Flavors of Fall: Chai

One of my favorite parts about the weather getting cooler is sipping on a nice, hot chai tea latte. With all the rain we’ve been having here in Boston, the prospect of chai gets even better. When I found this recipe for Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting from The Culinary Enthusiast, I knew I had to make it. It combines two of my favorite things: chai and cupcakes. I’ve had this recipe sitting on pinterest for a while now and I was excited to finally give it a try.

photo by Jessica McWeeney

cardamom for the chai spice mix

The recipe was pretty straightforward to put together. I especially like the chai spice mix that you make from several different spices. Just smelling it makes me happy. I think one of the most important ingredients is the cardamom. I know it’s pricey, but I find it to be worth it because of the unique flavor it brings. But, if you really don’t want to splurge for it, there are some substitutions.

Overall, even though everything smelled great, I was a little disappointed with the recipe. The cupcakes came out just fine, but the flavor wasn’t as strong as I was expecting. It just didn’t scream chai to me; more like spice cake, maybe. The frosting has good chai flavor and uses the same mix as the cupcakes, but it is too sweet for me. It was very light and fluffy, but I’m not a huge fan of plain buttercream. I would try it again and maybe make it a chai cream cheese frosting.

vanilla chai cupcakes

vanilla chai cupcakes

Luckily for me, there are plenty of other places to get my chai fix in Boston this fall. Check out this list from BDC Wire.

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

 Chai Spice Mix

chai spice mix

chai spice mix

1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom (worth it, I promise!)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Cupcake Batter

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract, which is what I used)
2 eggs
2 tsp. chai spice mix
1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature                                                                                                           1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)

vanilla chai cupcake batter

vanilla chai cupcake batter


2 cups powdered sugar
remainder of the chai spice mix                                                                     1Tbsp. cold milk, if needed to thin out the buttercream


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a cupcake pan with liners. You can also just grease a muffin tin. This made about 12 cupcakes for me.

In a small bowl or plastic bag, combine the chai spice mix ingredients. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat in one egg at a time. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the chai spice mix. Fold in the flour and buttermilk alternately and stir until combined. Mix together the baking soda and vinegar in a separate bowl (they will fizz and react, it’s science and baking!), then add it to the batter and mix until combined.

Spoon into prepared cupcake tins until 3/4 full and bake 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Buttercream Directions:
In a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is creamy. On low, mix in the vanilla bean paste and the rest of the chai spice mix. Carefully beat in the powdered sugar about ½ cup at a time. If the buttercream is too thick add 1-2 tbs of cold milk until the desired consistency is reached. Then go ahead and spread or pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes.

Photos by Jessica McWeeney. 


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