Being somewhat of a tea snob, I’m almost embarrassed to admit my favorite tea is one of the most common—Earl Grey. I find this deliciously flavored tea both nostalgic and comforting. It’s also of the easiest teas to cook with, because you really notice the flavor it imparts into a dish.
What is that famous flavor? Earl Grey is black tea flavored with the oil of bergamot. Bergamot is a citrus fruit with a pleasing mixture of orange, lemon, and grapefruit notes. The bergamot orange is mainly cultivated in Europe and is thought to be a hybrid of the Mediterranean’s bitter Seville orange and a sweet lime/lemon variety from Southeast Asia.
Why this recipe works with tea: Earl Grey is one of the first teas I reach for in anything baked. Grinding Earl Grey loose leaf tea with sugar is a fragrant way to add a unique citrus note to any baked goods that call for sprinkling sugar on top—think cookies, muffins, quick breads, pies, tarts, and cakes. For a little extra Earl Grey “oomph” I sometimes add Earl Grey tea leaves when creaming butter and sugar for baked goods too. Also, for this torte, the creamy citrus flavor of Earl Grey tea is a nice complement to summery sweet-tart plums.
Not all Earl Grey teas are similar, so it’s fun to try them from different tea makers. Some can be so overpoweringly flavored that it covers up any kind of tea taste. While others taste like black tea with barely a hint of citrus. I like something in between.
My latest favorite is Earl Grey Moonlight tea from Adagio Teas. The aroma is like taking a whiff of a fresh baked citrus cake with buttercream frosting. A smooth black tea flavor is predominant, with just enough balanced flavors of sweet vanilla and tangy citrus to make it refreshingly special.
Adagio’s Earl Grey Moonlight gourmet tea (or any Earl Grey, really) is the perfect pairing for this famous plum torte (fancy term for a sweet cake or tart), published in the New York Times in the 1980s and re-published almost every year since.
Earl Grey creamed into the butter and sugar adds a creamy citrus note, but the tea really shines as a tea sugar sprinkle over the top. Other tea foodie recipes in which I use a similar tea sugar method include easy snickerdoodles and super simple tea toast. So make extra tea sugar and start experimenting!
Happy cooking & sipping!
P.S. Thanks to Adagio Teas for the Earl Grey Teas sampler pack to play around with in my Tea Foodie kitchen. What a great way to try four different kinds of Earl Grey!
Earl Grey Plum Torte
Adapted by Suzanne Klein, Tea Foodie from the Original Plum Torte by Marion Burros for the New York Times.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
For the tea sugar:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Earl Grey loose leaf tea (I used Earl Grey Moonlight from Adagio Teas)
For the torte:
1/4 pound (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon loose leaf Earl Grey tea leaves
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 Italian/European prune plums (or pluots), halved and pitted
For the tea sugar:
In a mortar & pestle or spice grinder, grind tea leaves with sugar until well blended. It’s up to you how finely ground you’d like the tea leaves.
For the torte:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter, sugar, and tea leaves for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy.
2. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs. Beat on medium-low speed to mix well, until no flour streaks are left.
3. Spread batter into a 9-inch springform pan. (Most versions of the recipe say there’s no need to grease the pan, but I always spray just a light coat of cooking oil.) Set plum halves all over the top, with the skin sides down. Sprinkle the top of the torte generously with Earl Grey tea sugar.
4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the torte then remove the pan ring.
5. Serve at room temperature, either plain, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.