Maple chai bundt cake with chai glaze dripping down the sides is about as autumnal as you can get. Strong chai spices and maple syrup combine in this cozy cake.
Fall isn’t fall without the aromas of spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and ginger. Chai spice is not necessarily a fall set of spices. Chai has clove, yes, but also cardamom and black pepper. These last two are not usually associated with fall, at least in the western mind. Still, once you bake this cake, the smells from your oven will convert you to chai spice for the rest of your autumn baking years. This is my go to cake for fall spice cake.
The first thing to do is steep some chai tea in boiling water. What you want is a dark thick tea concentrate. Start with about 1 cup of water and a lot of tea bags- 10 to be exact. Once you steep the tea bags for 10 minutes, you then return the whole thing to a high heat and reduce the liquid down by half. What you get is super intensely flavored and almost bitter. But, trust me, it will make the cake so delicious.
After you’ve got your concentrate, you want to make a basic cake batter, with a few spices added in. Cake is usually made in three parts- butter/egg/sugar mixture, dry ingredients, and wet ingredients.
For the butter mixture, it is crucial to have softened room temperature butter. In a mixer, beat the soft butter with sugar until it is very pale and the sugar has been dissolved into the butter. Add eggs and beat them until pale. Then add whatever flavorings you are using. In this recipe, there is a little vanilla and maple syrup for flavorings.
While the butter mixture is beating- beat it for a while, something like 10 minutes to get it light and airy- Mix up the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as cardamom, ground cloves, and ground black pepper. Why use both baking soda and baking powder? This recipe calls for buttermilk, which is acidic. Have you ever watched what happens when you add vinegar to baking soda- like maybe that volcano school project your kid did once? The reaction is immediate, bubbling and foaming. When you combine baking soda to acidic buttermilk you get that expansion that is necessary to get a great baking rise. But, it is a short-lived reaction so the baking powder is necessary to sustain that through the baking process.
Also a note on the ground black pepper. This is one of the few times I use pre-ground pepper versus what I grind from whole peppercorn. It is finer and for cake I think it’s nice to have the flavor without crunching down on a piece of peppercorn that didn’t quite get ground fully. Not a great dessert experience.
For the wet ingredients, pour equal amounts of buttermilk and heavy cream into a pourable cup like a measuring cup big enough to hold all the wet ingredients. To this, add sour cream and part of the concentrated tea. You’ll use the rest in the glaze. Using a fork or small whisk, gently beat this mixture until the sour cream is well incorporated.
Now, let’s put it all together!
Mixing cake batter is tricky. The more you beat it, the more the gluten is activated and the more dense your cake can become. In order to keep a cake light and fluffy, it is important not to overwork it.
The best way is to add the dry and wet ingredients alternately, and only beat until each part is just combined. I have found that if I start my mixer on very low and gradually, over the course of 5 seconds or so, increase the speed, and then abruptly stop when it look just mixed in.
With the mixer off, begin by pouring in 1/4 of the wet ingredients into the butter mixture. Mix that into the butter mixture. Then 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
Next 1/3 of the remaining wet ingredients, then 1/2 of the remaining dry ingredients.
Almost there- 1/2 of the remaining wet ingredients and the remainder of the dry ingredients.
Finally, add the remaining wet ingredients in. Now is the time to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and do a rapid medium high speed mix for about 5 seconds.
This is all very specific but by following this scheme, your cakes will always be light and lovely.
All that is left is to spoon the batter into the prepared bundt cake tin.
And, yes, I have a specific trick for getting a light and moist cake out of a bundt mold.My daughter suggested this method and it has never failed. It begins by brushing melted butter on the insides of the bundt pan, making sure to coat every nook and cranny but not to leave any pools of butter. Then flour the pan, just as you would a regular cake pan. While I know that some people have success with sprays, I find even sprays can’t keep a soft cake from sticking to a bundt cake pan.
Bake the cake at 350° for about 45-60 minutes, depending on your oven. You want the cake near the center to spring back when you touch it.
Let it cool and then turn it out onto a cooling rack.
Time to add the finishing touch.
The glaze is super easy. Again, use a measuring cup, mix powder sugar with a little of the tea concentrate, pumped up with a bit more cardamom, clove and pepper, and some vanilla. You want this fairly thick but pourable.
Carefully pour the glaze onto the center of the cake ring so that it will drip down each side.
The texture of this cake is like a cloud yet packed with flavor. A delicious fall cake!
Maple Chai Cake with Chai Glaze
- 9-10" bundt pan
- small saucepan
- stand or hand mixer
- large measuring cup or other vessel with pour spout
Chai tea concentrate
- 10 chai tea bags
- 1 cup water
Maple Chai Cake
- 11 tbsp butter room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground clove
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup chai tea concentrate
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tbsp chai tea concentrate
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- pinch ground black pepper
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Chai tea concentrate
- Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Place tea bags into water, making sure they are all submerged. Steep for 10 minutes.
- Remove bags and squeeze out as much liquid as possible without breaking the tea bags.
- Return pan to heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
Maple chai cake
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Prepare bundt pan by brushing melted butter onto the interior of the pan, taking care to get into all crevices with the butter but leave no pooling butter anywhere in the pan. Dust with flour and set aside.
- Add softened room temperature butter to the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl if using a hand mixer). Add sugar and beat for 10 minutes on a medium speed.
- Meanwhile, prepare your wet and dry ingredients. For dry ingredients, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cardamom, clove and black pepper together into a separate bowl. Set aside.
- For the wet ingredients, combine buttermilk, heavy cream, sour cream and 1/4 cup chai tea concentrate in a large measuring cup. Set aside.
- After the butter and sugar have combined, add eggs, one at a time. Beat well for several minutes.
- Add vanilla and maple syrup to the butter mixture and combine well.
- Begin adding wet and dry ingredients alternately, beginning and ending with wet ingredients.
- With mixer off, add 1/4 of the liquid to the butter mixture. Just combine, then add 1/3 of the dry ingredient. Start with a low speed on mixer and over a few seconds gradually increase speed until just combined and immediately shut mixer off. Do this after every addition.
- Continue by adding 1/3 of liquid, then 1/2 dry, then 1/2 liquid, remaing dry and finally remaining liquid.
- After final addition, scrape down sides of bowl and then give one more rapid whip for a few seconds. Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes. Set initial timer for 45 minutes and check cake every 5 minutes after until the center of cake springs back to the touch.
- Cool in pan for 30 minutes then turn onto a cooling rack.
- Add the ground spices to the remaining tea concentrate. Stir well.
- Combine powdered sugar, tea concentrate and vanilla in a large measuring cup with pour spout. You want a thick but pourable consistency. Add more sugar or water as necessary to achieve that.
- Pour over the center of the cake ring so that the glaze drips down both sides.
- Transfer cake to a cake plate or other serving platter.