Cupcakes are festive, don’t you think? Besides being portable, and in handy single serving sizes – they just have “party” written all over them. Especially when topped with colored sprinkles and all decked out with cute wrappers and animal shaped toppers (see below). The best thing about cupcakes – at least from the standpoint of me, the laziest baker around – is that it takes very little effort to dress them up. Pipe on the frosting instead of spreading it on and you go from home-baked to practically professional in the wink of an eye! And, shhhhhh, don’t tell – piping is way faster! Sometimes I think I should do a Lazy Baker class for moms and show them how easy it is to look like a pro and not waste a lick of energy. But then I get too lazy to set up the class, and there goes another idea down the drain . . .
I came up with this recipe about 10 years ago, when chai tea was the end-all-be-all of beverages (at least here in Portland). It is the perfect pairing with chocolate, with just enough spice to be interesting but not enough to overwhelm. Even people who’ve only met me once, years ago at some random party, remember me for these cupcakes!
My other secret? You can shortcut the making of this cake by using a box mix (don’t be a hater). Buy any chocolate variety of cake mix, substitute the prepared chai for the water, and you’re good to go. I won’t tell if you don’t! Just don’t use a purchased frosting. I beg you. You’ll thank me later, because you will LOVE the frosting for these babies–it has all the wonderful rich taste of a cream cheese frosting, but with a light as air fluffiness that melts like butter in your mouth. Absolute heaven.
The finished cupcakes, above, are decked out with paper wrappers and animal themed paper toppers that I found at Michael’s Crafts. Again, a quick and easy shortcut to make simple things look simply fabulous!
Chocolate Chai Cake
- 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1-2/3 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup cocoa
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1-1/4 cups prepared chai (such as Oregon Chai)
- 1-1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare standard cupcake tins with paper liners for 24 cupcakes. Beat all ingredients on low speed in a mixer for 30 seconds. Scrape bowl, then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Portion into prepared cupcake tins, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a center cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 3 Tbsp butter, softened
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla OR 1/2 tsp almond extract
In a clean, dry mixer bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Remove and set aside. In the same mixer bowl with a blade attachment, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar, beating well, until you reach your desired sweetness and/or consistency (keep in mind the frosting will be less sweet, and softer, once the whipped cream is incorporated). Add vanilla or almond flavoring and mix well. Carefully fold in whipped cream by hand, mixing gently until completely incorporated. Chill frosting to get a firmer consistency for piping, or use immediately. Cupcakes or cakes with this frosting should be stored in the refrigerator.