By Shannon Scales
Shannon and her baking assistant
When I’m not creating Lady Baker’s social media content and new products, or singing with Sirens’ women's ensemble, you may find me in my kitchen! I have been passionate about baking since I was old enough to be trusted with the oven. And before that, I loved flipping through recipe books (the more pictures, the better) and seeing all of the incredible desserts that someone had created. I had always felt that I could do that too. It’s something that comes instinctually to me.
Those who know me, know that I have had many, many jobs over the years. I’ve tried on many hats. It is a common thing for a musician. We often have day jobs that aren’t related to the music world at all and that is definitely the case with me. I’ve been a bank teller, retail associate for clothing, bath products, jewelry and industrial kitchen supplies. I’ve been a bartender, box office attendant, professional baker, barista, waiting staff on Victoria Row, server of ice cream and even worked at a company that tested well water and radon.
Even through my years working for Katherine, I have played many roles. I’ve been barista at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market, packaged tea in many locations (How many moves have we made, LB?), served teas at Beaconsfield, Avonlea Village and Founders Hall, attended countless craft fairs and trade shows (Including one when Lady Baker was attending a trade show in Halifax, where I was then living. I just had to work a few hours to see Katherine and be a part of the team again). I’ve baked and packaged up ginger cookies, scones and almond bars and have been someone for Katherine to bounce ideas off of. I was just a kid, and she took me seriously (even when she probably shouldn’t have) and made me feel like my opinions mattered. She’s always made me feel like family. Being away from home in my 20’s, it was nice to have someone who gave out amazing hugs and offered advice and support.
And just like that, when I told her I was ready to get back to work after my son was born, she offered me a position (yet to be titled at the time) helping with the launch of her new website and developing new products, like my subscription boxes and summer sampler. This was a hat I hadn’t worn before. But, like baking, it came to me easily and I felt like I was in the right place. It helped a lot that Katherine and team member, Jen, were constantly praising me and telling me how happy they were to have me (these two women were burning the candle at both ends at the time). They were incredibly supportive and really made me feel like part of the team. There is a level of respect, support and understanding amongst our team that I have never experienced anywhere else. We lean on each other when we are struggling and we lift each other up. There is never an objection if I need to stay home with my boy, or drag him with me to work. It takes a village they say, and I’m happy to call the strong and supportive women of Lady Baker’s a part of my village.
But I think I came here to talk about baking...at least that was the plan. So where was I? Oh yes...
Somewhere along the way, an interest in combining tea with baking became a thing for me. I think it was the first time I tried Katherine’s Chocolate Chai Muffins made with her Cha Cha Chai tea. They are so, so good. And once my mind started thinking about pairing the two together, it all just made sense to me. Some teas lend themselves to baking better than others. I can incorporate Earl Grey into pretty much anything. I think it’s that creamy, citrusy flavour. You may remember my recipes for Cream Earl Grey and Lavender Cupcakes or my London Fog Cookies.
Others, not so much. I have yet to find a way to incorporate our Russian Caravan and have not been inspired by our unflavoured black teas. Until now. I decided to experiment with adding some of our Scottish Breakfast tea to a honey cake recipe I have.
With all experiments, things don’t always go well the first time around. That was definitely the case here. Things were going ok until the cake was almost done baking. The smell of over-steeped tea and very strong honey took over. I had forgotten about my milk/tea on the stove and had let it simmer a little too long. These things can happen when you have a 4 year old...I had fun cleaning the bottom of the pot later.
Not wanting to start over, I deemed the tea-steeped milk, usable. I also used buckwheat creamed honey because that was what I had at the time. It was too rich. Too intense and almost bitter for the cake. Perfect on toast though!
My husband said it tasted almost exactly like Shreddies. So, if you’re a shreddies fan, go ahead and make this recipe with the mistakes I made. You’ll love it.
With the kinks ironed out, I now deemed this black tea and honey cake ready for the world! It is sweet, moist and perfect for a breakfast treat paired with your morning tea.
Breakfast Tea and Honey Cake
2 tbsp Lady Baker’s Scottish Breakfast Tea
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup white sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
⅓ cup wildflower honey + 2 tbsp
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups white flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350°F or 325°F Convection
Grind tea in a spice grinder or with a pestle and mortar until fine. Add tea to milk in a saucepan on medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, leaving the tea leaves in.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the creamed butter until light and fluffy again. Then add the ⅓ cup honey and the vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture until batter is just smooth. Don’t over-work.
Butter the inside of a loaf pan and dust with flour. Pour the batter into the pan and swirl 2 tbsp honey over the top of the batter with a spoon. Bake in the oven until golden brown on top and toothpick comes out clean from centre, 50-60 minutes.