It's about that time of year again! The cooler and crisper the air, the warmer and more spice-filled my desserts. Cinnamon and pumpkin spice have been reigning as the King and Queen of Fall for some time now, but one of my personal favorite combinations is the mix of spices found in masala chai. These flavors seem to embody fall to me, and they pair perfectly with sweet potatoes in these cupcakes.
Spices are one thing, but this recipe also stars a delicious orange vegetable: the sweet potato. This adds extra moisture to these cupcakes and even makes us feel like we are being a little healthier (despite the sugary frosting).
Chai flavors are added at every stage of this recipe. Cracked cardamom pods, whole cloves, and a spicy cinnamon stick are combined with bags of chai to make a simple syrup, which is then used in both the cupcakes and the frosting. These chai flavors are also mirrored in the dry spices added to the cupcake batter — even more spicy warmth. I love the subtle black tea flavor in the frosting. It's definitely what makes these cupcakes stand out above the rest.
These cupcakes are sweet and spicy. The only way they could possibly be more delicious is if you eat them while wearing boots and a scarf.
Chai Sweet Potato Cupcakes
For the chai syrup:
1 cup water
6 tablespoons sugar
4 bags chai
4 cracked cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons chai syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups puréed cooked sweet potato (or a 15-ounce can sweet potato or pumpkin puree), see Recipe Note
For the frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons chai syrup, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon (ground) for dusting the tops
To make the chai syrup, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, and cardamom pods in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium until mixture starts to bubble and sugar dissolves. Add in the tea bags, and simmer over low heat until the mixture has reduced to about 1/3 to 1/2 cup and become syrupy. Removed from heat and discard cinnamon, cardamom, and tea bags. Cool before using.
To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 12-cup cupcake tins with liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugars and grape seed oil. Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed. Turn mixer to low, and add in the eggs, chai syrup, and vanilla. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients in two batches. Mix until just combined. Stir in the pureed sweet potato with a spatula.
Divide mixture between all the wells in the cupcake tins. Do not fill each cupcake liner more than 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked into a cupcake. Rotate the halfway through. Cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the remaining ingredients, adding more powdered sugar for a thicker frosting and more Chai Syrup for sweetness and flavor. Once combined to your liking, turn the mixer up to medium and mix for a couple minutes until smooth and fluffy.
To assemble, transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a star or round tip, and pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes. Alternatively, spread the frosting on the cupcakes with an off-set spatula. Dust with a pinch of cinnamon.
- For the sweet potato purée: You will need about two small- to medium-sized sweet potatoes to make two cups of purée. Peel, dice, and boil the sweet potato until very soft. Mash well with a potato masher or purée with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Alternatively, use canned sweet potato purée.
- Depending on how much frosting you like per cupcake and how high you swirl, you may need to multiply the frosting recipe by 1.5.
- The chai syrup by itself with be strong and fairly bitter. If you have leftovers, try mixing it with some hot water and a splash of milk to make a chai latte.
- The whole spices in the syrup enhance the flavors. If you don't have them on hand, you can certainly still make the syrup with just the tea. Consider them optional.