Sugar High: Wystone's African rooibos carrot cake

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Tea and cake together is a no-brainer, but what about tea in cake? At Wystone's World Tea Cafe, 7323 West Alaska Drive, it's not just the cakes that are baked with a hit of tea leaves, but almost all their fare. From Lapsang Souchong smoked tea-infused chicken to black tea-roasted potatoes, executive chef Mark Kalix has created a menu that takes advantage of the 150 varieties of loose leaf teas he has at his fingertips. But while the lunch menu looked tempting, it was dessert that called our name. Enter the African rooibos carrot cake.

"The challenge with using teas in food," says Kalix, "is keeping the tea from over-steeping and turning bitter and tannic." To avoid this, he developed cooking methods tailored to specific types of tea. The carrot cake, for example, is made with African red rooibos, a caffeine-free herbal tea that's high in antioxidants and naturally sweet. Kalix uses Caramel Rooibos, a specialty blend, to infuse the cake, though the tea is only visible as burgundy flecks throughout the white cream cheese frosting.

This is not a dessert for those who prefer their carrot cakes unmarred by textural additions. It's dense, moist and hefty. The three layers are crammed with fruit and nuts; walnuts are featured heavily, with pineapple and coconut also making an appearance alongside the carrot slivers. Tangy with a mellow sweetness, the frosting is thick -- almost the consistency of butter. But the tea flavor we were expecting, never came. Kalix credits the tea with adding moisture to the cake and bestowing an "unmistakable roundness to the flavor that's lacking if it's left without the tea infusion." We can't deny the moistness of the cake or the balance of flavors, so we'll count this as a tea win.

You'd be remiss if you went to Wystone's and didn't try some of the their teas straight up. We paired the carrot cake with the Butter Truffles black tea, which intrigued us because the description likened the flavor to licking a bowl of butter cookie dough. Included, among other things in this blend, are pistachios, coriander and peppercorns. It's a perfect pairing with the cake, with the buttery undertones of the tea marrying well with the cake's darker caramel notes. Plus, how fun is this tea pot?

The shop recently added a party room, so if you're looking to tea it up for a special occasion, they're currently taking reservations for the rest of 2009 and 2010. African Rooibos Carrot Cake $6.00 Butter Truffles tea, pot $4.25

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