Sunday Brunch: Chai Tea Cupcakes Recipe

Sunday Brunch

How to make the best meal of the week even better.

Sunday Brunch: Chai Tea Cupcakes Recipe

[Photo: Robin Bellinger]

I know it is probably sacrilegious to talk about Valentine's Day on the morning of that big football game—but this time next week, it will be almost too late to make something special. And how many other days can you get away with cupcakes at brunch?

Actually, you can skip the icing, call them spice muffins, and enjoy these chai tea cupcakes any time, as far as I'm concerned. The recipe was written for mini-muffin tins, and if you do use the icing, you'll get the best ratio with the mini version. I have standard-size tins only, but I was still very happy with my cakelets. Buttercreams are usually too buttery for me, but I liked this silky condensed-milk icing—which is meant to mimic the sweetener in traditional chai—and I look forward to trying it on other cakes. (Although I usually stay away from food coloring, I couldn't resist dying this icing pink; you may prefer its natural color.)

Chai tea cupcakes would make a lovely dessert for any winter brunch or a super-indulgent breakfast in bed on a lovey-dovey day.

  • Yield:12 standard or 46 mini cupcakes


  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 bags black tea
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour (not self rising), sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (I left out)
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • Condensed-Milk Icing
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted


  1. 1.

    Preheat oven to 350°. Line tins with paper liners. Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add tea bags, and let steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing them over the pan, and discard. Allow milk to cool completely.

  2. 2.

    Whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt, pepper, and spices. (I do not keep cake flour around, and so replaced the cake flour called for with 7/8 cup all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch.)

  3. 3.

    Cream butter and brown sugar until lightened in color and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with two additions of tea-infused milk and beating until just combined after each.

  4. 4.

    Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until tops are pale golden and spring back when lightly touched, 10 to 12 minutes for mini cupcakes, 15 to 18 minutes for standard-size cupcakes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. Cupcakes can be frozen up to 1 month in airtight containers.

  5. 5.

    To finish, dip top of each cupcake in icing, then turn over quickly and let set. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are glazed; keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

  6. 6.

    Condensed-Milk Icing: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together butter, condensed milk, and salt until smooth. Add 2 or 3 drops of red food coloring if you want pink icing. Whisk in confectioners' sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until combined, then whisk on high speed until thick and smooth. Use immediately.