Birthday Cake Club : Chai Caramel Spice Cake
Celebrate November birthdays with a slice of chai frosted spice cake!
Hi Bakers! Happy November and welcome to the second installment of our Birthday Cake Club series. This series is dedicated to everyone celebrating their own or the birthday of a loved one during this super busy holiday season. With my baby due in December, I am determined to help make everyone’s birthday special - despite the time of year.
Be sure to share this month’s recipe with anyone celebrating a November birthday!
Each month, we will be baking and eating a new layer cake recipe. They won’t always be seasonal (those November birthday folks probably need a break from pumpkin cake - don’t you think?), but this warm and cozy Chai Caramel Spice Cake seemed perfect for this chilly month.
I was inspired by everyone’s favorite London Fog Cake from my first cookbook, Layered. It is by far the most popular recipe to come out of that book. It has layers of moist chocolate cake filled and frosted with an Earl Grey buttercream then drizzled with caramel sauce. It is so good! If you haven’t tried it yet, please do yourself a favor and find the recipe here.
I love how easily the Earl Grey tea adds loads of flavor to my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream, so switching it up with Chai felt like a winning idea. Chai translates to “tea.” What we typically find in the grocery store or at a coffee shop is spiced black tea. It is usually flavored with bold aromatics like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, star anise, and cloves. Sometimes chai may include black pepper as well.
This cake is super cozy and full of flavor. It has three layers of spice cake made tender with kefir yogurt, butter, and oil. Between the layers is crushed up shortbread cookies and thick caramel sauce. The star of the cake is truly the chai buttercream - I hope you like it as much as I do!
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2 ¼ cups (290 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice (or equivalent)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (275 g) packed brown sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) canola or grapeseed oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup (120 ml) molasses
⅔ cup (160 ml) plain kefir yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and mix on medium speed for an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy.
Add the oil and eggs. Stopping to scrape down the bowl every so often, keep mixing until the batter is smooth and homogenous, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the molasses and mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Add half of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined. Pour in the kefir and mix until it is absorbed. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth. The batter will be fairly thick.
Evenly distribute the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cakes from their pans and allow to cool completely before filling or frosting.
Chai Swiss Meringue Buttercream
2 cups + 2 tablespoons (480 g) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons loose leaf chai
4 large egg whites
1 ⅓ cups (265 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
Rough chop 1 cup of butter and place it in a medium saucepan. Melt the butter over medium heat. Turn the heat to low and add the chai. Continue to simmer the butter mixture for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the butter to cool and tea to steep for another 10 minutes.
Strain the infused butter with a mesh sieve. Press down on the tea to extract as much of the butter as possible. It is okay if a little bit of tea remains in the butter. Chill the butter in the refrigerator until it is the consistency of softened butter.
Meanwhile, allow the remaining butter to come to room temperature.
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together (by hand) until combined.
Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and place the bowl with the egg white mixture on top to create a double-boiler. Make sure that the water remains at a simmer and does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Stirring intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 160°F on a candy thermometer.
Carefully remove the bowl and place it on the stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form and the outside of the mixing bowl returns to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
With the mixer on low, add in the softened butter, a couple tablespoons at time, followed by the chai-infused butter. Once all of the butter has been added, stop the mixer and switch the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Mix the buttercream on medium speed until the butter is fully incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla bean paste and mix to combine. Decrease the speed to low and mix until silky and smooth, about 2 minutes.
Click here for tips and a video for how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
Place the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and gently swirl together to combine. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over high heat, without stirring. Cook until the bubbles begin to slow down and the sugar mixture turns a medium golden amber color.
Remove the caramel from the heat and very carefully whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up and steam, so use caution.
Add in the butter, salt, and vanilla bean paste and mix until combined.
Transfer the caramel to a heat-safe jar or container and allow to cool at room temperature. The caramel will thicken as it cools. Store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Learn how to frost the perfect cake!
1 cup shortbread cookies, chopped
Once the cakes have completely cooled, trim their tops with a long serrated knife until flat. Place a cup of chai buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a medium-large round tip and set aside.
Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on ½ cup of the chai buttercream with an offset spatula. Sprinkle on ½ cup of the shortbread crumbles, pressing down lightly to secure into the buttercream. Making sure not to get too close to the edges, swirl on a few spoonfuls of caramel sauce. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the top edge to ensure that the filling stays in place. Pipe a small dollop of buttercream in the center of the cake. This will help stick the cake layers together.
Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat. Place the remaining layer of cake on top and gently press down to secure. Check the sides of the cake and make sure they are straight.
Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of chai buttercream (use any buttercream left in the piping bag at this time). Chill the cake in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
After the crumb coat has set, smoothly frost the cake. Tint the remaining buttercream your color(s) of choice and decorate the top as desired.
I used a Wilton #4B piping tip to create the braided pattern around the top edge. I then used a smaller #32 star tip to pipe the inner rings of buttercream. Finish with sugar pearls, if you’d like!
Serve with an extra drizzle of caramel, if desired.
Serving and Storage:
Serve the cake at room temperature. It may be left out at room temperature overnight. Lightly cover leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Bring the cake back to room temperature before eating.
Store leftover caramel sauce in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Gently reheat in the microwave as needed.
If you don’t have pumpkin spice, you can make your own spice blend using cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and/or all spice. I would recommend 6 parts cinnamon, 4 parts cardamom and ginger, and 1 part cloves, nutmeg, and/or all spice.
I made this recipe using plain kefir yogurt. If you cannot find any, then you may substitute it with buttermilk. Both have similar amounts of acidity, fat, and flavor.
I recommend using loose leaf tea because the tea tends to be less fine than tea from a tea bag. If you don’t have loose leaf tea, infuse the butter with 4 chai tea bags (still in the bag) or cut open the bags and infuse as directed in the recipe. Use a fine mesh strainer to keep as much of the tea out of the butter as possible.
I used Walkers brand shortbread cookies, chopped up with a serrated knife. The cookie pieces should be no larger than an almond. Too big and it might be difficult to slice the cake.
For the buttercream, I used Americolor gel food coloring in shades of terracotta, red, and moss.