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Earl Grey Chocolate Cupcakes with Honey-Lemon Buttercream

February 9, 2011

I miss my little yellow teapot. Though, it was never really mine. It belonged to the little townhouse I rented in Ireland. Every morning I would wake up, often before my roommates, and I would patter downstairs to the kitchen, crank up the heat, make myself a bowl of porridge oats, and brew a steamy pot of Earl Grey tea in that little yellow teapot. That tea was a necessity for many reasons. First of all, we had no coffee maker and, call me a snob, I refused to touch the Nescafe instant coffee jar in the cupboard. More importantly, that pot of Earl Grey did wonders against the dreary gray drizzle that is as common in Ireland as it is here in Seattle. The steam would work its way down my chest and into every limb, warming every inch of me in defense against the cold.

Needless to say, I have a soft spot for Earl Grey and all his bergamot loveliness.

I recently came across “We Should Cocoa”, a fairly new food blogging challenge that pairs chocolate with a special ingredient every month and asks you to come up with a recipe using the two (click the logo to check it out!). When I found it, the February challenge had just been revealed and to my delight the secret ingredient this month is “tea”. There was no doubt in my mind which tea I would be using.

If you’ve never tasted the exceptional pairing of citrusy Earl Grey and sensual chocolate, your are in for a real treat. The two flavors reveal each others’ subtle undertones to expose a perfect harmony of flavors. These cupcakes are dark and rich, yet slightly floral and bright on your tongue. I’d be happy to eat them plain, but some prefer their tea with honey, or honey buttercream in this case, with just a touch of lemon to play off the citrus notes of bergamot.

This month’s challenge was hosted by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog. Check out her site at the end of the month to see a round-up of all the recipes my fellow food bloggers came up with!

Earl Grey Chocolate Cupcakes

Β© Copyright 2011 Carly Sullivan, Tart to Heart

Yield: 1 dozen


  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 7 Tbsp cocoa powder, sifted (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp Earl Grey Tea Leaves, finely ground
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin or line with paper cups.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, oil, cocoa powder and water. Using a coffee/spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, finely grind the tea leaves into a powder. Sift into the saucepan to remove any larger pieces. Heat over medium heat, while whisking, until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl (or a stand mixer). Add the buttermilk and egg and stir gently to incorporate. Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees about halfway through. Let cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before removing. Cool completely before frosting.

Honey-Lemon Buttercream


  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted


  1. Beat the softened butter and honey together in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and salt and beat to combine.
  2. With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all the sugar is mixed in, beat on high for 30 seconds to make sure the frosting is very creamy.
  3. Fill a piping bag with your favorite tip and decorate however you please! You can also garnish with some Conversation Hearts or other cute candies for a Valentine’s Day treat! Enjoy!

42 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2011 5:01 pm

    These look amazing and your writing is wonderful. Bet they really rev you up what with the chocolate and the tea! Great job….

  2. February 10, 2011 2:09 am

    Is it more delicious with fairtrade chocolate?

  3. February 10, 2011 7:27 am

    Oooh, wow!!! I’ve been working on cooking with some smoky earl gray I have but never thought about pairing it with chocolate!! Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. February 10, 2011 7:38 am

    I really loves this idea. I may have to bake these!

  5. February 10, 2011 10:17 am

    Oh my, these look absolutely irresistible! How did you frost the cupcake in your first photo?

    • February 10, 2011 10:44 am

      Thanks! I used a very large star tip, held it in the center of the cupcake, and squeezed until the frosting reached the edges of the cupcake. The trick is to just hold the tip steady! πŸ™‚

      • February 10, 2011 10:53 am

        Guess I’d need to get the nervous jitters out before trying that method… But it looks so pretty that I think I’ll give it a go anyway! Thanks for the tip!

  6. February 10, 2011 11:50 am

    Your cupcakes look delightful and I can imagine how well Earl Grey would combine with the chocolate and honey buttercream – yum. I live in Cornwall, which has that same grey drizzle that you have in Seattle – I grew up here and I love it. CT who came from a drier part of the country isn’t so sure. Thanks for entering our challenge.

  7. February 10, 2011 2:45 pm

    So clever. These look amazing.

  8. February 10, 2011 3:56 pm

    Your experience with tea in Ireland reminds me of my time in London, when I also began to appreciate tea much more than ever before. Now tea and cupcakes are two of my favorite things, and to see them combined in one recipe is so appealing. Absolutely brilliant!

  9. February 10, 2011 4:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing..i will try the recipe..

  10. February 10, 2011 5:43 pm

    Earl Grey is a really good tea — what a great idea to make a cupcake with it.

  11. February 10, 2011 6:44 pm

    Yum! I love Earl Grey… and I love Hershey’s Dark Cocoa

  12. February 10, 2011 9:12 pm

    That is the cutest cupcake stand thing that I have ever seen! Also, I need to make these because it sounds like an amazing combination of flavors!

  13. February 11, 2011 12:32 pm

    Adorable! I love the candy heart!

  14. February 11, 2011 9:43 pm

    Look at those cupcakes, they look really yummy

  15. February 13, 2011 8:47 am

    Mmm, Earl Grey tea has a special place in my heart too. Have you ever drank a London Fog? Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and a shot of vanilla syrup. Delicious!

    • February 14, 2011 3:00 pm

      No, I’ve never tried a London Fog, but it sounds delicious! And like another good cupcake flavor idea…

  16. February 13, 2011 12:41 pm

    These look delicious! Im crazy for cupcakes!:)

  17. Errign permalink
    February 15, 2011 5:51 am

    I love that you lived in Ireland (I did too, in Limerick) and I LOVE this recipe. Adding to my “to make” list pronto. I have a love affair with Earl Grey & I’ve never turned down a homemade chocolate cupcake, sooo, these are right up my alley!

  18. February 19, 2011 4:04 am

    Oh, this sounds great. I was going to make some chocolate Nutella cupcakes today, but I think I’ll give these a whirl instead! It’s a chilly, sunless day here, so it sounds just the ticket.

    • February 19, 2011 9:22 am

      Let me know how they turn out!

      • February 22, 2011 11:52 pm

        They were absolutely spectacular! Everyone I fed them to was raving, but I have to admit I kept most of them for myself. I had to use supermarket brand Earl Grey, so I can’t even imagine what they’re going to be like if I use *good* tea! Thank so much. This one’s going to be a staple.

      • February 23, 2011 7:41 am

        I’m so glad you liked them!

  19. February 20, 2011 4:24 am

    Wow, those look simply sumptuous. I can’t wait to give this recipe a try!! A marriage of two of my favorite flavors! Thank you!

  20. February 20, 2011 3:39 pm

    I saw this over at Persephone Magazine and think it looks great! A local coffee shop likes to make cakes with tea and I’ve enjoyed the one I had.

  21. February 28, 2011 12:17 am

    These look exquisite! Lovely to have you join the We Should Cocoa crew.

  22. February 28, 2011 11:15 am

    Wow these cupcakes look amazing! I have to bookmark this recipe to try. I’ve made Earl Grey cookies and am planning an earl grey and banana cake tomorrow but I’ve yet to try it with chocolate. Thanks and well done on your first we should cocoa challenge πŸ™‚

  23. March 5, 2011 12:56 pm

    Finally a use for all the Earl gray we wind up with, but don’t actually like drinking.

  24. June 14, 2011 5:45 am

    Hi Carly
    I just made these babies – OMG!!! So rich and decadent! They are going to be popular at the office tomorrow! Also great buttercream recipe – nice and firm and great to pipe!

    • June 14, 2011 12:35 pm

      Fabulous! I’m so glad you liked them πŸ™‚ Thanks for your wonderful comments!

  25. redandcuriouser permalink
    June 22, 2011 2:41 pm

    absolutely beautiful! Earl Grey is one of my favorite favorite favorite ingredients to use in my baking- it pairs so well with so many things (especially orange- one of my favorites!).

    Thanks for the cute post.

  26. February 2, 2012 4:46 pm

    This looks amazing. I would never have thought to put earl grey tea in a cupcake. I’ve just started my blog studentbudgetfood please check it out. Xx

  27. February 3, 2012 1:16 pm

    These look really awesome. I want to make them now.


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