Chai Spiced Tea Cake

Chai Cake

Now that Autumn or Fall seems to have firmly set in (at least in the Southern Hemisphere), one of the most rewarding ways to warm the house is by baking something delicious in the oven. This chai spiced cake is everything you could ever want and more in a cake. The spices create a wonderful aroma while baking but the cake itself also rewards with its light simplicity. Perfect of course, with a cup of tea or coffee...

If you met Mr NQN and I you would know pretty quickly that I am the chatterbox while he is the quiet one. He may not even utter a single word during a night while I will not stop talking. But even sometimes his introversion surprises me.

Last year we came back from an Azamara cruise around the Mediterranean. We visited several different cities from Barcelona, Mahon, Palma de Mallorca, Monaco, Nice, Corsica, Florence, Livorno and Rome. I asked him which was his favourite. He pondered the question for about 30 seconds before he resolutely said, "Mahon", a town on the small island of Menorca.

I looked at him, surprised. "Mahon!? Out of everywhere that we went?" I exclaimed. I'm not disparaging Mahon, it is perfectly lovely but we just happened to visit the very Catholic town on a Sunday where everything but a handful of shops were closed and the only people we saw in the main area were fellow cruise guests!

Chai Cake

"Umm yeah," he mumbled. "But it was nice and quiet and there weren't too many people around," he said. I do love the fact that he is such a quiet, contemplative soul but it did make me giggle. I pictured his travel guide book - "An introvert's guides to Sundays around the world where you only see six people," whereas mine would be "Meet lots of colourful locals and go to their house for lunch."

He surprised me the other day too. I was sifting flour for this cake, a task that I just don't care for. So much so that I've broken a few sifter handles in my time in my rush to get it over and done with (don't ask, I'm not The Hulk, I promise!). But he said that he didn't mind sifting and it was a mindless activity and really rather soothing. I handed over the sifter to him and proceeded on to my other tasks. And that Dear Reader, is why we are married! Just kidding ;)

Anyway, this cake. This amazingly delicious, fragrant cake is a spiced chai cake with aromatic spices in the cake itself as well as the icing. The cake itself is soft and light but not overly sweet while the buttercream frosting provides the balance of sweetness and richness. It smells delicious while you are baking it but it is also temptingly good once baked. Another sort of odd bonus is the cake itself is not particularly high in fat because it is based on a chiffon cake recipe so if you make this without the buttercream dare I say that it is not too guilt making?

So tell me Dear Reader, what's your least favourite task in the kitchen? Mine is sifting and cleaning floors. And are you technically an introvert or extrovert? Is your partner or friends similar or the opposite?

Chai Cake

Chai Spiced Cake

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott/Not Quite Nigella

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup caster or superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 5 cloves, ground
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup strong black tea
  • 1/3 cup plain mildly flavoured oil (not olive oil)
  • 2 egg yolks (at room temperature)
  • 3 egg whites (at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup caster or superfine sugar

For frosting

  • 150g/5ozs butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups icing or powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus a tiny bit extra for sifting on top)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chai Cake

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 160C/320F and line a 18cm/7.2inch springform tin with baking parchment. Sift the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt from a height to aerate the mixture. In a jug, whisk the vanilla, tea, oil and egg yolks and mix with the flour mixture.

Chai Cake

Step 2 - In a clean mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add the extra 1/4 cup of sugar and whisk until you get stiff peaks - if you can tilt the bowl without the mixture moving then it is ready.

Chai Cake

Step 3 - Add a couple of spoonfuls of the egg white to the flour mixture to loosen it. Fold throughout and add the fluffy egg white in two or three batches until it is combined and there are no streaks. Scrape into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Step 4 - Attach the beater head to the mixer and beat the butter until smooth. On low speed (trust me, I did this on medium speed once and regretted it), add the sifted icing sugar and spices and beat until smooth. Remove cake from tin and spread the icing over the top. If you want to make the flower pattern, draw a circle around the edge with the tip of an angled spatula and then draw circles within it. Sift a little cinnamon on top and serve with a cup of tea or coffee. Or just eat it over the sink hungrily because it is so good.

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