Thirsty For Tea Modernizing a Classic Tradition Tue, 03 Jul 2018 20:23:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 92896537 “PINKIES UP” TEACUP CAKE Mon, 25 Jun 2018 21:00:18 +0000 Read more »]]> Did you know that in proper tea culture, it’s actually faux pas to drink tea with your pinky up? Personally, I notice that my little finger goes higher or lower depending on the occasion for tea. Play time with my nieces? Pinkies up, of course! Enjoying tea at a luxury hotel? Stay down, pinky. But up or down, there’s no doubt about it–tea lovers of all kinds are going to love this cake!So how do we create a cake that looks like a teacup? With Wilton’s clever Wonder Mold, of course! You may already know about this pan from making princess cakes. Here, we simply flip the finished cake upside down to create a perfectly contoured teacup shape. Princesses & teacups—you can create both with this one amazing pan!I actually ended up making 2 versions of this cake, each a riff on my favorite English china pattern. The first was a simpler version, while another cake was a much more exact interpretation of the same design. Once you’ve created the fondant-covered cup and saucer, the teacup becomes a canvas for you to draw and paint on.

I’ve loved Wilton products for as long as I can remember, and am always amazed at the crafty cake decorating tools that they come up with. Wilton’s Color Right Performance Color System allows you to create so many brilliant colors in varying shades of intensity. And for the most realistic gold-trimmed effect, I used  Wilton’s Edible Metallic Cake Paint Set. Simply paint it onto the fondant with a flat-tipped brush.
To create the look of a freshly poured cup of tea, one of these teacups is topped with chocolate ganache while the other was finished with brown-tinted piping gel. Feel free to play around with the colors of the “tea.” These teacups feature black tea, but green tea or even a frothy cup of matcha would be fun to create too.
Special thanks to Wilton for supplying the tools and ingredients for creating this cake. Wilton’s Wonder Mold pans come in both large and small sizes so if you’re not up to decorating a large cake, try the smaller versions first. Please check out their brunch campaign for more festive recipes, both sweet and savory!

“Pinkies Up” Teacup Cake

Makes 1 large cake. 


1 recipe for your favorite 2-layer cake

(I used Wilton’s Butter Cake recipe, swapping out 1/2 cup of flour for cocoa powder & adding the contents of 3 tea bags of Earl Grey tea. The result…a delicious Earl Grey Chocolate Cake!)

1-24 oz. box white fondant

1-16 oz. tub white decorator icing, stiff

1/2 cup of your favorite recipe for chocolate ganache or clear piping gel

extra decorator icing or stiff royal icing, for decorating the teacup

gum paste, for creating the handle


Wonder Mold Doll Cake Kit

6” or 8″ cardboard cake rounds

piping bags

decorating tips

brush set

Color Right Food Coloring Set

Edible Metallic Cake Paint Set

  1. 1. Bake the Cake. Bake one full recipe of a double layer cake of your choice. Allow it to cool completely, then trim the top with a serrated knife until it is even. Brush off any crumbs from the surface of the cake. 

2. Make the Saucer. Trace a 3” circle round in the middle of a cake round (use a 6” cake round for a small teacup cake or a 8” cake round for a large teacup cake) Cut the circle out using a box cutter. Stack the cut-out cardboard ring atop another cake round, then tape them together. Roll out the fondant to slightly less than 1/4″ thickness, about 1” more than the diameter of the cake round. Cover the top of the “saucer” with the fondant. Cut away any excess fondant and smooth the fondant onto the surface of this cardboard “saucer.” Set aside.

3. Make the Handle. Cut out the handle from thickly rolled gum paste. Allow to dry completely, then decorate. 4. Make the Flowers. Make stiff royal icing. Distribute the white icing into smaller bowls, then color each icing according to the flowers on your teacup. Pipe the flowers directly onto the cake or onto small pieces of parchment, then allow to dry completely. Some tips may require that you pipe onto the tip of a toothpick, then puncture the opposite tip of the toothpick through parchment to set the flower atop the parchment. 

5. Cover the Cake in Fondant. Roll fondant out to just shy of 1/4″ thickness. Place 2-8″ cake rounds at the base of the cake. Cover the teacup cake with an even layer of icing, then chill for 10 minutes in the fridge. Remove from the fridge, then coat with a second layer of icing. Chill again for 10 minutes, then cover in fondant, covering the edges of the 2 cake boards as well. Very carefully flip the cake over to reveal a teacup-shaped cake. Remove the 2 cake boards, then roll in the edges of the fondant to create a teacup lip. Spread a thin layer of icing over the exposed cake. 

6. Decorate the Saucer & Cup. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to draw free form, try using a toothpick to poke small patterns into the fondant. You can use the dots as a guide for painting on a design. Also, use colored icing piped through decorating tips to create a 3D effect. If you’ve made royal icing flowers, attach them with a small dab of icing.

7. Attach the Handle. Attach the handle to the teacup with decorator icing or royal icing. For extra security, try cutting small slits through the fondant and inserting the handle gently into the slits by 1/4″.

8. Fill with “Tea.” Heat brown-tinted piping gel in the microwave for about 20 seconds into a more liquid-like state. Pour and smooth over the top of the cake as “tea.” Alternatively, you can use chocolate ganache for this step.

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Holiday Pie Teas from Art of Tea Wed, 20 Dec 2017 23:30:50 +0000 Read more »]]> With all the holiday festivities going on this week, I’m definitely starting to feel a bit over-indulged. This time of year, a calorie-free treat is especially welcome–one with all those cheery seasonal flavors minus the guilt. Based out of LA, Art of Tea offers 3 steeps based on everyone’s favorite holiday dessert–pie! What’s even more fabulous is that each flavor is caffeine-free, making it nice as a dessert swap-out and great for kids and adults alike.I love how indulgent this Pecan Pie Tea is. The color and flavor are dark and nutty. The blend is a mix of Rooibos, Honeybush, cinnamon, apple, coconut, stevia leaf, and natural and artificial flavors. The tea has a smooth richness to it, with hints brown sugar and caramel. I enjoy this plain, but I think it would also be awesome with milk and sweetener.

Art of Tea’s Apple Pie Tea is the lightest and brightest of these 3 pie teas. The blend is made from Rooibos, Honeybush, cinnamon, apple bits, coconut, ginger, pink and black peppercorns, nutmeg and natural flavors. This tea is heavier on apple notes than pie notes, and has a rustic, homey taste.

I’ve been a huge fan of this Pumpkin Pie Tea for years. It’s one of the first teas I ever purchased from Art of Tea, and the blend continues to be a favorite. As with all these pie teas, the base is made from Rooibos and Honeybush. Here, they’ve also added cloves, cinnamon, ginger, marigold petals, and natural & artificial flavors. I especially love the sweet, buttery notes that remind me of pie crust.

A big thanks to Art of Tea for providing these Holiday Pie Teas for review. As a Los Angeleno, I’m so thrilled that these artisan tea blenders call LA their home. Their Pecan Pie, Apple Pie and Pumpkin Teas are all seasonal, so get them while they last! If you’re visiting or live in the area, you can also find their tea blends served at The Huntington Library in Pasadena.

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Anna’s Favorite Teacups Sun, 17 Dec 2017 02:30:39 +0000 Read more »]]> Earlier this week, I whipped up a huge batch of peppery, Chai-spiced gingerbread dough. Looking for a way to showcase this tea-infused recipe, I created some darling Standing 3D Gingerbread Cookies. These artful bakes are ideal for gift giving and to top it off, you’ll find a little gift hidden inside the teacup!
I like to call these Anna’s Favorite Teacups, as the Scandinavian design reminds me of Anna’s dress in Frozen. The craft starts with a teacup cookie cutter–it details an impression for the heart-shaped tulip on the face of the cup and also cuts out a handle. If you have your own designs in mind, feel free to use a plain teacup cookie cutter without piping outlines. For one 3D cookie, you’ll need to use 2 teacup cookies (1 decorated, 1 undecorated) and 2 saucer cookies. Round saucer cookies are stacked and glued (with royal icing) together, then wrapped in a single strip of decorative ribbon. An intricate ribbon design is ideal here–it will help to create a themed look to the teacup. Because the cookie stands upright by sticking 2 cookies together, we’re able to tuck a little unexpected surprise inside–a bag of tea! Pull out the tea tag so that people know there’s a hot cup to enjoy with their cookies. Now you know why these are Anna’s Favorites!

Standing 3D Gingerbread Teacups (Anna’s Favorite Teacups)

Makes 10 standing cookies.


{Chai-Spiced Gingerbread Dough}

10 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark

1 egg, at room temperature

2/3 cup molasses

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 Tbsp Chai spice

3 Irish Breakfast or Assam Tea Bags, tea finely grounded into a powder with a spice grinder

1/4 tsp salt

{Royal Icing}

1 1/4 cups powered sugar, sifted

2 Tbsp water

2 tsp powdered egg whites

food coloring


stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment

plastic wrap

work surface, with bench flour

teacup cookie cutter

round cookie cutter, about 3″

large baking sheets, fitted with parchment

cap of container of sprinkles, to create impression on saucer

decorative ribbon


1. Place the butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then mix until light and fluffy. Slowly add the egg, molasses and vanilla extract. Mix the dry ingredients together, then gradually add it to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined, scraping sides down occasionally. Place this dough in a large piece of plastic wrap, then place in fridge to cool completely, at least 4 hours.

2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a work surface, roll the dough out to 1/8″. Cut out 20 teacups and 20 rounds with the cookie cutters. Each standing teacup will require 2 teacups and 2 rounds. Bake the cut-outs on a large baking sheet for 8 minutes.

3. Remove the cookies from the oven. Upon removing, use a flat round to make an impression in the center of the saucer cookies. I use the cap of a container of sprinkles to do this. Push down hard in the center of the cookie while they are still warm to get the impression.

4. After the cookies have cooled completely, make royal icing and color as desired. Pipe some designs onto the teacup cookies. Only decorate 1/2 of the teacup cookies. 5. To make a standing cookie, take an undecorated cookie and place a tea bag in the middle of it. Place generous dollops of the royal icing on either side of the tea bag. While the icing is still wet, place a decorated teacup cookie atop the bottom one. Line them up to create the illusion of 1 cookie. 6. Allow the icing to dry completely before standing the cookie up. 7. Glue and stack 2 saucer cookies together. With more royal icing, attach a piece of decorative ribbon along the circumference of the stacked cookies. To finish, affix a teacup atop the finished saucer to create a Standing 3D Gingerbread Cookie. Enjoy! ]]> 4 27754
Gifts for Tea Lovers 2017 Tue, 12 Dec 2017 01:30:43 +0000 Read more »]]> Here it is, once again–my annual Christmas gift-giving list! In my opinion, the point of any tea gift is to heighten one’s enjoyment of tea. These items should do just that!

1. Ladurée’s Tea Time: The Art of Taking Tea

Ladurée is well known for their gorgeous tea and macarons, but they also have a series of books that make elegant coffee (or should I say tea) table books. If you live in the U.S., this newest title is due out in February of 2018. But if you’re impatient like I am, you can get a copy from overseas where it already came out earlier this year. I’m in love with every page of this book, which covers everything from recipes to brewing techniques and tea pairings.

2. Lenox’s Mrs. Potts & Chip Tea Set

When Disney came out with a Limited Edition Fine China Mrs. Potts & Chip Tea Set last year I contemplated the purchase way too long before it ended up selling out. I found it on eBay later for a whopping price of $1275. Ya, not gonna happen. I recently found out from one of my favorite Disney Instagrammers that this gorgeous (and cheaper) Lenox set came out. Both the pot and cup are of great quality.

…and Disney’s Beauty & the Beast Enchanted Play Set!

And here’s the child’s play version of Mrs. Potts & Chip, super adorable but unfortunately, not food safe. Mrs. Pott’s hypnotizing eyes can actually blink when tipped over and little Chip can spin in circles. Here you see Mrs. Potts with a bunch of Chamomille. The cut stems of the flowers are rubber-band tied to a pouch of water since the teapot actually drains if you put liquid in it (i.e. not intended for food).

3. Tea Time Magazine & Books

Every time I pick up a copy of TeaTime Magazine, I can’t manage put it down until I’ve read it cover to cover. I have the pleasure of calling Bruce Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, one of the contributing writers to TeaTime Magazine, one my friends, and love each and every piece that he (and the rest of the contributors) come up with. The magazine also publishes books, like Taking Tea, which showcases favorite recipes from notable tea rooms around the world.

4. Soft Felt Petits FoursI can’t get over how adorable these little cakes are. This play set is made by a toy company called HABA out of Germany. The cakes come in a box of 9, each placed in a mini cupcake liner like real petits fours. Pair with a kid’s tea set and some wooden tea bags and afternoon tea never looked so enticing!

5. King Arthur Flour’s Holiday Cheer Scone Gift Set

This set is perfect for the bakers who want to bake up hot, delicious scones in a jiffy. Two holiday scone flavors come with a scone pan, so there’s no need for rolling or cut outs. A Rum Glaze Mix and Sparkling Sugar also come with. KAF has a huge selection of scone mixes, so check those out if you’d like to create your own gift baskets!

6. Simmering Vanilla Chai PotpourriWith the help of some fragrance oils, the same spices found in Chai can be used to freshen up your home! This homemade potpourri can be packaged into cello bags or mason jars for easy gift giving. Throw the mix into simmering water and a scent of the holidays will fill your home!

7. Pu-erh Pick & Tray

This is a great gift for the adventurous tea drinker who’s looking to expand their horizons. Chinese fermented black tea commonly comes in cake or brick form, which requires a pick for breaking the packed tea apart. A special tray for this tea has a little open corner to allow for the tea to be easily transferred to your teapot.

8. Tea for Two Vouchers for The Huntington Library Attention Los Angelinos! You can now find “Tea for Two” gift packages at The Huntington Library’s gift shop. This is seriously my favorite gift shop in LA, so it comes as no surprise that they’ve created a few awesome “Tea for Two” gift packages, one which includes a year-long membership to the library and another that covers a day.

9. Slow Brew Iced Tea Maker

With winter around the corner, iced tea is probably the last thing on your mind. But with an iced tea maker as beautiful and useful as this, it shouldn’t be! This contraption is a wonderful way to brew your highest quality teas, like Gyokuro or Sencha (I brewed some of Yamamotoyama‘s deep-steamed Fukamushi Sencha here). This gentle brewing method will help to bring out subtle nuances of flavor, and also results in a low-caffeine brew.

10. T Project’s 3 Seasons of Tea Gift SubscriptionMy good friend Teri is the owner and creator behind T Project in Portland. With an impressive culinary background (she has worked with some of the best chefs, including Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery & Wolfgang Puck!), her blends are some of the most exquisite I’ve come across. Pair that good taste with handsome packaging and you have a winning combination, the perfect gift for a lover of tea. These teas are distinctively artisan–small-batch and crafted with care. Photo courtesy of T Project. 

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Milk Tea Custard Pie Wed, 06 Dec 2017 20:00:56 +0000 Read more »]]> Earlier this year on Father’s Day, I shared a recipe for Hong Kong Milk Tea, my Dad’s favorite drink. As it turns out, one of my fellow blogger friends, Sue of Birgerbird ended up transforming this drink recipe into a recipe for pie, a Milk Tea Custard Pie to be exact. You read it right! And it’s just as delicious as it sounds!
Coincidentally, when it comes to pie, custard also a favorite of Dad’s. I was thrilled when Sue was nice enough to share her recipe with me. Although black tea is used to flavor the custard base, the recipe will also work well with other teas like Matcha or even Earl Grey.Sue is an award-winning pie maker, so I’m pretty sure she considers it a sin to use store-bought pie crust, but alas, that’s exactly what I did here (forgive me, Sue!). I gathered and re-rolled 2 crusts (the frozen kind) to create a thicker, more custom look to the pie. This worked out quite well for me, but by all means use a homemade pie crust if you can!
One of the tricks that I learned from Sue is to coat the bottom of the unbaked pie crust with both a flour and sugar mixture and also a brush of egg white. This helps to prevent a soggy crust situation, one of the hardest things to tackle when it comes to making custard pies. The silky smooth pie filling will noticeably darken after being baked in the oven. The end result will look something like pumpkin pie, but a whiff will tell you that it most certainly isn’t! The scent of brisk black tea and sweet milk will hit you. Top the pie with teapot and teacup pie dough cut-outs and people will know better than to call this an ordinary pumpkin pie!
When it comes to Hong Kong Milk Tea, there are a whole culture of foods that are meant for pairing with it. If you’re a big fan of this creamy concoction, head over to the wonderfully delicious blog, The Missing Lokness, where today, my friend Lok is showcasing this savory recipe for a Satay Beef Egg SandwichIn Hong Kong cafes (a.k.a. cha chaan teng), these hearty, satisfying sandwiches are served alongside a hot cup of the good stuff. Lok’s recipe is simple, straight-forward and crazy delicious–an authentic taste of Hong Kong’s thriving tea culture!

A big thanks to my awesome blogging friends, Sue of Birgerbird & Lok of The Missing Lokness, for allowing me to share their brilliant culinary creations! When I started my blog years ago, I never imagined what wonderful people I would meet along the way. They make blogging worth the effort. Please check out their sites for many, many more mouth-watering recipes!!

Milk Tea Custard Pie (recipe courtesy of Sue O’Bryan)

Makes 1 pie. 



2 frozen pie crusts, thawed according to directions

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp flour

1 egg white, beaten


1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Lipton Black Tea Bags (I use 12 tea bags, Sue uses 10)

6 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk

6 Tbsp half-and-half

3 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup sugar


pie plate

rolling pin

work surface


pastry brush

large strainer

cooling rack

teacup, teapot, and mini drop cookie cutters (optional)


1. Shape the Crust. Gather 1 1/2 pie crusts into a ball. Re-roll this into a 1/8″ thick round. Place in pie plate, then crimp or decorate the edges as you’d like. Place the shaped pie dough in the freezer. This can be frozen for 24 hours before proceeding to next step. Reserve the other 1/2 of pie crust in the fridge for making pie dough cut outs.

2. Steep the Tea. Bring the milk and cream to a boil. Take the mixture off of the heat, then add the tea bags to steep. Steep for at least 10 minutes, more if you prefer. After removing the tea, you should have 2 1/2 cups of tea-milk. If not, measure out that amount (or top off with equal amounts of milk and cream to get the 2 1/2 cups). Chill in fridge overnight.

3. Make the Custard Base. The next day, add the condensed milk and half-and-half to the tea-milk mixture. Mix until homogenous. Over a stove, bring this mixture to scalding. After it has reached scalding, remove the mixture from the heat and add the eggs and sugar. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

4. Make the Pie. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the crust from the freezer. Sprinkle the base and sides with a mix of 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp flour. Coat the base and sides with egg white in a thick, even layer. Just use some of the egg white, not all of it. Place in freezer for 10 minutes, the remove. Pour the cooled custard base through a strainer into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 35-40 minutes, in the lower 1/3 of the oven, until the filling is set.

5. Decorate the Pie. Cool the pie on a rack. Meanwhile, re-roll the remaining pie dough to a thickness of 1/8″. Use teapot, teacup and mini drop cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the dough. Bake these for about 8 minutes until lightly golden. Place on top of the cooled pie to serve.

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