Butter Scone Layer Cake ft. English Breakfast Tea Frosting + Devonshire Cream
The Victorian - simultaneously inspired by tin ceiling tiles, a trip to Lillie's Victorian Establishment, and the return of Downton Abbey, naturally. Tin ceilings were a common architectural element during the Victorian era, and also America's economical version of the more elaborate plaster ceilings found in Europe at the same time. This simple (and fireproof) material could be transformed into modular tiles and embossed with patterns to give a similar effect at a lower cost. Like taxidermy and flea markets, tin ceilings are also enjoying a bit of a revival as people continue to appreciate the vintage things in life.
While I was musing over the tin ceiling at Lillie's and other establishments in New York City, Season 3 of Downton Abbey was also about to hit the American airwaves. Even though the Victorian Era ended in 1901 and the show technically takes place in post-Edwardian 20th century England, the frequent dinner parties and clatter of tea trays inspired the tea and scone combination of this Anglo-American remix.
This cake is actually composed of two scone 'cakes' sandwiched together with strawberry jam and whipped cream cheese, meant to imitate Devonshire cream - a popular scone topper. And there's tea in everything, so start brewing a big kettle now. Butter is an important part of the scone so I attempted flavoring my own by melting, mixing, and re-refrigerating store-bought butter with a boiled tea syrup. The tea butter and more brewed tea go into the scone, and then the outer layer is a tea frosting as well. Luckily the tea flavor is mild and just adds a richness and moistness throughout.
Now, get your etiquette on and pinkies up!
tea-infused butter (prepare beforehand)
1 c. strongly brewed English Breakfast tea
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
On the stovetop, mix tea and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. When mixture starts to bubble, stir to prevent sticking. Let syrup cool and thicken for 1 minute.
In a mixing bowl, cut in 1 stick of room temperature butter and whip until fluffy. Pour in 1/2 cup of tea syrup from above, and beat for 2 minutes until mixture is smooth and has the consistency of honey. Refrigerate overnight for compound butter to solidify.
butter scone layer cake
1 c. butter golden (or yellow) cake mix
1 c. flour
1/2 c. tea butter (see above)
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. strongly brewed English Breakfast tea
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and grease two 8-inch round cake pans with butter or PAM spray. In a large mixing bowl, sift cake mix and flour together until fine. Cut in prepared tea butter and mix with a fork until it forms a crumbly dough. In a separate small bowl, whisk together milk, tea, and egg until combined.
Slowly fold the wet mixture into the flour mixture, and press smooth with a rubber spatula without overmixing. Once the lumps have been pressed out, it should be somewhere between cake batter and cookie dough. Spoon 1 cup of scone 'batter' into each greased cake pan, filling it about 1/2" deep. Use the rubber spatula to press the batter into each greased pan, making sure it covers the entire bottom of each pan.
Bake cakes for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and let cool on wire rack. You won't want to cut into the cakes in order to level and assemble them, so if the cakes rise unevenly (like a scone), just press the cakes flat while they're still warm.
3 oz. cream cheese
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 c. whipping cream
In a medium mixing bowl, stir cream cheese and sugar together. Pour in whipping cream. With beaters or an electric mixer, beat mixture for 1 minute on low and then 1 minute on high until a whipped cream forms. Use immediately or refrigerate until later use and re-whip before decorating.
english tea frosting
1/2 c. shortening or butter*
3-4 tbsp. English tea, strongly brewed
4 c. powdered sugar
In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and brewed tea until blended. Slowly add in sugar and continue to mix until frosting forms.