Chocolate Chai Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

chocolate chai cake cream cheese frosting

Mm, chai tea, how are you so delicious? Warm in a mug or cool in a iced concoction, loaded with spices, sweetened up with sugar, creamed to perfection with milk… you are the stuff of dreams. Of hot sticky summer days and bitterly cold winter afternoons. Of quick escapes from the lab with friends, dashing to our favorite local coffee shop. Of fond memories and future adventures. You make my heart smile.

chocolate chai cake cream cheese frosting slice view

While I can’t say I’d eat this cake as often as I drink chai tea (but, HELLO: check out this epic guide for making your own chai tea!), I will say that this cake is incredible. Spicy and sweet, the subtle chocolate flavor is mostly lost to the warm, fall-flavored spices. Trust me when I say you won’t mind. My favorite part is the drool-worthy cinnamon cream cheese frosting, though, and this recipe will leave you with about a cup of extra frosting that is a perfect spread for graham crackers. This cake would be ideal for any fall or winter celebration (cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger are the stars of cold weather) as a unique alternate to pumpkin, gingerbread, etc. treats. Your guests will love you for sure!

Check out all those flecks of cinnamon in the frosting, and dusting the top! These are the little things that make life special.

Check out all those flecks of cinnamon in the frosting, and dusting the top! These are the little things that make life special.

This recipe comes from What Megan’s Making. She adapted a Taste of Home recipe for chocolate chai mini loaves and turned it into cupcakes. Brilliant! I doubled her ingredients and made it into this delicious cake. I’m pretty sure that however you choose to eat this, you’ll agree: masala chai spices are fantastic in baked goods!

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CHOCOLATE CHAI CAKE

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup water

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups brown sugar
, packed

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup sour cream

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CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 tsp. vanilla extract

5 cups powdered sugar

Cinnamon, to taste

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Make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by greasing the bottoms and sides, cutting out circles of parchment or wax paper and lining the bottoms of the pans, and then greasing the paper tops. Set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Melt the chocolate and water together in a microwave; stir until smooth. Cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then chocolate mixture. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, alternating with the sour cream.

4. Divide the cake batter evenly between the three pans. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes (rotate halfway through) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting:

1. Beat together the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and well-mixed, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until completely incorporated.

2. Keep the mixer running while you sprinkle in cinnamon. Sample periodically and stop adding cinnamon when you can see flecks throughout and it tastes good. I probably added about a teaspoon when it was all said and done.

Assemble the cake:

1. Prepare your cake plate by placing small strips of wax paper in a circle about the size of your cake (this will catch the frosting spills and keep your plate looking pretty).

2. If necessary, use a serrated knife to level off the rounded tops of each cake. Place one of the cake rounds on the wax paper circle (the wax paper should be partially under the cake), with the serrated side facing up. Put a generous amount of frosting on top and smooth it out to an even layer. Put a second cake round on top and spread more frosting on generously; place the final cake round bottom-up so the top is smooth.

3. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the sides and top of the cake. This is called a “crumb coat” and will effectively seal in all the crumbs, so when we frost “for real” later, it’ll look magnifique! Put the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes.

4. Remove the cake and frost with generous scoops of frosting, spreading it all over the sides and top. Leftover frosting (I had about a cup) can be eaten with a spoon or used as a dip for graham crackers, pretzels, etc. If you want, carefully sprinkle cinnamon on top of your cake for decoration.

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chai tea cake chocolate cream cheese frosting top

That’s it! All the flavors of chai tea wrapped up in one marvelous cake and perfectly paired with the best cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Your house will smell incredible, your taste buds will thank you, your guests will compliment, and you will beam!

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Simple Birthday Bliss: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

yellow butter cake chocolate frosting

When I sat down on the bus this morning with this cake in my lap, two young girls behind me (around 9 or 10 years old) whispered to each other, “That’s a yummy-looking cake!” I smiled, turned around, and said, “I made it for my friend’s birthday! It’s a yellow cake with chocolate frosting!” They grinned at me and started chattering away. One of the girls, a cutie with chin-length brown hair and a smattering of freckles, told me about the desserts she’s made with her mom: a yellow cake, a chocolate cake, and chocolate chip cookies with strawberries (um, what?!). I told her I had never added strawberries to my cookies before, but that I would give it a try, and she lit up at that idea. She then offered, “You wanna know the secret to the best cakes and cookies no matter what?” She leaned closer to me conspiratorially and announced, “Lemon and vanilla! You just add lemon and vanilla to everything, even if it doesn’t call for it. That’s the way you get the best cakes!” I asked her a few more questions about this surprising secret, then turned to her friend who had been mostly silent up until now. This adorable girl, with curly blonde hair and petite glasses framing her big eyes, excitedly shared that her mom was “a CHEF!!” and could make “everything – cakes, pastries, cookies, pies, and lots of other things!” We chatted about her mom’s talents for a bit, and then another girl of about 16 or 17 years (I believe she was working the summer camp that these two were part of) chimed in that she had “made a chocolate cake with beets, and you couldn’t even taste the beets, it was just really moist and dense and awesome!” And just like that, the four of us were having a conversation – on a bus – about everything. The summer camp they were a part of, the languages they spoke, how I’m an engineer for work and baker by hobby, the best desserts we’ve ever had… My favorite part of all of this was how obvious it was that the preparation and eating of food had formed bonds, inspired admiration, and caused excitement in these girls’ lives. How happy they were, and how comfortable it was, to have a conversation with a stranger on the bus, all because of a cake!

And the thing is, this isn’t even the first time I’ve had people comment on my desserts. It’s nearly impossible to make the trek from apartment to work without having at least one random person comment on or joke about whatever I’m carrying. “Is that for me?” “How thoughtful – you knew it was my birthday!” “What kind of cake is that?” “Oh wow, that looks delicious!” “You’re going to share with me, right?” “What’s that for?” “Did you make that?” “I should probably taste test that for you…” “I’m so jealous of whoever gets that!” Clearly, there’s something about desserts that allows people to let down their guard and interact. Something that tips them off that it’s okay to talk, that no one’s going to look at them strangely or brush them off or turn away if they strike up a conversation. This is the power of cake. It makes strangers into friends, if only for the duration of a morning commute. And I love it.

 yellow white cake chocolate frosting

This cake is a very simple, traditional yellow cake with chocolate frosting per request for Anthony’s birthday. Well, actually, he originally requested a “life-size castle cake” that he “could walk into,” but alas, that was not to be. Maybe when he graduates… Can you even imagine how much flour, sugar, butter, eggs, etc. you’d go through to make that?! Not to mention all the structural issues inherent in making walls and roofing out of cake. There would have to be lots of reinforcement (boards? wood? poles??) and “glue” (some super strong frosting?). I’m not quite up for that challenge, yet! Simple and classic it had to be.

I found recipes on both Smitten Kitchen and Annie’s Eats that looked promising, and ended up going with Annie’s mostly because I had all the ingredients on hand. Just a few slight adjustments to try and make it extra moist, and I ended up with a nice medium-density: not too fluffy but definitely not heavy. The frosting was chocolatey, airy, and practically melting off the sides – I decorated this morning, so I never refrigerated it. Luckily, this “rustic” style of decorating (large swirly swoops of frosting) lent itself well for touching up melting sides. If you make this, keep it out of the sun and/or refrigerate it (although in the comments on Annie’s page, people mentioned issues where the frosting hardened too much in the refrigerator and wouldn’t soften even after it had been out for a while). As for the taste, it’s good but not great: it’s a classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Hard to mess up, hard to fall in love with. At least in my, make-it-as-rich-as-possible mindset. Still, for what it is, it’s pretty delicious.

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YELLOW CAKE

Recipe slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated.

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pans

1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans

2 cups cake flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 cups granulated white sugar

4 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

1 cup milk

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CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Recipe slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Baking Illustrated.

1 lb. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

6 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder

6 tbsp. boiling water

3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

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Make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour the edges of the pans, tapping out the excess; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk together and set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk. Beat each addition just until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently.

4. Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool ~20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans to help remove the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the rack and peel off the parchment. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:

1. Place the chocolate in a plastic, microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir well until the chocolate has melted and is smooth; you may need to microwave for additional 10-15 second bursts, stirring each time. Set aside and let cool to room temperature, about 25-30 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and boiling water; stir until the cocoa is dissolved and then set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the room-temperature melted chocolate; beat on low speed until combined, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well blended. You may need to let it cool longer before using it to frost if it’s too runny at this point.

Assemble the cake:

1. Place one of the cake layers on a serving platter. Top with 1 cup of the chocolate frosting and smooth over the top of the cake.

2. Top with the second cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting as desired (I had some left over). And of course, decorate with sprinkles if you like happiness!

This is best if served the same day, but you can also keep it refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days. Let the cake come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

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chocolate frosting sprinkles cake decorating