Chai Cupcakes

There are people who remember me principally by these cupcakes, which I originally started making following this recipe on The Novice Chef. If you enjoy the flavors of the various chai tea drinks available in coffee shops everywhere, you will love these cupcakes. The spices that go into chai are not too different from those that go into gingerbread and many other autumn/winter flavors, such as pumpkin pie, spice cake, apple muffins, etc. However, chai-flavored things tend to go heavier on the cardamom—a spice often left out of the above-mentioned desserts altogether—and cardamom is a pretty strong spice as it is.


I’ve made this recipe enough times to play around with it a bit. Taking my cue from another favorite chai recipe, I have begun adding a bit of ground black tea whenever I make chai-flavored desserts. Additionally, if I have a chai mix on hand (one of those liquid boxed concentrates, such as the popular Oregon Chai), I will add a bit into the frosting in place of milk for extra flavor. I still don’t quite understand why I am supposed to mix the baking soda with vinegar separately and then pour it into the batter, but I haven’t been brave enough to try doing it my own way yet. The way this recipe is written, the spices are mixed first and then split half-and-half between the frosting and cupcake batter; I’ve left it that way (it’s easier to measure larger quantities of spices). I should note that this frosting is a very rich one, extremely buttery.


I give this recipe my standard two hours when planning for prep/bake time. The only special equipment you may need is a mortar and pestle if you plan to grind black tea for the spice mix. As always, I recommend using paper cupcake liners rather than simply greasing the pan. If you want to make the frosting look pretty, use a frosting bag (or Ziploc bag, as I do) and a fancy frosting tip. You can even sprinkle a bit of cinnamon over the frosting for an extra touch. Makes one dozen (12) cupcakes.

Chai Cupcakes

1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
Optional: apprx. one tea bag’s worth of black tea (about 2 tsp), ground

½ C butter
1 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 ¼ C flour
½ C buttermilk
½ tsp baking soda
½ apple cider vinegar
spices (see above)

1 C butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar
1-2 TBS milk (or chai tea concentrate)
spices (see above)

1. Mix spices in a small bowl. Preheat your oven to 325ºF and prepare a muffin/cupcake pan with paper liners.

2. Mix the cake batter as follows:  Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in vanilla. One at a time, beat in the eggs with a mixer. Divide spice mix approximately in half, and mix one half into the cake batter. Alternately fold in buttermilk and flour; pour in half the buttermilk and mix until just combined, then half the flour, etc. You have flour in the batter now, so be careful not to over-mix. In a small bowl, mix the baking soda and vinegar and let them react, then mix them into the batter as well.

3. Spoon batter into prepared pan, dividing evenly among all twelve spaces (each liner should be about ¾ full). Place on the middle rack of your oven and bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. As it is a light-colored dough, you may or may not notice much browning.

5. Let cupcakes sit in pans for a few minutes before removing to cooling racks. While the cupcakes are cooling, start the buttercream frosting.

6. Cream room-temp butter, by itself, in a mixing bowl. Begin adding powdered sugar in roughly half-cup increments. Add in the other half of your spice mix. If the frosting seems stiff, add a few teaspoons of milk and/or chai tea concentrate. Add in vanilla. (Note: At this point, I am usually not looking at the frosting recipe anymore, and I just start taste-testing and looking at the consistency of the frosting to decide if I need to add any more sugar or milk. But if you just follow the amounts listed above, everything will be fine. In fact, it will probably turn out better.)

7.  When cupcakes are completely cooled, pipe or spread frosting on top. Can be stored, covered in a cool area, for a few days.


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