Chai was my most popular flavour during my cake business days, even making it into Every Day with Rachel Ray. Here's the recipe for it, as Chai Cupcakes!
Originally published September 11, 2020. Updated on 11/21/2022.
Well, Chai Latte Cupcakes, in this case. Figure it’s an easier way to enjoy the cake, rather than torting full cakes.
Anyway, these chai spice cupcakes have a fairly storied history!
Chai Wedding Cake
Way back in the day - when I had a custom cake business - my chai cake was absolutely the most popular flavour I offered.
I had a LOT of really amazing flavours - like Citrus Splendor, B-52, Cookies & Cream (2nd most popular!), Spumoni Torte, and more - , so the fact that this one stood out to that degree was always a bit of a shock to me.
But it was this fairly basic looking spice cake that won hearts, above all others.
People who loved spice cake, loved it.
... and People who loved chai loved it.
People who didn’t even like spice cake loved it - I’m guessing because it wasn’t super “In your face” spice? It was just a great all-around people pleaser.
Warming spices, just the right amount of sweetness ... I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Anyway!
Chai Cake Mix
So, when I started offering cookie mixes - based on my most popular holiday cookie flavours, such as Chewy Chocolate Mint Chip, Chai Shortbread, and Chewy Chocolate White Chip Cookies - it only made sense that I’d offer it as the sole cake mix offering.
I couldn’t keep them in stock!
Every Day with Rachel Ray
Then, in 2010, I got an email from a reporter in NYC. Later that week, I was carefully packing a 4 layer Chai Latte cake to ship to a magazine office.
Months later, I was one of only 4 wedding cake bakeries featured in the May 2010 edition of “Every Day with Rachel Ray” magazine - it was a piece on unique and delicious wedding cake flavours!
The “Internet Archive Wayback Machine” has a copy of the internet version of that article, here.
... and that’s the last time it’s been photographed. I had to dig WAY back into our archives to come up with these cake photos!
Love the warm, spicy flavours of chai? SO do I! Here are a few recipes on that theme:
Anyway, back to the current state of this recipe...
Historically, I’d made this as a 4 layer cake with layers of frosting between them, then frost the outside with a thin “crumb coat” layer, chill it, then frost with a thick layer of spiced buttercream frosting.
If I was doing a fondant cake, I would get that frosting layer VERY smooth, and chill it once again before applying the fondant.
Of course, Chai Cupcakes are a lot easier!
It was punched up with black tea and my homemade chai spice blend, a simple blend of cinnamon and a few other warm spices,
Like those original vanilla cupcakes, these tasty cupcakes are topped with fluffy buttercream, also infused with chai spice flavors.
It’s sure to please any chai lover, and is the perfect dessert to enjoy with a cup of tea.
These chai cupcakes are super easy to make, only requiring a few spices and some tea to get the flavour going, in a fairly basic cake batter recipe.
The good news is that - while it’s a somewhat LONG list of ingredients - they’ll all be easy to find in any grocery store.
A few notes for you:
Chai Spice Mix
As a quick point of clarification, I’m using the term “chai” as shorthand for “masala chai”, which is an Indian tea beverage that is pumped up with a combination of spices.
“Chai” also means “tea”. As in, just tea, nothing at all about the spices involved.
So “Chai tea” = “tea tea”, but “chai tea bags” generally means “tea bags that include tea AND a certain range of warm spices”.
Isn’t language fun?
Anyway, the particular chai spices I use in this recipe are:
This mix - along with the tea - is what brings the spiced chai flavor to both the cupcake and the frosting.
For best results, I recommend using Unsweetened Instant Black Tea Powder (unsweetened!), if you can find it.
Apparently it’s not a thing, here in Canada. That's OK, I order it from the USA, and generally have a canister on hand!
If you don’t have the black tea powder, you’ll use black tea bags to brew tea and use it in place of the water.
Note: You can use your favorite chai tea bags if you’d like, but the spice mix will definitely overpower it!
Instant Pudding Mix
The Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix acts as a humectant - it’s what ensures the final cake is nice and moist.
Don’t skip it, and don’t substitute the cook and serve type of pudding!
I prefer to use Cake Flour when making cakes of any kind, as I find it gives the softest, best texture.
That said, you can use all purpose flour and it’ll still turn out fantastic!
I’ve always made this with Swiss Meringue Buttercream - a luxurious frosting made with granulated sugar, egg whites, and butter.
Not only was it always my favourite frosting - hands down - it worked especially well with the Chai Cake.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream is less in-your-face with the sweetness than American Buttercream is, and I find that works really well with the mild flavour of these Chai Cupcakes.
... Especially if you PILE the frosting on.
Really, we’re talking about cupcakes - you should DEFINITELY pile the frosting on. 🙂
That said, American Buttercream is a bit easier - and cheaper! - to make, and it’s definitely a viable choice!
This is the frosting that most North Americans will associate with cakes and cupcakes, using butter (or shortening), powdered sugar, and milk.
Rounding out this recipe, you will need:
Pure Vanilla Extract
... I just really don’t have anything to add, with regards to these ingredients!
Chai Cupcakes Tips
I like to use an ice cream scoop to measure the batter into the cupcake pan. It’s an easy way to get a uniform amount of batter into each cavity.
While I don’t usually bother with cupcake liners when making muffins, I do like to use cute liners for cupcakes.
It’s September, the weather has taken a turn for *autumn*, so I found some cute fall themed liners to shoot these Chai Cupcakes.
I think they work well with the flavour and look of the Chai Cupcakes.
Want to add a bit more visual interest to these cupcakes?
Try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon or drizzle of caramel sauce to each cupcake... or just poke a dainty cinnamon stick into each!
Storing and Serving Chai Cupcakes
Cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container, and can be refrigerated, buuuut....
Getting up on my soapbox here...
Do not refrigerate these cupcakes immediately before serving them, *especially* if you’re using Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
Chilling the cake makes it hard and dry - and dry cake is SAD cake. Just... don’t.
If you’re using Swiss Meringue Buttercream, it also hardens, and crumbles. Think about it like trying to eat a stick of butter - not super pleasant.
That’s not to say you can’t chill these Chai Cupcakes at all, just give them PLENTY of time to come up to room temperature before serving them!
More Cake Recipes!
Looking for more ridiculously delicious cake recipes? As the "Evil Cake Overlord", I've got you covered! (Ps: Check out my instructions for making Marshmallow Fondant, as well!)
Bundt, Sheet, & Upside Down Cakes
Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake
Brandied Apple Upside Down Cake
Deep N Delicious Cake
French Martini Bundt Cake
French Martini Upside Down Cake
Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake
Pina Colada Bundt Cake
Strawberry Mango Marble Cake
As I previously mentioned, this recipe was featured in my second cookbook, Evil Cake Overlord: Ridiculously Delicious Cakes!
We've long been known for our “ridiculously delicious” moist cakes and tasty, unique flavors. Now, you can have recipes for all of the amazing flavors on our former custom cake menu, and many more! Bake your moist work of gastronomic art, then fill and frost your cake with any number of tasty possibilities. Milk chocolate cardamom pear, mango mojito, and more!
Feeling creative? Use our easy to follow recipe to make our yummy fondant. Forget everything you’ve heard about fondant – ours is made from marshmallows and powdered sugar, and is essentially candy – you can even flavor it! Order your copy directly through my site, through Amazon, or through any major bookseller!
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- 3 cups Cake flour
- 2 ¼ cups Granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon Baking powder
- 2 tablespoon Unsweetened Instant Black Tea * OR 3 black tea bags
- 1 ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Cardamom
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon Ground Cloves
- ½ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 3 ½ oz Instant vanilla pudding mix**
- 6 Eggs
- 1 ½ cups Butter melted
- 2 tablespoon Pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cup Water
- 1 batch batch Swiss Meringue buttercream
- 1 batch American buttercream
- 1 tablespoon Unsweetened Instant Black Tea Powder
- 2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ½ teaspoon Cardamom
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon Ground Cloves
- ¼ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 24 muffin tin cavities with cupcake liners.
- Combine flour, sugar, tea, baking powder, salt, spices, and pudding mix in a large bowl. This can be in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, or just a large mixing bowl to use with a handheld mixer.
- Add the eggs and butter to the flour mixture, beating on low speed until smooth.
- Carefully add the remaining wet ingredients - melted butter and vanilla - to the mix, mixing on medium speed until smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times while mixing.
- Add water to batter, mix until well incorporated and smooth.
- Divide cupcake batter among prepared cupcake pan.
- Bake cupcakes until golden and knife inserted into center of batter comes out clean - about 20-22 mins .
- Allow to cool to cool to room temperature, before decorating.
- Prepare either Swiss meringue buttercream or American buttercream, following the applicable recipe , using vanilla extract.
- In a small bowl, mix together instant tea and spices. Add about 2 teaspoon very hot water, mix to form a thick, smooth paste.
- Beat paste into prepared frosting until fully mixed in and smooth.
- Use a piping bag, spoon, and/or offset spatula to frost your cupcakes as desired, enjoy!