Although I am all about pumpkin and apple-infused desserts this time of year, there’s another underrated Fall flavor that I’ve wanted to incorporate more into my baking in 2021- and while looking for inspiration into my next Autumnal dish to serve to visiting friends and family- I stumbled across this recipe via Half Baked Harvest that does exactly that.
Chai, and specifically vanilla or caramel-flavored chai- is one of my favorite beverages to sip when I’m bundled up in a big cozy sweater in front of a fire, or drinking from the comfort of my car when I’m out driving the back roads and looking at the changing leaves. It’s a quintessential Fall beverage right alongside mulled apple cider and pumpkin spice lattes- so being able to savor it in the form of a fun, and oh-so-pretty cupcake- was right up my alley.
A batch of these takes just over an hour to whip up- so I’m absolutely going to recreate the magic for any upcoming Halloween parties, and then again when it’s time to have those long overdue Friendsgiving gatherings again!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
FOR THE CHAI SPICE:
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon all-spice
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
FOR THE CUPCAKES:
- 1 cup milk
- 2 bags chai tea
- 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE CARAMEL FROSTING:
- 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
WHAT YOU’LL DO:
1. To make the chai spice. In a shallow bowl, combine the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, all-spice, cloves, and pepper. Reserve the chai spice blend for the cupcake batter and frosting.
2. To make the cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 24 cupcake molds with paper liners.
3. Bring the milk to a boil in a small pot. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags, cover, and steep 10 minutes.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sour cream, beating until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3 teaspoons of the chai spice mix. Stream in the chai milk, beating until just combined.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Transfer to the oven and bake 22-25 minutes, until the tops are just set, and no longer wiggly in the center. Remove and let cool.
6. To make the frosting. Melt together 1 stick butter, brown sugar, and cream in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Add a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl in the freezer (or fridge for longer) for 15 minutes or until cool to touch.
7. Grab the cooled butter mixture from the freezer and add the remaining 1 stick butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, and 1-2 teaspoons chai spice to the bowl. Beat together until well combined, adding more sugar as needed.
8. Frost each cupcake and sprinkle with Caramel Brûlée (recipe below). Add cinnamon sticks, if desired.
** To make the caramel brûlée candy: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium pot, cook ¾ cup sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heat-proof spatula until the sugar has melted and turns a golden caramel, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread in a thin, even layer and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let sit 5 minutes. Once hardened, crush the caramel into small pieces/shards with the back of a spoon. **
These cupcakes are so soft, so rich and so full of flavor- that it’s legitimately like biting into Fall. I absolutely love these- and I know you all will, too!
I’m going to enjoy one of these hand-in-hand with a warm cup of chai within the next couple of days. I’m sure of it!