For me, baking has always been an activity of excitement and finding solitude all at once. It’s managed to build a steady, baking-sized hole in my heart that can’t be satisfied unless I’m in the kitchen whisking away and taste testing for hours—something I can’t comfortably do with a toddler but, I can certainly aspire to achieve in years to come—so for now an hour at a time will do. There is just something strangely rewarding about handling sticky dough and raw batter on most days, but especially amid the Christmas festivities. Our family may not yet have many traditions dictating our holidays, but we do see an endless supply of homemade desserts sweetening the atmosphere of our house. I’ve managed to bake about four times since last week and I’m tickled that my nephew finally joined in the messy process, and, well, so did Selah, but it eventually ended up in a feud over who gets to whisk. Dark chocolate chip cookies for me, white for my sister and brother, and sprinkles for the kids. It’s experiences like these that slow down the angst for many folks, I believe, leading us to a beautiful solitude for remembrance of the birth of Christ.
Now, is baking something I excel in due to years of schooling (which is not true) or just because I’m notoriously skilled like Betty or Michelle? Far from it really, but I do appreciate the fact that I’m never not learning when aiming for the perfect combination of a chewy and crispy chocolate chip cookie or, in this case, the perfect pound cake. A slightly lighter, more delicately flavored pound cake, mind you.
This version of pound cake is, as with all pound cakes, incredibly simple to make and even easier to eat. What’s even better is that most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry. And if you happen to have black tea or jasmine tea in lieu of earl grey, feel free to use those instead. Thanks to the most talented Stef, I’ve finally found the best method for infusing tea in my baked goods. Most of us have tried incorporating ground tea leaves in our cakes and cookies (guilty as charged) but wound up slightly disappointed by the gritty texture. Like Stef, I, too, have simmered tea bags in milk which fell short in achieving deep flavors. She suggests simmering loose tea in unsalted butter which seems to yield great results. I decided to follow a similar route by heating up several earl grey tea bags in olive oil. Partly because I enjoy the earthiness of olive oil, and partly because I didn’t want melted butter in my pound cake. Most pound cake recipes require no leavening other than the creaming process of butter and sugar, followed by the beating of air into whole eggs. With that in mind, I wanted to use room temperature butter and let the olive oil do the rest.
I enjoy pound cake with fruit on the side and a pairing of yerba mate or coffee. Recipes of this sort are extremely economical and great for putting together last minute for a gathering. May this day bring joy and unity to your home and surroundings, friends. Have a Merry Christmas!
Earl Grey Olive Oil Pound Cake
Makes one bundt cake || With help from Stef
Time: Approximately 1.5 hours including baking
Equipment: Stand mixer or electric beater, bundt pan or pan of your choice, small saucepan for infusing tea
3/4 cup virgin olive oil
4 earl grey tea bags (good quality preferred)
12 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
6 large eggs
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, packed
1 cup milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Flour+butter for the pan
Preheat oven to 350F ( Celsius). Heat the tea bags with olive oil in a small saucepan for about 2 minutes on medium heat. Turn off heat, let it sit with the tea bags inside and cool almost all the way.
In a large bowl with a beater, or in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed for 30 seconds, slowly add sugar, salt, eggs, and continue to mix until well incorporated—about 1 minute. Scrape sides as needed. Then add 2 cups of the flour and mix with the beater just enough to get most of the flour wet on the lowest speed. Add 1 cup milk, the tea infused oil tossing out the tea bags, then add the remaining flour, vanilla, lemon zest, and once again mix on the lowest speed until roughly incorporated.
Lightly butter the sides of the pan including the middle tube, sprinkle with flour, pour in the batter, and bake for approximately 1 hour. You may need to bake longer depending on your oven. Let it cool, slice, and serve with berries or ice cream.