These Dirty Chai Cupcakes burst with warm spices and a light sweetness. They’re kept moist and naturally gluten-free with almond flour. Top them with the Cinnamon Ginger Buttercream for the perfect final touch!
“Do you want a cupcake?” I texted a handful of friends, then proceeded to clean up from my photoshoot while waiting for the onslaught of yes-es I expected. It’s a simple strategy, honestly.
- Rule #1: surround yourself with people who have good taste and like food.
- Rule #2: stockpile baked goods to lure said people over to your place.
While I already feel confident in my plan, it’s always nice to discover external validation now and then. Over the weekend, I read The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller. One line in particular stood out to me— “Pay attention, follow the directions, use good ingredients, practice technique, share with friends, and voila! Happiness abounds!”
Admittedly, I’m not one for following the directions when it comes to baking. Whenever I find a recipe, my mind instantly starts spewing off alterations I can make. I wonder what chemical imbalance I’ll cause and how that will affect the final product. But when it comes to the rest of it…
These Dirty Chai Cupcakes are no exception. Every time someone sinks their teeth in for that first bite, their eyes close briefly and a smile spreads across their face. That moment of unadulterated pleasure is my favorite part. Seeing the raw happiness in someone’s expression, knowing that I’m able to bring people that feeling.
Have you ever heard of dirty chai? I thought it’s a commonly known thing, but the confused looks I got when I announced it at dinner begged to differ. So. “Dirty chai” means chai tea with espresso. No dirt involved, I promise. Just a handful of warm, autumnal flavors merrily zipping around an incredibly moist cupcake.
Sometimes I forget how much I love chai because everyone flips into pumpkin spice mode right about now. Honestly, though, they’re pretty similar. Traditional chai blends have a hint of black pepper, though, for that spicy kick, which you won’t find in a PSL.
Are you nodding along while secretly planning to leave out the black pepper because you think it doesn’t belong in dessert? Expand your horizons. The popularity of these cookies should be enough to convince you it just works.
Now back to the batter. You’re gonna cream, whip, and mix it all together for the soft and delicious crumb that makes these cupcakes the bomb.com. It sounds like a lot, but this is why mixers (stand or hand-held) are wonderful inventions. And if you’re doing it by hand, then POWER TO YA! You go, Glen Coco! I’ll continue basking in the glory of my KitchenAid (probably the best Channukah gift I have ever received).
Oh, did I mention that the cupcakes are gluten- and dairy-free? Yeah, that’s right. Welcome (back) to the world of grainless baking brought to you by these Dirty Chai Cupcakes. I used almond flour, which is my favorite alternative flour to use. Take this with a grain of salt, since I haven’t scientifically tested this, but here are my theories on baking with almond flour:
- The higher fat content from the almonds’ natural oils creates a moister baked good
- You need more rising agent (baking powder, baking soda, whipped egg whites) to provide structure
- Less liquid is required because of the flour’s higher moisture content
Then, while you’re impatiently watching the timer tick down the minutes, you can at least attempt to distract yourself by whipping up the cinnamon ginger buttercream frosting. You read that right.
CINNAMON. GINGER. BUTTERCREAM.
I’ve never been much of a frosting girl, until now. Adding a final layer of buttercream raises the bar to entirely new levels of chai spice heaven. It’s not too sweet and benefits from a generous kick from the cinnamon and ginger. I didn’t want to weigh down the cupcakes too much, so this recipe makes enough for a light layer of buttercream. However, if you want a higher frosting-to-cake ration then I recommend making more. Go crazy with the piping or simply spread it on with a knife. Either way, make sure that the cupcakes are COMPLETELY cooled off first. Otherwise you’ll end up with a batch of soggy Dirty Chai Cupcakes and an extremely well-greased countertop.
If you try this recipe, I’d love your feedback. Leave a comment below, save it on Pinterest, or tag #lensesandlentils on Instagram so that I can see your creations!
- FOR THE CUPCAKES:
- 2½ cups almond flour, spooned + leveled
- 1 tsp ginger
- ¾ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- ¼ tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 3 eggs, separated, at room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup coconut oil, softened
- 1 tbsp instant coffee
- ⅓ cup boiling water
- FOR THE BUTTERCREAM:
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature*
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- heaping ¼ tsp ginger
- 1 tsp milk/almond milk, if needed
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 12 cup muffin pan.
- Next, dissolve the coffee in the boiling water.
- Cream the coconut oil with the sugars until fully combined and smooth. Add in the egg yolks. After fully mixed in, add in the coffee and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy and expanded but not stiff, about 5-7 minutes.
- Sift the almond flour, spices, baking powder, and baking soda into the bowl with the oil and sugar mixture. Once there are no flour streaks remaining, then gently fold in the whipped egg whites. Take care to mix only until just incorporated, so that you don't deflate the whites.
- Fill cupcake liners about ½-2/3 of the way full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the top of the cupcakes spring back when pushed lightly, about 15 minutes.
- Cool completely on a cooling rack before putting on the buttercream.
- To make the buttercream: beat the butter, sugar, and spices until light and fluffy. Scrape down the mixing bowl as needed. If it is too thick, then add the milk.
- You can make the frosting ahead of time and then frost the cupcakes when ready to serve them.
- Store frosted cupcakes and any extra buttercream tightly covered in the fridge for up to 3 days. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen and then thawed at room temperature.