So far this month, I’ve been doing the best to get you all into a lovely festive baking mood – mince pie variants, gingerbread houses, and wee treats to share with friends and family (in the hope that they might share some back!) I will admit happily that these are by no means seasonal fare as I’ve been making these year round, whether for a summer wedding in Kent, or yesterday, for a friend’s Christmas do. Yet the fact that they aren’t seasonal or traditional in any way makes me want to serve them up as festive treats even more – they are different enough not to get the ‘if I see another mince pie I’ll scream’ syndrome, but the chai spice flavour and copious amounts of vanilla buttercream go a long way to filling people with cheer.
One of the reasons that I keep making these is that they are simply a brilliant and slightly unusual flavour. Chai tea bags are brewed in warm milk, with cloves and cardamom bringing out the real depth of flavour, alongside the classics of cinnamon and ginger. I can’t hide the fact that vanilla buttercream deserves its status as a classic and a favourite, and the sweetness of the vanilla and sugar pairs so well with the depth of the spice. They may not be the most attractive of cupcakes, but they are easy to decorate either in a more classy way, or my own time-rushed homemade aesthetic preference.
The gingerbread people are for an added festive touch, made with the smallest size I could find, which proved annoyingly delicate. I debated icing them with faces and buttons, but general consensus was that this would be too creepy. Especially when they are all lined up like that….their eyes might follow you round the room. I’d really recommend dipping these in tea before eating them, mainly because I don’t want to be responsible for anyone breaking their teeth, but also because, like most biscuits, they taste better that way.
Anyway, if you need any more persuasion to make these, then trust my friend M. of Ecce Hummus (she seriously knows good food and not just because she is Lebanese) who declared that these were the best things to come out of Apocalypse Bakery: Wedding Edition. Recipe after the jump.
Chai Latte Cupcakes Recipe
From In My Tiny Kitchen
5 bags chai tea
1 1/2 cups soya milk or regular milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ginger
343 grams flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
226 grams soya spread or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1) Preheat oven to 180 C or 160C fan. Place cupcake holders into tray.
2) Over a low heat, brew the chai tea bags with the milk in a pan until warmed and well brewed, for about 3-5 minutes. Don’t let the milk boil. Set to one side and leave to cool a little.
2) Beat together the soya spread/ butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time until the mixture is nice and smooth. Add in the vanilla.
3) Weigh out the flour, baking powder and baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. Add in the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger. Whisk briefly to mix.
4) Alternating between the two, mix in the flour mix and the milk in three batches – starting and finishing with the dry ingredients (ie. flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Make sure the batter is well mixed between each addition, but don’t overbeat – especially when you are doing a large batch.
5) Spoon mix into prepared tins, and then bake for 20-24 minutes, until soft and springy on top. Wait until cool before icing.
Vanilla Buttercream Recipe
Honestly – I don’t use a recipe, I just bung in soya spread, icing sugar, vanilla essence and a dash of milk and beat until I get the consistency I want. Then again, I never seem to make the right amount for the number of cupcakes I have. Here’s the best approximation for 24 cupcakes. Add more icing sugar or milk depending on how the consistency is working out. If you are adding in the gingerbread persons and want them to stand up a little bit as they are on mine, I’d err on the side of a more solid icing – if it is too runny, it won’t hold their wee gingerbread limbs!
600g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of milk
Gingerbread People Recipe
125g unsalted butter or soya spread
100g dark brown muscovado sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ginger
pinch of salt
1) Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup/treacle into a pan, and heat until melted. Keep stirring gently to mix. Preheat oven to 170C, 150C fan.
2) Once it is melted, add in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and salt. Mix to form a dough. If it isn’t coming together, add a little bit of water.
3) Whilst the dough is still warm, roll it out and cut out the gingerbread people.
4) Place on to a lined baking sheet and bake for 6-10 minutes until firm.
5) Leave to cool – they harden when they are cooling.