Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

Don’t be like me, use a star tip to pipe the buttercream and not have them looking like mini turds. Star tip make everything look nicer.

In theory, if you can bake cakes, you can bake cupcakes, right? At least, that’s what I thought. For some reason, I have had more cupcake fails than I do success. Just the other day, I baked a perfect batch of chocolate cupcakes for someone, then baked another batch for myself using the same recipe and they didn’t rise at all. ??????I have no idea what happened??????

The only reason I do try from time to time is that they are the kind of things that gets you “Ooooh” and “Aaaah”s when you bring them out at gathering. Oh cupcakes are so cuuuuteee~! They can be made super colourful and fancy and the quintessential part of a party. Welp. I kinda want a cupcake the other day so I guess we will get to work!

I only happen to have Christmas cupcake liners on hand. >.>

I am not going to go fancy, so I was aiming for something of a basic flavour but suited to the seasons. So… spicy fall flavours. I found a nice master cupcake recipe built to be customized. I didn’t want to mess with the solid to liquid ratio (because let’s try for a success story this time) so I wanted to flavour it with just dry ingredients. The original recipe calls for just milk, so I warmed up the milk and steeped a tea bag in it to add extra flavour.

If you want, piping the batter into the tin is also an option. Especially if you want to make mini one bite cupcakes.

Now. Onto the buttercream. There are many kinds, the most basic being American Buttercream which is made with just butter and icing sugar. Super simple and no chance of failure. I am not a huge fan of them because I find them too sweet especially on an already sweet cupcake. I did use this buttercream for my Chocolate and Coffee sandwiched biscuits so it isn’t like I am against it or anything. Just not so much on my cakes.

Right so. Buttercream, I have tried to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream before, which I liked. One time I made it and it turned into gross soup, one time I tried to put fruit in it and broke it completely. So I can’t say I have had great experience with it either, though BKH and I went for a cake decorating class and we made SMBC there and I think I have finally gotten a hang of it.

This is all the butter that went into the cream. One whole block. It is call “BUTTERcream” afterall. Don’t worry, you are not eating the whole thing at a time. Unless you are, then well, er.

So this time around, let’s keep these follow things in mind to avoid failing:
1. Not introducing any liquid. So no pouring some chai tea into the cream, we will flavour purely with a bit of cinnamon and cardamom.
2. Extra room temperature butter. I have mentioned time and again my kitchen is quite cold so I am gonna soften the butter a bit more than when I normally think they are ready. If you press on it and are leaving fingerprints, that is the correct consistency of butter.
3. Do not stop whipping until it looks right. When in doubt, whip some more.

Did I ever mention that when I bought cardamom I thought ya, ground cardamom is so expensive, I will just buy whole cardamom and ground it myself to save some money? I had no idea how much work I was in for. You have to peel the green pod, scoop out the black bits inside, then ground it until it is a powder. Don’t buy whole cardamom unless you like tedious work. Here is a bit of PSA from me to you. Cardamom stays quite nice and strong for a decent period of time, just get it ground. Get fresh nutmeg instead.

For the Cupcakes:  Recipe adapted from Bigger Bolder Baking Crazy Cupcakes (there is a video in the link if you want to watch the step by step)
(I made 8 regular cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes, so it makes quite a bit!)

240g Sugar
240g Butter, softened
4 Eggs
240g All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp Milk
1 Chai Tea Bag
3 Tsp Chai Spice Mix*
*If you don’t wanna make the spice mix, you can try using 3 Tsp of what is in a Chai tea bag. Though the tea leaves are not going to mix in smoothly as the spice and you will see the tea leaves as a texture in your cake, which is completely fine.

Chai Spice Mix:
2 Tbsp Ground Ginger
2 Tbsp Ground Cardamom
1 Tsp Grated Nutmeg
1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
1 Tsp Cracked Black Pepper
3 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon

1. Warm up the milk and put your teabag into steep.

2. Preheat your oven to 180°c/350°f. Line your cupcake trays with liners.

3. Original recipe ask for the whisk attachment in your stand mixer to beat your butter till fluffy. It didn’t work for me, probably the cold kitchen thing again, so I used the paddle attachment to fluff my butter. I imagine if your butter is softer it might work.

4. Once butter is fluffy, add in sugar and cream the two together until pale in colour and even fluffier.

5. Add in your eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Be patient and let each egg get completely mixed in before adding the next. Check on your tea steeping milk, if it is just room temperature at the point, add into the batter.

6. In another bowl, mix your dry ingredients and mix slowly into the batter. If you are using a stand mixer, use slow speed. If using hand mixer, doing it by hand at this point is not a bad idea.

7. Scoop the batter into your cupcake liners. This batter is quite thick so if you have one of those cool ice cream scoop that’d make life easier. Fill the liner to about 3/4 full. Bake in the oven for about 16-18 minutes, watch carefully. Stick a skewer into the cupcake, if it comes out clean, it is done!

Spice Swiss Meringue Buttercream: (recipe adapted from Serious Eats)

170g Egg Whites, from 5-6 Large Eggs
310g Granulated Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
3g Salt
565g Unsalted Butter, softened, cut into cubes
(spices to flavour half batch of this cream)
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Cardamom


1. In a heat proof bowl, pour in your sugar, egg white, vanilla and salt. Set it over a pan of simmering water (and ideally, your thermometer in the bowl) and slowly melt the sugar over the heat. You want the egg white syrup to end up at 85°c/185°f, but if you don’t have a thermometer, you can check if it is done by rubbing a bit of the mixture between your fingers. It is done when you cannot feel any sugar granules between your fingers. You want to whisk this mixture from time to time to ensure even temperature. But you don’t have to stare at it the whole time.

Meringue is so photogenic.

2. Once the syrup is ready, take it off the heat and start whisking at a high speed until you have nice glossy meringue with stiff peaks. If you are using a stand mixer, your bowl should be cool to the touch when this is ready. This is going to take some time so be patient!


3. Now, your room temperature and some more soft butter. While the mixer is still running, add the butter in. Small cube by small cube. Again, be very very patient. You want to add the butter in slowly.


4. Now at some point, your mixture is going to look like this gross, soupy cottage cheese texture. Do not be alarmed! It is how it should look. Continue to mix, do not stop mixing. It will eventually come together as a silky smooth cream. If it doesn’t come together, check out this troubleshooting link. There are many things that can go wrong, fortunately, most of them are salvageable.

5. Once your buttercream is ready, add in the spices and mix some more. Now, you won’t need all of the cream, you can probably divide the full batch in half and that will still be enough for all of the cupcakes. You can store the rest in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a week. Or, pop in a ziploc bag and freeze it. Either way, when you are ready to use it again bring it back to room temperature and re-whip it.


I brought these mini cakes into work and I thought I will pipe the buttercream at work. The buttercream broke while coming back to room temperature. As you can see in the above picture the cream is separating. If this happens, bring it back to a bowl and WHIP IT LIKE THERE IS NO TOMORROW. I had no mixer with me but thankfully a coworker was there to provide elbow grease. The cream came back together after a few minutes of vigorous whipping.  Just remember, it will come back, just keep at it.

And now, here is the aftermath of this cupcake adventure: this may be the most mess I have made… just for buttercream. >.>



When things happen, they happen pretty fast and there is no time to put stuff away! XD Now sit back, have a cup of tea and enjoy the fruits of your labour.


Quite worthwhile, I’d say.

5 thoughts on “Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

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