Nothing excites me more at this time of year than the first return into the pantry, or more importantly, the spice rack! All of my favourite sweet spices are back in my life again & it’s now totally acceptable for everything to taste of cinnamon (also for cosy socks to permanently be worn).
In my experience, nothing goes better with a sweetly spiced bake than a steaming hot beverage, in my case usually tea (no surprises there I’m sure!). Whilst during the lighter, warmer months I gravitate more towards an Earl Grey or Darjeeling, as soon as the weather turns a bit colder (literally the moment I feel a chill) my taste buds immediately gravitate towards the spicy comfort of a chai.
Historically chai tea was viewed as a herbal medicine as opposed to a pleasurable beverage in India. The heat from ginger & pepper stimulated digestion, cloves have antiseptic properties thought to help relieve pain, cardamom was used as a mood elevator & cinnamon supported circulation (bet you never thought of that when you last ordered a fancy latte).
The recipe or preparation for chai tea however, isn’t fixed. The spices (or masala) used in chai will vary regionally & culturally. Traditionally though, ginger, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon & black peppercorns were the dominant spices as all are readily available in India but many families will have their own version of this. These punchy spices are steeped alongside black tea leaves in a mixture of milk & hot water.
It was only a matter of time before I applied this exceptional mix of spices to my baking, making something to happily accompany my tea. This chai spice cake is everything that I love about my favourite autumn & winter beverage, it’s sweet, well rounded but with that little kick of fire from the ginger & black pepper. I’ve opted for the dark, toffee notes of dark brown sugar here along with & a glug strong, bitter of black treacle (molasses), all of which leads to a beautifully damp, moist sponge similar in nature to a gingerbread. This is comfort in a cake, almost a gingerbread but not quite, making it perfectly acceptable to make & eat in September!
CHAI SPICE CAKE
(makes one 2.5 litre/10 cup bundt)
- 170g butter
- 320g soft dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 170g treacle
- 225ml milk
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 3 tsp cardamom
- 2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 black pepper
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp clove
- Grease a large 2.5 ltr bundt tin
- First, in large bowl beat together the butter & sugar until light & pale
- Add the eggs to the bowl, one at a time, beating after each addition
- Place the milks, treacle & vanilla extract into a small jug or bowl & place in the microwave to warm for 30 seconds – 1 minute to melt the treacle & stir together
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate & spices
- Pour half of the milk mixture into the butter along with half of the dry ingredients & beat together until well combined
- Repeat until everything is in the same bowl & thoroughly combined, with no spots of dry flour remaining
- Pour into the prepared bundt tin and bake at 180C for 50- 55 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean without any crumbs attached
- Remove from the oven & allow the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before removing it & leaving to fully cool on a cooling rack