This boba milk tea cake consists of sweet black tea infused cake layers, milk tea buttercream, and warm brown sugar tapioca pearls.
I’ve been dreaming about this boba milk tea cake for quite some time.
Some people may reward themselves by shopping, getting a massage, or going to happy hour.
I reward myself with boba milk tea.
What is boba milk tea?
It’s a sweetened tea mixed with milk (or non-dairy creamer) and topped off with sweet starchy tapioca pearls.
It’s a dessert that’s much too easy to drink and devour instantaneously.
Of course, I took this sweet drink and translated the flavors into a celebration cake. In honor of my 33rd birthday, here’s the boba milk tea cake!
Boba milk tea
Also known as bubble tea, pearl milk tea, or tapioca tea, boba milk tea refers to this Taiwanese beverage consisting of brewed tea, milk or non-dairy creamer, sweetener, and chewy tapioca balls.
Any tea can be used to make this drink, and it can be served iced or warm.
On its own the boba (cooked tapioca pearls) does not have any pronounced flavors.
It usually gets infused with either maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey for flavoring.
I prefer a combination of maple and brown sugar.
Components for the boba milk tea cake
- Milk Tea Cake
- Black Tea Simple Syrup
- Milk Tea Concentrate
- Milk Tea Buttercream
- Brown Sugar Boba (Tapioca Pearls)
I must warn you. This is a very involved cake.
There are numerous components. However, can complete the different parts over several days to make assembling this cake more manageable. YOU CAN DO IT!
- DAY 1: Bake the cake. Cool and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
- DAY 2: Make the simple syrup and milk tea concentrate. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
- DAY 3: Make the buttercream, cook the boba, and assemble the cake
During assembly, the cake is soaked with a mixture of black tea simple syrup and milk tea concentrate.
This helps to highlight the tea flavors of the cake.
The frosting is a simple American style buttercream made by creaming butter with powdered sugar.
It’s flavored with black milk tea concentrate and enhanced with a touch of vanilla.
For the finishing touch, the assembled cake is topped with warm brown sugar boba.
Reserve Creaming Method
I adapted the cake recipe from my Apricot Chamomile Cake.
Rather than the usual creamed butter/sugar mixing technique, this cake requires you to mix the batter a little differently.
The dry ingredients are added to the mixer first, then the butter is slowly added making for a crumbly mixture.
This technique lends for a tighter cake crumb, meaning smaller air bubbles in the bake cake layers.
The mixing may seem weird, but trust me! It’ll work out.
Warning: Do not refrigerate cooked boba!
The warm boba will slightly melt the buttercream. Don’t be alarmed. It adds a pleasant variety to the temperature and texture of the cake. HOWEVER, once you top the cake with boba, I suggest you eat it right away.
Find friends, neighbors, and co-workers to share it with.
Tapioca pearls are best eaten within hours of cooking.
It’s not something you can store in the fridge. It will harden to a rubbery consistency.
If you happen to have leftovers of the cake, I suggest removing and discarding the boba before storing the cake in the fridge.
Want to learn how to make boba from scratch? Try my homemade boba tapioca pearls recipe!
The recipe for this boba milk tea cake makes three 6-inch cake layers.
The milk used in the cake recipe is steeped with black tea until it’s super potent. This lends to the caramel color of the cake.
Boba Milk Tea Cake
Milk Tea Cake:
- ¾ cup whole milk (170 g)
- 6 black tea bags, or 7 teaspoons loose leaf black tea
- 2 ½ cups cake flour (300 g)
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar (250 g)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, (227 g) softened but still cool to the touch
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg white
Black Tea Simple Syrup:
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup light brown sugar (100 g), packed
- 2 black tea bags, or 2 ⅓ teaspoon loose leaf black tea
Black Tea Milk Concentrate:
- ⅓ cup whole milk (76 g)
- 3 black tea bags, or 3 ½ teaspoons loose leaf black tea
Milk Tea Buttercream:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, (227 g) room temp
- 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar (400 g)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 Tablespoons black tea milk concentrate
- pinch of fine sea salt
- ¼ cup black tea simple syrup
- 2 Tablespoon black tea milk concentrate
Brown Sugar Tapioca Pearls:
- 1 cup dried black tapioca pearls*
- ½ cup light brown sugar (100 g), packed
Milk Tea Cake:
- Bring milk to a simmer. Add tea and steep for 30 minutes. Strain out tea. Squeeze out as much liquids from tea as possible. Measure remaining liquid. Add additional milk as necessary until you have ¾ cup liquids.
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly butter and flour three 6-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 2 cups flour (reserve remaining ½ cup), sugar, baking powder, and salt. Run mixer on speed. Add butter in three additions. Continue to mix on low speed until mixture is crumbly.
- In another bowl, combine infused tea milk, eggs, and egg white. Add half of liquid to mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until incorporated. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing. Add remaining half of liquid and mix until batter is combined. The batter will look curdled. Add reserved ½ cup flour and mix until batter comes together.
- Evenly distribute batter among prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Run an offset spatula along the sides of cake pan to loosen cake. Invert cake onto a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
Black Tea Simple Syrup:
- Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil until sugar has dissolve. Remove from heat. Add tea and steep for 20 minutes. Strain out tea. Cool to room temperature and keep store in the fridge until ready to use.
Milk Tea Concentrate:
- Warm milk to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and let steep for 15 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid from tea bags. Discard tea bags. Keep chilled until ready to use.
Milk Tea Buttercream:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using an electric hand mixer), cream butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Scrape down bowl as needed. Add vanilla, salt, and milk tea concentrate. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Combine black tea simple syrup and milk tea concentrate before assembling cake.
- Fill a heavy bottomed sauce pot with 5 cups water. Bring to a boil. Add dried tapioca pearls. Stir to combine and distribute pearls. Allow mixture to continue boiling for about 40 minutes. At this point the pearls should look gelatinous. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes until peals are soft and chewy. Add brown sugar and continue to simmer until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow tapioca pearls to cool. As mixture cools, the syrup will thicken. Keep warm until ready to use.
- Place one cake round on cake board (or serving plate). Brush cake layer with soaking syrup. Spring a thin layer of buttercream over cake layer. Repeat with second and third cake layer.
- Spread buttercream around the exterior of cake to seal in any crumbs. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to set up. Add another thin coat of buttercream all over cake.
- Keep cake chilled. Allow cake to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Just before slicing, add warm tapioca pearls to top of cake. Serve cake slices with additional tapioca pearls, if desired.
- Any tea can be made into milk tea. For this tea, I used standard black tea.
- I purchase my dried tapioca black pearls from Ten Ren. I go to the location on Broadway (LA Chinatown). They sell large 6.5 pound bags- which roughly making 100 servings of boba.
- The dried tapioca pearls I used are already sweetened with caramel and maple syrup flavor.
- There are two types of tapioca pearls: one has a long cooking time while the other one is par-cooked allowing for a much shorter cooking time. I prefer the longer cooking one.
- Tapioca pearls are best eaten within hours of cooking. DO NOT refrigerate. The pearls will harden to a rubbery consistency.
Where to buy tapioca pearls?
There are two kinds of dried tapioca pears: quick cooking and the traditional long cooking version.
The quick cooking version are par-cooked. I don’t like them as much. I’ve tried several brands but I find them too rubbery. Plus the quick cooking time doesn’t allow for much flavor development.
I prefer the long cooking version. I purchase mine at a Taiwanese tea shop, Ten Ren on Broadway in Los Angeles. They sell large 6.5 pound bags that make 100 servings of cooked boba.
You can also find dried tapioca pearls at various Asian supermarkets such as 99 Ranch Market, H Mart, Seafood City.
Reader Questions and Reviews
Hey! Any suggestions for making this in 9-inch cake pans? It looks INCREDIBLE!
This looks DIVINE! Cake and boba are probably my two favorite things on my “treat yo’ self” days so I have to try this!
Hi. I’m planning to incorporate the milktea buttercream recipe to a no bake cheesecake dessert. Then top it with the tapioca pearls. Do you think it will be a good match?
Wow, this looks like such a decadent, delicious cake. Never knew you could make a cake with Boba! Genius!
This is a seriously beautiful cake!
I love anything with Boba!! May need to try and make this soon!
Wow a lot goes in to making this cake. It looks delicious. I so agree with you that bubble tea is hard to put down. You can’t just drink one sip at a time…you just keep slurping. And I’ve made the mistake of putting some leftover tea in the fridge, only to wake up disappointed with how the boba tastes. Definitely not something to refrigerate!
You’re making me crave this cake right now at midnight. ?
That is such a creative cake, and I so want to try it! I’ve never seen boba in anything other than tea-how fun!
I love these type of cakes. This looks so yummy!
This looks and sounds amazing! Will def has to be made at my next dinner party!
This cake looks so unique and delicious! I’m intrigued with the mixing technique used to achieve the tight crumb. Very interesting.
Oh my goodness! What a beautiful, stylish Boba Milk Tea Cake! I am so excited to get started on this delicious recipe.
This is so clever! I love the sound of adding tea to cake, as it’s two of my favorite things in the world. And beautiful pictures too!
I don’t care for buttercream. What about chantilly cream?
Chantilly cream will not work in this recipe. The cake needs a stronger frosting. Otherwise, it will fall apart.
Do you think I could make the separate components and freeze them until the day of assembly?
You can make the cake ahead of time and keep it frozen. However, I don’t suggest freezing the other components. They will not defrost well.
Hi Maryanne! Is it possible to adapt this to 8 inch cake pans?
Thanks for the recipe. I’m partway through making this cake and it smells and looks delicious (ok and tastes, not kidding anyone that I haven’t been sampling it)
I am confused by the milk tea concentrate step though. You only use 1/3 cup of milk, and I take it that you leave it simmering for 15 minutes while the tea steeps (rather than remove from heat). Even with the lid on while simmering, and everything squeezed out of the teabags, that still only leaves me with one tablespoon of milk concentrate. The soaking syrup calls for two, and then the buttercream I imagine uses the remainder (although does not specify an amount). Where have I gone wrong?
Oops sorry – correction to my last post. I see that there are three table spoons of milk conc in the buttercream. So my question is just how does 1/3 cup milk reduced for 15mins with tea in it, give you 5 tablespoons?
Three tablespoons of milk tea concentrate is used for the buttercream. Two tablespoons is used for the soaking syrup. 1/3 cup liquid is equal to a little over 5 tablespoons.
Hi Maryanne. Thanks for your response. Yes I see how that adds up, but I didn’t have much milk left after it had been on the stovetop. So I was wondering if it was meant to be taken off the heat?
Anyway the cake was delicious 😋 thanks!
I’m not sure if you ever received an answer, but I just quickly read the directions. I believe you are to bring the milk with the tea to a simmer, take the pot off the heat once it’s reached the simmer point, and leave it to steep for 15 minutes. You do not let it simmer for 15 minutes.
Hi, may I check with you if the butter should be added cold or softened at room temperature first?
I have updated the recipe instructions.
Love this recipe! So good! The first time I made this I used black tea but I want to give it a try using matcha. How much matcha would I need to use?
This cake looks beautiful– can’t wait to try the recipe out for myself! How would I adjust the ingredients for a 9-inch cake?
Thank you! The recipe makes three 6-inch cake rounds or it can be baked into two 9-inch cake rounds. For 9-inch cake, check for doneness after 20 minutes.
This recipe was really nice! It took me about 2:30-3 hours to make in a row. I actually used what was left of the syrup as the mixture I added to the pot with the tapioca pearls instead of more brown sugar!
OMG this recipe is so GOOD and ACCURATE it makes enough everything for a three layer 6-inch cake. If you make this through BE SURE to SOAK SOAK SOAK. I overestimated how absorbent the cake actually was and under soaked it making it kind of dry. The flavors were amazing though :)
This is a favorite family cake!
I love this cake how the way it look I want to eat it so bad😍😋
I wanted to love this, made it for a birthday cake, it did not rise. It was so thick it was annoying to put in the pans. I added everything stated so I am not sure. I make cakes all the time and this was more a brownie consistency. Definitely not fluffy like your picture