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This tender chai cake is spiced with chai-infused milk, extra spices, and topped off with a spiced cream cheese frosting.
I love cinnamon. Love it. It’s actually my favorite spice to bake with (see all of my recipes with cinnamon!), but I don’t use it a ton in the warmer months, so I really like to hit it hard once fall rolls around!
Many many years ago, my blogger friend Amy posted an amazing chai cake, completely gluten free. She posted it in what was our summer, but because of the funny way the planet works out, it was winter time for her.
I waited patiently the two months until my birthday to bake that cake (completely gluten-full) because a spiced cake was the last thing on my mind in July.
And it was seriously the best birthday present I gave to myself that year.
I decided that this year, it was the perfect gift to, again, give myself, so after we finished up the last crumbs of my snickerdoodle cookie cake, I baked this treasure to have on my actual birthday.
Amy helped me make this cake completely gluten-y (that’s the opposite of gluten free if you didn’t know), so if you’re hoping for a gluten-free version, you can simply use an all-purpose 1:1 sub or buckwheat flour (which is what Amy used in her original recipe).
As per her suggestion, I did swap out almond meal for ground flaxseed simply for texture’s sake, but if you’d like to keep the almond meal, see the notes in the recipe on that one.
For those of you who have never had chai, it is a spicy blend of fennel seed, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. It is a supremely fragrant black tea, and when combined with hot milk and a little sugar, it becomes one killer cold weather beverage.
I’m not a tea drinker at all, but hand me a cup of chai and I will drink up every last drop!
MAKE CHAI-INFUSED MILK
You’ll start by steeping 2 chai tea bags in some warm milk. It’s important you don’t let the milk boil as you will lose a lot of your moisture to evaporation. I like to pour my milk back into a measuring cup and replace any milk that did evaporate by nature (usually only about a Tablespoon or less).
Once steeped, the bags actually get cut open and the plethora of spices packed into that tea bag are let loose to roam around in the milk to kick the spice up a notch (or three).
This step smells amazing. And guess what?
It only gets better from here, because the cream cheese frosting slathered on top is flavored with the same spices that you’ll find inside the cake.
Really, this goes nowhere but up.
After you’re done spicing up your milk, this cake is in your round pan and ready to bake in a snap.
The recipe is pretty straight forward, but you’re just going to want to remember not to over mix your batter.
You want to keep your crumb nice and soft, so mix your wet team into your dry team gently and stop when everything has just come together.
This cake… Wow. First of all, I’ve considered baking one every single day just so our house can smell as amazing over and over again. Even the kiddos have commented on the aromas floating around the house!
Truly, the smell alone tempts me to throw on my oversized sweater and leggings and grab a pumpkin to carve. Perhaps you’ll feel the same way?
What I love most about this cake is that it isn’t overly sweet by any means. It is the perfect amount of spice without tasting savory, and just enough sweet to go perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea (read: it is completely acceptable to eat this as breakfast).
I would even go so far as to say if you left the cream cheese frosting off of this cake, it would still be a perfect chilly weather snack.
And if you’re wondering, YES, you can absolutely turn this into a two layer cake: double the cake and frosting recipes and you’re all set.
Spice, sugar, creamy cream cheesy frosting, and a steamy cup of tea or coffee (with pumpkin spice coffee creamer, of course). Sounds like something you need in your life ASAP.
- ¾ cup (180g) milk any kind, any fat content
- 2 chai tea bags
- 1 and ½ cups (180g) all-purpose flour be sure to measure properly
- ¾ cup (112g) ground flaxseed*
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 and ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter melted and allowed to cool
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- ¼ cup (62g) plain yogurt or sour cream any fat content, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
SPICED CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 4 ounces (112g) full fat cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ¼ cup (57g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3 cups (360g) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons (15-30g) milk or cream any
- In a small saucepan, heat milk gently over low heat until steaming, being careful not to bring to a boil. Add chai tea bags and steep for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Once milk is cooled, remove teabags, cut open, and empty contents into spiced milk mixture. I like to re-measure my milk and replace any that evaporated (usually only a Tablespoon or so). Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Grease and flour (or use homemade cake release) an 8" or 9" round cake pan and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. Set aside.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until no clumps remain. Add the eggs, yogurt, vanilla extract, and cooled milk and whisk again until everything is smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold together, being careful not to overmix the batter, until no flour pockets remain.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in cake pan. Remove cake from cake pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. You may want to level the cake before frosting, but this is not required.
SPICED CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, spices, and milk and beat until combined. Add more sugar if frosting is too thin, or more milk if it is too thick.
- For more buttercream troubleshooting tips, see my book, The Home Baker's Guide to Basic Buttercream.
- Spread frosting evenly on top of cooled cake. Cake will stay fresh up to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator or 3 days at room temperature. Cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.