Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice…From Teacup to Cupcake: Vanilla Chai Tea Cupcakes

I love chai tea. Like, really. Like, you know how some people can’t go on without their coffee or something in them dies? Yeah. Me. Only with chai. The first time I ever had one was at Starbucks. Oh, Starbucks. My lost love, don’t fret, we’ll be united again someday.

Anyway, since I don’t drink coffee, I needed to find a replacement that I could have when I went to Starbucks with my friends and we all wanted a hot beverage. Of course, I’m always happy with a hot chocolate in hand, but I wanted to try something new. Once I had a chai latte, there was no turning back. I got quite good at ordering exactly the right chai/water/milk combo to feed my addiction. Then we moved to Vermont.

Vermont. Of all the places I’ve lived over the course of my life, Vermont is the only one that has felt like home, since I left home. It is a truly beautiful state and I would return there in less than a heartbeat. What could be wrong with a place that was the birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s?! Only one thing. No Starbucks.

That was when the hunt began for a pre-packaged chai that I could make at home. I couldn’t even get the Tazo chai syrup in Vermont, so I was reduced to trying various dry chai. It took several months but I eventually found the one chai that has the same flavor as the Tazo, and can make a close second to a chai from Starbucks. The brand Stash makes a decaf chai that is spicy and delicious, without cloying vanilla flavors. It’s a perfect replacement (for Starbucks’ chai), if you’re forced to live without the real thing. If you’re looking for a great chai tea that comes in a tea bag, I highly recommend this one.

Once we left Vermont, though, Starbucks was in my life again. I could go anywhere and have the opportunity to stop in. Until we got to the islands. Of course, I was prepared for this. I knew there wasn’t even the slightest possibility that there would be a Starbucks here, but, in all honesty, it’s usually too hot for a chai latte anyway. So, once again, a quest began. This time, I wanted to create a dessert that would give me back my chai, without overheating me. Naturally, my first choice was a cupcake.

Aren’t they pretty?! Really, really?!

Obviously, it would be a vanilla cupcake, but what would the flavors be? I broke out my Stash chai and read the ingredient list as a jumping off point. Ginger, cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom. Those are all the spices in my favorite tea. I was a little scared. I really didn’t want to overdo it with the spices, but I knew I needed all of them to get the right flavor. Well, in the end, I ended up cutting the allspice out. You couldn’t tell it was in there either way, so why not save it?

The spices were right, but it lacked something. It just wasn’t quite right. It was spicy, but it didn’t taste like a chai. That’s when I decided to add real chai to it. The recipe already had milk, so why not steep some tea bags in it and add more flavor? Best. decision. ever. These cupcakes turned out soft and spicy, with actual chai flavor. They were so good that I could have eaten them without and frosting at all! But they needed that extra little something to make them as special as a latte.

My hardest decision with the frosting was whether I wanted to keep it simple with vanilla, or spice it up a bit. I decided to use the foam from a chai latte as my inspiration, and knew I couldn’t stick with plain vanilla. The foam on a chai absorbs some of that spicy aroma, so the frosting should do the same. I decided that cinnamon made the most sense and made a basic, but delicious, vanilla buttercream, then added small amounts of cinnamon until the flavor was just right. I have to say, this frosting is easily one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. It’s just wonderful! And on the cupcake? Fahgeddaboutit!

The only problem I have now, is forcing myself to bake something else! And just in case you’re wondering…yes, these can be made vegan! Yay!

Alright, so if you’re a chai lover, you can’t skip these. For the dry ingredients, you’ll need ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon (all ground, of course), as well as salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cake flour.

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Isn’t it all pretty when you first put it in the bowl? I never want to mix it up.

Next, you need milk and you favorite chai tea bags. If you want to make these vegan, use soy milk. Bring the milk to a simmer, remove it from the heat, then steep the tea in it for at least 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before using it.

The remaining ingredients include softened, unsalted butter or margarine, sugar, eggs, and apple sauce, which was feeling camera shy today. For vegan cupcakes, replace the eggs with extra apple sauce.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Scrape the bowl, then add the apple sauce and mix until just incorporated.

Sprinkle one-third of the flour mixture over batter and mix until just combined. Add half of the chai milk mixture, mixing on low until combined. Add another one-third of the flour mixture, and beat until just mixed. Scrape the bowl, then add the remaining milk and mix until combined. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and mix until the batter is thoroughly combined, but do not over mix.

Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and fill each liner with two tablespoons of batter and bake at 350 degrees for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

My frosting ingredients were camera shy today too…sorry. I promise to get everything back on stage before our next performance! To make the frosting, you need softened unsalted butter or margarine, vanilla, cinnamon, and confectioners’ sugar.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add one cup of confectioners’ sugar and cream together. Once combined, beat in another cup of sugar, then mix in the vanilla. Add the cinnamon and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the remaining sugar, one cup at a time, and mix until the frosting is light and fluffy. If your frosting is too stiff or dry, beat in up to two tablespoons of milk, one tablespoon at a time.

These are so amazing. I have been walking around in a state of total bliss since I made them. They are seriously sugar and spice and everything nice…including irresistible. Everyone loved these. Everyone! And one of the very best parts? They smell like Autumn when they’re in the oven. I expected to look out the window and see red and gold leaves on the palm trees.

Make these because you love a good chai. Make them because they’re delicious. Make them because they’ll give that Autumnal mood you want. Just make them. Enjoy!

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes
Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients

FOR THE CUPCAKES
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 eggs (for vegan cupcakes replace the eggs with an extra half cup apple sauce)
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 cup milk (soy milk for vegan)
4 chai tea bags

FOR THE FROSTING
1 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon (up to 1/2 teaspoon more, if desired)
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake papers.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves; set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm the milk until it just simmers. Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and allow the chai milk to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Scrape the bowl, then add the apple sauce and mix until just incorporated.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture over batter and mix until just combined. Add 1/2 of the chai milk mixture, mixing on low until combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, and beat until just mixed. Scrape the bowl, then add the remaining milk and mix until combined. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and mix until the batter is thoroughly combined, but do not over mix.

Fill each cupcake liner with 2 tablespoons of batter and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: In a medium bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar and cream together. Once combined, beat in another cup of sugar, then mix in the vanilla. Add the cinnamon and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until the frosting is light and fluffy. If your frosting is too stiff or dry, beat in up to 2 tablespoons of milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.

recipe by Darla

 

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Comments

  1. bttrflybabydoll says

    I've never had chai. I almost never go to Starbucks because it's so expensive, but I could do this and experience the joys of chai.

    Thank you!

  2. Joanne says

    I really love Stash tea though I haven't tried this flavor! I'm going to have to seek it out because I love Starbucks chai, but damn that stuff gets EXPENSIVE. Turning the chai flavors into a cupcake sounds absolutely delicious and is so inventive! These are super cute.

  3. Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] says

    Wow those look amazing. I'm not a fan of chai, but everyone around me is, I'm going to try this one for them.

  4. Sugarbear says

    Thanks everyone…these are definitely worth trying out! I also think it can get awfully pricey to keep hitting up Starbucks for a fix, which why I'm really glad to have found the Stash chai!

    To Stella- I accidentally deleted your comment, but I wanted to be sure and answer your question. The cupcake papers used for these cupcakes are from Bake It Pretty. You can find a button to their wonderful shop above, on the right side of the blog.

  5. Anonymous says

    These are beautiful cupcakes!! I'm a chai tea nut too :) While I can get the Tazo syrup base (?) stuff that Starbucks uses, I prefer using Stash for all my tea needs :) However, I prefer the double spice chai from Stash (two times the chai goodness in one cup!) ^_~

    I can't wait to make these!! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. Anonymous says

    How do you make the frosting so professional looking! I have tried to squeeze out of a bag but it turned out terrible. These look delish!

  7. hsunamisweets says

    this looks so good! i'm thinking of making the vegan version for a bake sale. i'll let you know how it goes :)did you use a tip to pipe the frosting? if so, which one?

  8. MacKenzie says

    I just discovered your yummy blog and was THRILLED to see that you included vegan alternatives in this delicious recipe!! Thank you SO much. Can't wait to try this one!

  9. Sugarbear says

    @Nyla, I got that stand at Homegoods, so you could definitely check them out, if there's one near you. But I bought mine almost three years ago, if you don't find it, it's made by Signature Housewares, Inc., maybe it's online?

  10. Anonymous says

    Hi, just discovered your blog and these look amazing! I'm making cupcakes for a friends shower in a few weeks and these will be perfect. Did you use a pastry tip to frost them? I love the sleek/modern look, thx!

  11. Sugarbear says

    I a Bakery Crafts #9PT, large round tip to decorate these. I got it from Bake It Pretty in the Best-Ever Cupcake Icing Kit. I just held the bag with the tip straight up over the cupcake and I squeezed the bag firmly until the I had the amount of frosting on it that I wanted, then I pulled straight up and away from the cupcake and slowly stopped squeezing the frosting out. If you're not confident doing this, definitely practice on a spare bit of parchment or back into the frosting bowl. Hope this helps!

  12. Amanda says

    These are amazing! I love chai too!
    If you are ever in an area that has Atlanta Bread Company restaurants, try their hot chai. I used to work at Starbucks and swore by their recipe until I tried ABC's. It's INCREDIBLE.

  13. Lani says

    I can honestly say these were some of the finest cupcakes I have ever made/eaten and I have made/eaten MANY cupcakes in my time :) You are my new baking guru and you have yourself a new and devoted reader.

  14. Anonymous says

    yi just made these, but mine seemed to be liquid with that amount of flour. I put in an extra cup and it seemed to work :D can't wait to taste them

  15. Louis says

    I LOVE chai! and these are such a great idea. I just pulled them out of the oven & they smell absolutely delightful – I can’t wait until they’ve cooled so I can frost them and have a taste.

    Like the commenter above I thought mine were too liquid but I persevered without adding any more flour and they turned out delightfully :) thanks for the great recipe

    • says

      Hi Lauren, I hope you like them. They’re still one of my favorites! Yes, the applesauce is in addition to the eggs. It adds extra moisture to the cakes.

  16. Chasity says

    I made these as soon as I could because I absolutely love chai tea! They are wonderful, and to make things sweeter, I have found Haagen-Dazs has a limited edition sweet chai latte ice cream flavor! Pair the two together, and all I can say is, yum! Thanks Darla!

  17. says

    I absolutely love you for this. Chai is my total favorite and I discovered it in exactly the same way you did. We have Starbucks in Taiwan, but they don’t do chai lattes. I managed to find one bag of chai teabags from an Australian company hiding in the import aisle of my grocery store. I’m hoping I can find all the ingredients here. I can’t wait to try these. Oh, and an iced chai latte is wonderful, so don’t let the heat stop you from drinking them.

  18. Alex says

    I just made these cupcakes tonight! I think the flavor is absolutely delicious but the cupcakes themselves didn’t turn out so well… It ended up looking/feeling very spongey and sticks to the cupcake liners, so they’re not the prettiest to eat. Any idea what I did wrong? I followed the recipe exactly, the only thing I can think of is that I let the butter/sugar/egg mixture sit a little because my chai tea took a while to cool. Or possibly I overmixed it? The batter was rather liquidy, I don’t know if it was supposed to be like that. I’d love to try them again (like I said before, they still TASTE delicious!), so any tips on what I should do differently would be appreciated! And I love your blog!!

  19. Carlo says

    Wow! These were fantastic! I am trying to find new recipes to make cupcakes from scratch from and these were the first ones that were actually edible! I Love Starbucks chai so when I saw these I new I had to make them, and they are just great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank You SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!

  20. Allison says

    These were just amazing cupcakes. I love Chai Tea and these cupcakes lived up to their name! By turning to oven down to 325, and decreasing the cooking time to 12 min. I was able to make delicious mini cupcakes. Thank you for sharing your fantastic recipe!

  21. Emily says

    i made these and they were were absolutely delightful everyone loved them! my cupcakes came out much darker i was amusing so since i used ultra spiced chai tea bags and let them steep for a while. Great recipe

  22. Mitch says

    I love chai tea lattes and went on a search for a chai tea cupcake recipe. And here I am! I’m also not a fan of chai tea that has an emphasis of vanilla so I thought I’d share my favorite – it’s Mountain High Chai from Two Leaves and A Bud. I can’t remember where I first discovered it, but now I regularly purchase it on Amazon. (It’s not an infomercial – I’m not associated with either!) I like the tea strong so when I use the tea bag version, I usually throw in a plain black tea bag too . The spice flavors from the chai bag still come through.

  23. Ricka says

    I made these and the batter was very liquidy I was wondering should I add more flour they smelled awesome though. I really want to make these perfect and I followed your recipe please help.

  24. Eva says

    Like yourself I am a Chai tea addict. Love it, just Love it. I grew up with this tea. It was my mothers way of making us feel all better when my siblings and I were not feeling at all well. To try it in a cupcake “YUM”.
    Thanks for sharing.

  25. Shell says

    These look amazing! I’m going to try them for sure! Where in Vermont did you live? I live in VT, we have Starbucks… Now you can come back & visit ) I’ve been here my whole life & I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else!
    I’m o excited to try these yummy looking cupcakes!
    Thanks so much for the recipe :)
    Take care

  26. Hafsa says

    I just put these in the oven!! I am so so so very excited to bring these to work tomorrow for our “cupcake wars”! The batter is, hands down, the MOST delicious batter I have ever tried! I added a snickerdoodle crust to my cupcakes, in hopes of scoring “originality” points. :) the crust is delicious- i hope it still is when i take them out! anyway, i went to college in Middlebury, so I feel your Vermont love and lack of Starbucks pain! Thanks for this AWESOME recipe!

  27. says

    I just made these yesterday and they taste AH-MA-ZING! However, mine turned out really flat and dense – more like a muffin. Do you have any ideas as to what might have gone wrong? Thanks!

  28. Nouha says

    I wanna try baking this but the problem is that since I’m in Egypt finding already made applesauce is a hassle, is there some other ingredient that I can use instead? Or maybe you have a simple recipe to make applesauce? (Most recipes I’ve seen are somewhat tedious and long).
    Thanks.

    • Joannie says

      Hi Nouha,

      My daughter has an egg allergy – here’s what I did.

      Peel, core, slice 2 – 3 apples and place in saucepan with just enough water to coat the bottom of the pan. If you have the time, use chai tea made with water instead of plain water. I also added 3 cloves. Simmer until the apples start to fall apart. Cool. Toss the cloves out. Grind the applesauce in a food processor. I was still a little shy of the amount of applesauce needed so I added a heaping tablespoon of vanilla yogurt.

      The batter is unbelievably good!
      ~Joannie

  29. Jaina says

    Im upset because how can I make this when there’s no conversions???? Can’t just throw dry ingredients in a bowl without knowing how much.

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  1. […] coffee, I’ve discovered the many other delicious treats that Starbucks has to offer, and as I’ve said before, my favorite is their chai tea latte. In preparation for my northern exposure, I decided to make […]