enjoy with the tea, adding to the post-prandial feeling of contentment. Here’s an oft-prepared bit of sweetness that I like to have on hand, delicious with any tea you’d like, with or without dairy and spice as in the Indian tradition.
Tea Drenched Buttery Cake
Note: Take the butter out of the refrigerator a couple of hours before mixing the cake. Separate the eggs while cold and then keep whites and yolks in two separate bowls at room temperature for 30 minutes Then make Tea Drenching Syrup and set aside.
Makes 1 nine-inch round cake
Make Tea Drenching Syrup
- 2 c. brewed tea of your choice (I like a mix of Darjeeling and Assam here for a complexly flavored syrup)
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 large lemon, sieved (approximately 1/3 c.)
In a small sauce pan, combine the brewed tea with sugar and cook until tea is fully dissolved. When ready to use, reheat until hot.
Prepare a cake pan by buttering bottom and sides. Then place a circle of baking parchment cut to fit into the bottom of the pan and then lightly butter the paper. Set aside.
- 8 oz. (2 c.) cake flour
- 1 t. (.14 oz) baking powder
- ½ t. (.10 oz or 2.83 grams) granulated salt
- 8 oz. butter, completely soft but not liquid
- 8 oz. (one cup plus two generous tablespoons) granulated sugar (fine granulated, sometimes called “baker’s sugar” works particularly well here)
- 5 large eggs, separated while cold and then placed at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
- 1 T. (.5 oz) good quality vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 °F.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
Using an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and whitened. Mix further to blend in half of the sugar. Add egg yolks gradually, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl frequently during the mixing process. Add vanilla and blend in. With a clean bowl and whisk, beat the egg whites with the remaining half of the sugar until shiny, creamy peaks form (don’t overbeat or the whites will be dry and difficult to incorporate into the cake base). Gently but thoroughly fold the dry ingredients into the mixture by hand, alternating with the beaten egg whites, again scraping the bowl frequently. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it over to even it out, and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the cake tests done when pierced with a toothpick, cake tester or point of a small knife. Upon removing the cake from the oven, immediately pour half of the Tea Drenching Syrup over the cake. Reserve the remaining syrup to pour over the cake when serving. When the cake has cooled, invert it onto a cake plate and peel off the parchment paper. Serve with the remaining syrup, reheated, as desired, and a hot cup of “bed tea.”
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