24 June 2012

Bubble Tea Cake - Updated!

Below: Left: Cake Assembly Version II, Right: Cake Assembly Version I

Last time, my bubble tea cake had way too much baking soda, so I remade it today to ensure that my recipe is valid, with less baking soda. Here is the complete updated recipe with some helpful notes and pictures! The back-story: I had a dream in which I was icing a bubble tea cake. It turns out that no one has publicly documented online a bubble tea cake before, so I made one!

This is the brand of tapioca pearl that I use; it's $1.98 in Chinatown. It's an instant-cook brand because I have had a bad experience with the one you have to cook for hours. Each bag contains about 2 cups. I used the cheapest available (read: low quality, in this case) Pu-erh tea. I think that black tea would have been the best; Pu-erh  tea has a nice smell and a slightly burnt taste, in my opinion. However, I drank a lot of black/green tea during school, and I wanted a change.

INGREDIENTS for ONE 9-inch (23 cm) diameter round pan of cake 2-3 cm in height
6 tbsp tea leaves (I used loose Pu-erh tea leaves, although traditional bubble tea uses black tea. You can use whatever you like)
4 cups of water

1 large egg
1/4 cup of brown sugar + 1 tbsp
1/2 cup white sugar +/- some to suit your taste
1 tsp oil (use peanut oil if you want a peanut flavour)
1.5 c all-purpose flour (I used 1.25 c white flour and 0.25 c wheat germ. You can also use 1 c white flour and 0.5 c whole wheat flour)
0.5 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic because that's all I had, but any vinegar should work)

1 dry cup of instant pearl milk tea (bubble tea) tapioca pearls
1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
Bubble tea straw

METHOD (<1.5 hours total working calmly)
0. A few hours before you start the cake, heat up 4 cups of water and your tea leaves (without sugar). Keep this on a small simmer until the tea is way beyond the desired strength. After cooling, pour out 180 ml (3/4 cup). Leave the rest of the tea in the pot. You may need to use more or fewer than 6 tbsp of tea leaves, depending on the type of tea and your preferred strength.

A. Cake Batter!
1. Mix sugars, egg, oil, and tea in a giant bowl. It will look extremely ugly.
2. Mix flour(s) and baking soda in another bowl.
3. Pour 1/4 of the liquid stuff into the dry mixture and mix until there are no more lumps, using figure 8s. Add another 1/4, mix, and another 1/4, mix, then the last 1/4 and mix until smooth. You will have a batter that is a bit thicker than pancake batter. Leave this batter alone while you prepare the tapioca pearls. The batter does not taste great when raw.
2. Tapioca Addition & Cake Batter!
4. Remove loose tea leaves from the pot, and pour tapioca pearls and one tbsp of brown sugar into the leftover tea. Turn on the heat to high. Cover for around 3-5 minutes, until all the pearls have risen to the top and taste good. 
5. Then, turn off the heat and fish out the pearls(I used a tea strainer). Fold them into the batter, trying not to get too much extra tea into the batter. You should stir the batter after putting in a spoonful of tapioca, because the tapioca is hot, and we don't want cooked chunks of egg in our cake.
6. Grease your baking dish using a butter wrapper from your stash in the freezer!

7. Quickly fold the vinegar into the batter. You will hear a small hissing noise due to the vinegar reacting with the baking soda. When the vinegar is evenly incorporated, pour the cake mixture into your pan.

 (note the bubbles -->)

8. Bake in an unpreheated oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F on the middle shelf. Then, stick a fork into the cake, and if it comes out clean, it's cooked! The cake does not rise significantly.

9. Place hot cake onto a cutting board. Alternatively, you can wait until the cake has cooled by cooling it on a metal cooling rack. The cake should be super spongy and springy.

10. On the cutting board, place the rim of a glass jar on the cake and cut out a hexagon around the jar using a really sharp knife. Cut with all your strength, as the tapioca pearls are really sticky! Cut four of these hexagons (yes, it's possible!).

11. Trim each hexagon into a circle. Preferably, each circle gets a tiny bit smaller (to emulate a bubble tea cup).
3. Cake Assembly version I
11. In a mug, mix 3 tbsp tea with 1 c of confectioner's sugar to make a tea glaze. If you want a LESS runny glaze, use 2 tbsp tea. I used 3 tbsp.
12. Place the circular cakes on top of each other on a pretty plate, starting with the smallest. Spoon glaze between each layer (yes, it drips!).

13. Glaze the top of the cake, then stick your bubble tea straw through all four layers so that your cake won't topple over.
14. Eat by grabbing off chunks by hand! Drink leftover tea! The cake must be consumed within 4 hours. If left longer, the tapioca balls will dry out, as do most tapioca products not submerged in liquid. 

4. Cake Assembly version II
11. Fill a (bubble tea) cup 1/2 of the way with bubble tea cake chunks (leftover from Assembly I or just... in general).
12. Add tea, sugar, and milk in whatever ratio you want. You should add the milk first if the tea is still hot/warm and you're using a plastic container.
13. Drink "bubble tea cake"-flavoured bubble tea (using straw to suck up the tapioca and cake)!

5. Pudding Cake
If you want a more moist cake, you can add 240 mL (1 cup) of tea, instead of 180 ml. You follow the instructions as before, and you still bake it for 20 minutes at 350 F, middle rack. However, as this cake is really moist, you should NOT upturn it onto a cooling rack or cutting board. You can NOT assemble it to look like a bubble tea cake. Use a non-metal spatula to cut it into wedges and serve with icing or green tea ice cream.

Other Notes
1. Click Here for notes about ingredients/taste!
2. 0.5 tsp baking soda was definitely enough; the cake doesn't really rise, but it is still crumby and relatively light. There isn't much fat in it either!
3. The cake I made today was a bit to moist and pudding-like because I put too much tea into the batter.
4. The tea has to be REALLY strong; I used stronger tea this time, but you couldn't really taste it. Perhaps it's just the type of Pu-erh I got (the cheapest one)...
Maybe the Rickshaw brand (green metallic packaging) of black tea would've fared better. It sure tastes better.
5. Of course, other options include using coffee, hot chocolate, coconut juice, or other teas. One could probably even use taro powder, or green tea powder.
6. My friends liked it!
7. To see my first version (i.e. inception of bubble tea cake in this world)  with more bubble-tea-container pictures, click here.

Smile! :)


  1. This is really yummy mouth watering cake.. I never heard about this tea cake. Nice to hear new things with new recipes. Baking actually feel to wonder us.

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  2. This is very informative post about how to make bubble tea powder cake by using bubble tea powder.