How do you take your Chai? Is it with almond milk or soy milk… dare I ask even cows milk? Maybe you like sweet vanilla or a classic spice? Hot or sometimes depending on the weather, do you take it iced? How about as a cake?
Yes, cake. Lets do this!
This past August I had the best chai tea ever. It was a little spicy with bites of ginger and cardamom, a little bit sweet with hints of cinnamon and vanilla and perfectly refreshing served over ice. This was not your run of the mill, from a powdered mix, overly sugary chai that you find at a basic coffee shop. This chai was special. So special that I waited in line almost 45 minutes to get this tea 4 days in a row. All the while, in crazy ass dust storms so intense you can’t see 5 feet in front of you and you have to wear snowboarding goggles just so you don’t go blind. Its a little ridiculous I know, but its the truth, it was that good.
So good that it inspired this cake.
Center Camp at Burning Man is where they sell this ridiculously good chai and let me tell you a trip to Burning Man is worth it for the sole enjoyment of this tea alone. Aside from all the other whimsical, mischievous, out of this world, so cool you could not imagine on your own, experiences… this chai literally blew my mind. And this cake just might blow yours (atleast I hope so).
I spent all last week recipe testing, adjusting spice measurements, trying vanilla milk versus plain milk and finally settled on this recipe. I really hope you guys like it as much as I do.
While I was baking it I was listening to this album, pretending I was a soulful lady pouring all her love into the cake because I truly believe that food made with love tastes better. Anytime there is specific, meaningful and purposeful intention behind anything you are doing your results will be better than if they were mindless tasks completed by going through the motions. So although the 100 degree heat that was happening in LA that day, making this cake melt a little to the left (everything I own in a box to the left) I really wanted this cake to be a delicious, indulgent treat that made those who tasted it experience something greater than just taking a bite of any old cake. I wanted a memory to be formed from the experience.
While I was googling around learning about the different spices you might find in a chai tea, I learned that Chai actually means “tea” so saying chai tea is actually saying “tea tea.” What most of us know as chai tea is better known as masala chai. Masala means spices, or spice blend and it originated in India and represents a way of life there. Although there are no wrong or right ways to build the perfect chai, it typically involvs brewing a black tea with spices like cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Varitions of the drink can include cinnamon, saffron, rose, fennel, clove, star anise, and black pepper. I chose to use a decaffeinated black tea-chai from Tazo that included rooibos, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, chicory, cloves, black pepper and star anise.
Currently, I’ve been reliving the 90’s by listening to this song by Eddie Brickell on repeat!
For the cake:
start by pre-heating the oven to 350f. Then pull out a large bowl and a small sauce pan. Put 2 cups of vanilla almond milk in the bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons and put it in the sauce pan. Then add the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk in the sauce pan.
Add the apple cider vinegar to the large bowl, Gently stir a few times and let sit for 5 minutes to activate.
meanwhile, put the small sauce pan over low heat and add the 2 tea bags. Heat up milk but make sure it doesnt come to a boil, you are looking for steam to come off the milk. Once it reaches that point, turn off the heat, cover and let steep for up to 20 minutes.
In another medium mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients and shift to combine well. If you do not have a shifter, use a whisk or fork to remove the clumps.
Add the oil, and the extracts into the bowl with the almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine. Then add in the flour mixture in 1/2 cup intervals, mixing as you go. You want this to be as smooth as possible.
Once it is combined, remove the sauce pan from the stove and pour the contents into the mixing bowl. Then cut (or rip) the tea bags open and pour the contents right into the batter. trust me- do this, so goood!
Then transfer your batter into your cake pan. I used 5 small cake pans from wilton (link above in body of post to where you can purchase the same ones I used). I put 3/4 cup batter in each cake pan and it worked out almost perfectly.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
If you are using two 9 inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, divide the batter up evenly and cook for 30-35 minutes.
For the frosting
After the cream cheese and butter has had some time to soften combine them in a bowl and cream them together with a hand mixer or fork. Add in the spices, mix again and then a 1/2 cup at a time add in the powdered sugar until it reaches a thick consistency and the fork or whisk leaves trails when mixing.
Put this in the fridge until cakes are ready.
There are several formulas out there to assemble the perfect layer cake but this is the method that has worked well for me.
Once the cakes are done baking, remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, remove cakes from the pans and transfer to a wire a rack to cool further. After about another 10 miuntes, move the cakes to the freezer and let freeze for 1 hour or so.
Then cut off the rounded portion from the top of the cake (this is like the muffin top of a muffin). You want to have your cakes be completely flat on top so when you layer the cakes it does not make a peak at the top.
Its important for your layers to all be the same height so if necessary use a ruler to measure each one and determine how much needs to be cut off of each. You can of course eye ball this as well. Use a serrated knife to remove the cake tops. Take your time during this step.
Once they are all flat, start layering!
Add about 1/4-1/2 cup of frosting in between each layer of cake, and frost all the sides and top.
I decorated mine with brown sugar and cinnamon!