Masala Chai Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting

Chai in all forms means pure comfort to me. So, when all the spices and flavors of masala chai are thrown into a cupcake and topped with a caramel-y, creamy brown buttery buttercream - I'm hooked. Gluten free, easily dairy free, these cupcakes are a real showstopper for this time of year.

I've always loved desserts that are packed with warm spices. I love the taste, the comfort, and the memories brought with it. Chai is one of my favorite blends of spices, and I especially love the clove and cardamom in it. It's sweet, nutty, a bit toasty, and a touch spicy. They're all comforting flavors added into the same melting pot, and I'm always down for a sip of chai.

This cupcake is a beautiful one, and it's a celebration of all the flavors and spices that make up a classic masala chai. Warm, comforting, and so delicious. This cupcake is infused with spices and black tea flavor, by steeping the tea in milk. It's a fabulous cupcake for any event, celebration, or everyday.

What is Chai and Masala Chai?

Chai and Masala Chai are very popular beverages in Southeast Asia, and specifically India. 

Chai is a beverage consisting of black tea steeped in water and milk and sweetened with sugar, honey, or another sweetener. The addition of spices and aromatic herbs transforms regular Chai into Masala Chai. 

Masala in Hindi means "spice," and Chai means "tea." In India and surrounding countries, preparing chai is simply how tea is prepared. When spices are involved it becomes Masala Chai, or "spiced tea." So, instead of calling it chai tea or chai tea latte - it's just chai. Otherwise, we're calling it "tea tea." 

Each family has their own specific way for preparing chai and for their specific masala chai additions, but most chai contains a mixture of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom pods, star anise, fresh ginger, and peppercorns.

Ingredients You'll Need for Masala Chai Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting

For the Masala Chai Spice:

- Cinnamon, ground

- Ginger, ground

- Cardamom, ground

- Nutmeg, ground

- Allspice, ground

- Cloves, ground

- Black Pepper, ground

For the Masala Chai Cupcakes:

- Whole Milk

- Tea Bags of Masala Chai: You can use black tea, if you don't have this on hand.

- Unsalted Butter, softened

- Granulated Sugar

- Eggs, room temperature

- Vanilla Extract

- Sour Cream or Plain Greek Yogurt

- Gluten Free Flour (without xanthan gum) or All Purpose Flour

- Xanthan Gum

- Baking Powder

- Baking Soda

- Kosher Salt

- Masala Chai Spice Mix (see recipe below)

How to Make Masala Chai Cupcakes

  1. For the Masala Chai Spice Mix: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and black pepper. Set aside 3 teaspoons for the cake batter.
  2. For the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F and line 24 cupcake molds with paper liners.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, remove from heat, add the tea bags, cover, and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Remove tea bags and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in between. 
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spice mix)and stir. Add ⅓ of the dry ingredients into the batter, mix until almost incorporated.
  6. Add in the sour cream and vanilla, mix until almost incorporated. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients and mix. Add the chai steeped milk and mix. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined. Let batter rest for 5 minutes to let the flours hydrate.
  7. Divide and scoop batter into the lined cupcake pan and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the tops are set and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Make 1 recipe of this Easy Brown Butter Buttercream or other buttercream of your choice. Frost the cupcakes and enjoy! Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Other Cakes & Cupcakes to Whip Up

  • One of the best cakes (in my opinion) is a good ole’ chocolate cake. So, for the other gluten free girlies like me, I have the perfect one. Whether you’re wanting to dress it up or dress it down to make a classic slice of cake, this recipe is for you. This Gluten Free Chocolate Cake is perfect for a layer cake, sheet cake, or cupcake. And, I presented it on Food Network’s Halloween Wars (Season 12), and the judges could not get over the fact that it was gluten free. Best feeling ever.

  • An elevated version of a classic, delicious cake is this Almond Sourdough Cake with milk chocolate French buttercream, tart raspberry jam, and toasted almonds. It’s sweet, nutty, zesty, rich, and balanced for a perfect bite. Plus, I got to share it on Food Network, too. So, that’s sweet.
  • This Masala Chai Cupcake is fabulous with the Brown Butter Buttercream, but just imagine it with a swirl of Brandy Italian Buttercream. It's more delicious than one could ever imagine. The slow cooking of the brandy in the sugar syrup brings out so many flavors that I didn't know brandy even had. It's fruity, floral, nutty, and a little dried-fruity. Most of the alcohol cooks out, but there's an option of adding more in towards the end of the whipping process. Choose your fate. But, either way.. it's a tasty one.

  • Churros are acceptable and very welcome for any holiday in my house. Plus, I’m always craving the familiar flavors of churros with my favorite dipping sauces. My Cinnamon Churro Cake from Food Network’s Halloween Wars will still forever be one of the cakes I’m most proud of curating. It’s sweet, tangy, spicy, and delightful.

made the recipe?

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