These Boba Tea Cupcakes are made with milk tea cupcakes, filled with brown sugar boba, and frosted with milk tea buttercream.
Do you like Taiwanese milk tea drinks? Are you a boba (tapioca pearl) fanatic? Then, this is the dessert for you!
By popular demand, I’ve made an easier cupcake version of my Boba Milk Tea Layer Cake.
However, easier doesn’t necessarily mean quicker. This cupcake version still requires a bit of preparation.
Luckily, the time consuming tea infused butter can be made ahead of time!
Boba Milk Tea Cupcakes
It’s a timeless treat to be enjoyed any season for any reason! Perfect for birthdays and celebrations of all sorts, these boba milk tea cupcakes are sure to be a hit.
Over the last year, many of you have had success making my Boba Layer Cake. I hope this cupcake version will be love just as much!
Tea Infused Butter
These cupcakes are flavored by the tea infused butter and tea infused milk. I prefer to infuse the tea flavor into ingredients, rather than directly add the tea leaves into the cake batter.
Certain teas, like matcha, are more suited for direct consumption.
Matcha is finely ground speciality green tea leaves. Since it is a such a fine powder, matcha does not add grit or sandy texture to the prepared tea or when mixed into baked goods and other recipes.
The same cannot be said for black tea.
Black tea also comes from leaves. Unlike matcha, these leaves go through a bit more processing. This includes the rolling of the leaves to create tightly rolled coils.
As such, it is much harder to pulverize black tea to a fine powder. And generally, the black teas purchased at supermarkets are not meant for consumption. They’re meant for steeping in liquids.
Why is the butter slightly green?
The butter may take on a slightly green hue after steeping tea. That color is due to oxidation. It’s perfectly normal.
What’s that stuff at the bottom of the tea infused butter?
Those brown bits that settle to the bottom of tea infused butter are milk solids. The milk solids turn slightly tan or brownish in color due to the black tea.
The milk solids are important! They are responsible for imparting flavor, similar to the caramelized milk solids in brown butter.
Hollow out the cupcakes and fill with boba
This step is not necessary, but it does add a nice contrast of textures.
Punch a shallow hole into the cooled cupcakes using a small round cookie cutter. You may also use the fat end of a piping tip, or simply use a pairing knife to cut out a shallow hole.
Discard the cake scrapes, or snack on them!
Fill the cupcake cavities with freshly cooked, warm boba.
Strain out any excess liquid from the boba. Too much liquid will make the cupcakes soggy.
How to frost the cupcakes?
Distribute buttercream among cooled cupcakes. I used this oxo medium cookie scoop. It’s a #40 scoop that holds about 1 1/2 tablespoons of buttercream.
Ensure that buttercream covers the cavity filled with boba. Use a mini offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the buttercream.
Create a little crater in the center of the frosting, allowing the edges of the cupcakes to have higher sides than the center. This will serve as barrier, preventing the boba topping from spilling over.
Warning about assembly!
Only fill and assemble the cupcakes when ready to serve.
The tea cupcakes may be baked ahead of time. Store cooled cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 2 days before assembly and serving.
Cooked boba has a very short self life. It needs to be consumed within hours of cooking for the best texture and flavor.
Keep cooked boba warm over the stove. Alternatively, use the “keep warm” setting on a slow cooker.
Cooked boba can be held for up to 4 hours before serving.
For the ultimate boba, try this homemade boba tapioca pearls recipe!
This recipe uses a standard American buttercream. It’s a simple mixture of softened butter and powdered sugar.
I suggest whipping together the buttercream right before assembly. As the buttercream sits out, it will form a thin crusty barrier coating.
Simply agitate and mix the buttercream to break up that crusty coating. The buttercream will once again whip smooth.
Warning: Do not refrigerate cooked boba!
Cooked tapioca pearls are best eaten within hours of cooking. DO NOT STORE LEFTOVERS IN THE FRIDGE. The boba will harden to a rubbery consistency.
The warm boba will slightly melt the buttercream. These cupcakes must be eaten right away once topped with boba.
Boba Tea Cupcakes
Tea Infusion Prep:
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 8 bags black tea
- 1/2 cup tea infused milk, room temp
- 3 large egg whites, room temp
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup tea infused butter, room temp, softened
- 3/4 cup (154 g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cup (195 g) cake flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Brown Sugar Boba:
- 1 cup dried tapioca balls
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Milk Tea Buttercream:
- 1/2 cup tea infused butter **see note
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoon tea infused milk
Tea Infusion Prep:
- BUTTER: In a heavy bottom sauce pot, melt butter over low heat. Once completely melted, add 4 black tea bags. Remove from heat. Cover pot and let tea steep for 30 minutes.
- Return pot to low heat. Re-melt butter. Once butter is melted, remove from heat, cover pot, and let tea steep for another 30 minutes.
- Return pot to low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Strain out tea bags and squeeze out as much liquids as possible. Discard used tea bags. Pour tea infused butter into a heat safe container. Cover and let chill in the fridge until solid, preferrable overnight.
- MILK: In in a heavy bottomed sauce pot, bring milk to a simmer. Add 4 black tea bags. Stir and let simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover pot and let tea steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain out tea bags and squeeze out as much liquids as possible. Discard used tea bags. Pour tea milk into a heat safe container. Cover and let chill in the fridge until cold, preferrably overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard size muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup tea infused milk, egg whites, and vanilla. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream together ½ cup (113g ) tea infused butter and ¾ cup sugar until smooth. Add liquid milk-egg mixture. Mix on medium speed until combined. Mixture may look curdled at first. Continue to mix until combined. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing.
- In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to mixing bowl in two additions, mixing on low speed. Scrape down bowl as needed.
- Evenly distribute cupcake batter among prepared muffin tin, filling each paper liner about ⅔ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Rotate muffin tin midway through baking for even cooking. Allow cupcakes to cool in tin for 10 minutes before unmolding. Allowing cupcakes to completely cool on wire rack. Cupcakes may be frosted once cooled to room temperature.
Brown Sugar Boba:*
- Fill a heavy bottomed sauce pot with 5 cups water. Bring to a boil. Add in 1 cup dried tapioca pearls. Stir to combine and distribute pearls. Allow mixture to continue boiling for about 35-40 minutes, until pearls look gelatinous.
- Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for another 15 minutes until pearls are soft and chewy. Add brown sugar and continue to simmer until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool. As mixture cools, the syrup with thicken. Keep warm until ready to use.
Milk Tea Buttercream:
- Measure out remaining tea infused butter. You should have about 2 oz/57 g (¼ cup) left. Add enough softened unsalted butter until you have 4 oz/113 g (½ cup) of butter total.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar in three additions. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
- Add vanilla, pinch of salt, and 3 Tablespoons of remaining tea infused milk. Mix on medium speed until smooth. If buttercream is too thick add another 1 tablespoon of tea infused milk. Use immediately, or keep covered until ready to use.
- Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small round cookie cutter (or apple corer, melon baller or fat end of piping tip) to punch out a shallow cavity on top of each cupcake.
- Spoon about 2 teaspoons of strained warm brown sugar boba into each cavity. (Don't add too much liquid because it will make the cupcakes too sweet.)
- Use a medium cookie scoop to cover cavity with milk tea buttercream. Use a mini offset spatula (or the back of a spoon) to spread the buttercream. Create a little crater in the center of the frosting, allowing the edges of the cupcake to have higher sides than the center of the cupcake. This will serve as a barrier.
- Spoon about a small amont of strained warm brown sugar boba over frosting. Enjoy immediately!!
- 4 black tea bags is equivalent to 2 ½ teaspoon loose leaf black tea.
- Choose from a variety of black teas: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Masala Chai, Assam, Ceylon Black Tea, etc.
- I don't suggest using jasmine tea or green tea for this recipe.
- Tea Infused Butter: after melting and steeping, the initial 1 cup (8 oz) of butter will reduce to about 3/4 cup (6 oz). You will need to add additional unsalted butter to make the buttercream.
Boba/Tapioca Pearl Notes:
- Try this homemade boba tapioca pearls recipe. It only takes 3 ingredients!
- I purchased my dried tapioca pearls from Ten Ren. I frequent the location on Broadway (LA Chinatown). They sell large 6.5 pound bags-which roughly makes 100 servings of boba.
- The dried tapioca pearls I used are already flavored with caramel and maple syrup.
- 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 types of dried tapioca pearls: quick cooking and traditional long cooking version.
The quick cook versions are par-cooked. In my opinion, they don’t taste as good. Plus, I’ve found that they’re a bit rubbery in texture. But most importantly, quick cooking boba doesn’t allow for much flavor development.
I prefer the traditional 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.
Various Asian supermarkets such as 99 Ranch Market, H Mart, and Seafood City sell dried tapioca pearls.
How to cook boba?
The instructions in this recipe uses long cooking tapioca pearls from Ten Ren.
If desired, follow the recipe instructions on the package of dried tapioca pearls you are using.
Some tapioca pearls require draining the cooking liquid. Other recipes also require washing the cooked boba to discard excess starch before adding sweeteners.
Use your taste or judgement. Otherwise, I suggest cooking a small test of boba ahead of time!