When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when it doesn’t give you bergamot, make earl grey cupcakes.
By Mariela Alvarez Toro
The inspiration for this tasty cupcake came to me via Casey Hughes. Ever since Tasty Plan started, he has been asking for a bergamot cupcakes to be named in his honor. I had never heard of a bergamot before Casey’s request, and because I love the thrill of the hunt, I agreed to his request.
Because he is so sweet a friend, I had to find a way to please his craving, no matter how difficult a bergamot is to find. I looked in gourmet stores, in markets, for both fresh and dried, oils and infusions, but nothing. The only bergamot flavored things turned out to be fancy soaps and cleaning products. I guess, Casey was just playing hard to get.
A year later, and with no bergamots nearby I finally came up with this solution.
Bergamot is native to Italy, France and Turkey. Yellow in color, and bitter in taste, bergamots are an interesting variation of traditional citric fruit flavor. It’s most popularly used in the production of Earl Grey tea, hence the cupcake.
In order to keep things fresh, light and not too bitter, I added orange juice to the batter. The earl grey leaves add aroma and depth. The cupcake is dressed in an spicy orange-black pepper cream cheese frosting. Delicious. Sweet, bitter, floral and citric, perfect for a refreshing summer treat in a Brooklyn rooftop.
- ½ cup (115g) butter (at room temperature)
- 1 cup (190g) sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cup (150g) flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ (1.1dl) cup milk
- juice half an orange
- zest of half an orange
- 1 tsp vanilla
- earl grey leaves from 2 tea bags
- 1 8-oz (226g) package organic cream cheese
- ½ cup (115g) butter (cut into 1” cubes)
- ¼ cup (32G) powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp. good honey
- juice of half an orange
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp vanilla
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature butter until it turns pale in color.
- Add sugar and continue beating at medium speed until fluffy.
- Add eggs, one at a time, followed by the orange juice.
- In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, earl grey tea leaves, and orange zest.
- Add flour mixture and milk in 5 segments, alternating between flour mixture and milk.
- Mix until well incorporated.
- Add vanilla.
- Scoop batter into cupcake liners, so that each is ¾ full. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch and lightly golden on top.
- Insert toothpick down the middle and remove to check for doneness. Toothpick should come out clean. Otherwise, continue baking until ready.
- Set aside and cool completely.
- To make the frosting, place cream cheese in stand mixer with whipping attachment. Beat until fluffy.
- Add butter, one cube at a time.
- Add powdered sugar, one tablespoon at a time, followed by the honey, orange juice, black pepper, vanilla and salt.
- Refrigerate until cupcakes are ready to frost.
- Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost, garnish with fresh black pepper and devour.
Recently graduated with from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. She has recently completed "People in Food-Space", an ethnographic study on the cultural production of taste in space. She has also examined post-soviet food production systems and housing projects in Havana, Cuba. Originally from Puerto Rico, Mariela has been living in the United States for eight years. She has involved herself in both teaching and practice, while writing on food at tastyplan.com. Her goal as a food writer is to cook creatively, using the best ingredients to find new flavor combinations every day.