Vanilla chai white velvet cakes

(Again, sorry for the complete lack of updates recently. I’m coming up to one of the sets of assessment for my PhD so I’m just not baking much, or I’m just making not particularly photogenic things like tremendous amounts of felafel. However I do promise to get around to sharing my recipe for the dealing-with-stress-and-large-amounts-of-work culinary coping device that I pretend is brain food but is really just an ungodly number of ingredients thrown together with the wide-eyed fervour of a brilliant madman.)

The never-ending quest to transform red velvet into as many formats as possible has branched out in a new direction — not red, just velvet. Same fantastic texture, no longer limited by that oh-so-passé red colour and cocoa-vanilla flavour…

… I’m sorry, red velvet, I take that back. I didn’t mean to call you passé, what I really meant was avant garde, nouvelle vague, other appropriated French phrases, etc.

Spiced vanilla white velvet cupcakes

170g butter, softened
450g sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs lukewarm water
380g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tbs white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment until fluffy and light (about 5-10 minutes). Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each one. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary. Add the vanilla, salt and lukewarm water and mix well.

Sift the flour, mixed spice and baking powder into a bowl. Add about 1/3 of this dry ingredient mixture into the mixture in the electric beater’s bowl and start beating, then slowly add about 1/3 of the buttermilk while the mixer is running. Add the next third of the dry ingredients and beat, followed by the next third of the buttermilk as before, and then repeat for the last time. Once the mixture is well combined, get a small bowl and put the bicarbonate of soda in it, then add the vinegar and whisk with a fork to make sure any lumps dissolve. Add this into the cake mixture and beat on medium speed for about 10 seconds.

Spoon the mixture into miniature cupcake papers lining the holes of a miniature cupcake pan, then bake for 8-10 minutes. Put a cake tester or skewer into one of the cakes to check if it’s done — the skewer should come out clean. If you’re making normal sized cupcakes, they take about 13-15 minutes. Once out of the oven, leave the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes (they’re very delicate when still hot) then carefully remove them onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Chai buttercream icing

100g butter, softened
500g icing mixture*, sifted
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp cardamom**
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

*i.e. powdered/icing/confectioner’s sugar mixed with cornflour to prevent clumping, just in case it goes by a completely different name in your part of the world.
**I never really realised how important cardamom is to the whole chai flavour until I started researching the relative quantities of the spices in chai. There you go. Don’t skimp on the cardamom.

Mix all the spices together in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment until pale and fluffy. Add half of the icing mixture and beat thoroughly, remembering to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the milk and vanilla paste and beat again until an even consistency. Add the rest of the icing mixture and beat very thoroughly again, on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Finally, add the spices in and beat until they’re evenly distributed.

This recipe makes enough buttercream icing to spread about half a centimetre thick over the cupcakes. I find buttercream to be incredibly sweet (kind of unavoidable when it’s basically just butter and sugar) so I usually don’t put much on the cakes if I’m using it (it’s a completely different story if I’m doing something less sweet like a cream cheese icing; I’ll pile that junk on). If you’re better at handling extremely sweet things, you can double the ingredient quantities and that will make enough to allow you to be more fancy with the icing, piping it on with nozzles or whatever.

Dust some mixed spice over the top of the icing and it’s done.

  17 comments for “Vanilla chai white velvet cakes

  1. July 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I’m definitely hanging out for that madwoman recipe of yours, seeing as I’m about to embark on the same hectic PhD lifestyle as you’re currently embedded in! For the meantime, though, I’m happy poring over these images. I do adore spices in sweet things :)

    • Jess
      July 26, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      “I can have enormous bowls of oatmeal topped with ungodly amounts of almond butter, maple syrup, and 85% dark chocolate for both breakfast and lunch if I want to.” — Let’s just say you’re on the right track for something akin to my madwoman recipe…

      Note to self: Get hold of almond butter.

  2. July 26, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Good luck on your assessments!! I’ve been through all of that, so I know how you feel. These cupcakes look amazing. I’m bookmarking this recipe.

    • Jess
      July 26, 2010 at 10:11 pm

      Thank you! I’m reasonably confident about this assessment (kind of out of character for me, I should be cripplingly plagued by self-doubt as per usual!) but I’d still like to have it over and done with. Let me know how you go if you get around to making this recipe.

  3. July 26, 2010 at 7:39 am

    These are SO pretty and I love all of the spice goodness!!! yum!

    • Jess
      July 26, 2010 at 10:11 pm


  4. July 26, 2010 at 9:08 am

    want. to. try. these.
    and your yuzu tart and chocolate + orange combination.

    • Jess
      July 26, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      I am so going to make this chocolate & orange thing work for you, Hel, you will be horrified at how you could have gone so long without it in your life! ;) When I get you over for yuzu tart and Otto, I will make sure something of the chocolate & orange persuasion is also available for your conversion to its gustatory brilliance.

  5. July 26, 2010 at 10:10 am

    These look and sound wonderful. I can’t wait to make my own version as I love chai!!!!

    Good luck with your assessments too :) I am sure you will do wonderfully.

    • Jess
      July 26, 2010 at 10:14 pm

      I can’t believe how long it has taken me to incorporate chai into my baking — I’ve been a fan for a very long time and I shouldn’t have neglected it this long!

  6. July 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    These look delicious – so fluffy and white and pristine.

  7. July 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Being as how I am much more of a vanilla person anyway…I would much appreciate some white velvet in my life! These look fantabulastic.

    Good luck with your assessment! Oy PhD’s…

  8. July 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    oh goodness…chai…i’m sure those tasted every bit as good as they look! i’ll need to try this white velvet recipe…i’ve always been leery of all that coloring in the red version.

  9. September 20, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Hi Jess! I’m thinking about making these sometime and was wondering if you could tell me how many mini cupcakes this recipe makes? Also, do you think it would work as regular-size cupcakes? If so, any idea how many that would be? Thanks a bunch!

    • Jess
      September 20, 2010 at 8:26 am

      Hey Xiaolu, yeah, sorry I didn’t include the number of cakes it makes! I always seem to forget to mention that. I think it makes about 40 mini cupcakes. These definitely work as regular-sized cupcakes as well — the basic red velvet recipe I base all my other velvet recipes on works in any size or shape I’ve tried. On the occasions that I’ve used the basic recipe to make regular-sized cupcakes, it usually makes about 16-20, depending on how full you fill the cups, so it would be the same for this one.

  10. Tiffany
    November 11, 2010 at 4:46 am

    These sound sooo delicious!! It combines three of my favorite things; red velvet, vanilla and chai. I am definitely adding this to my list of things to bake!!!

    I have one (probably stupid) question though; when you say “2 tsp mixed spice”, what kind of spices are you referring to??? Chai spices, or …. ??

    • Jess
      November 11, 2010 at 8:32 am

      I’m glad you like the recipe. :) Mixed spice is the name of a British spice combination that contains cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and allspice. So it’s similar to a chai spice mix but with different ratios for each spice and no cardamom. I just used mixed spice because it’s easy to buy pre-made here, but if you can’t get it, you can just use chai spices. If you’re in North America, I think the closest thing you have to mixed spice is pumpkin pie spice, so you could also use that instead.

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