Moist, brown sugar cupcakes full of classic chai spices are topped with creamy cinnamon cream cheese frosting. They’re the perfect dessert for fall and so easy to make!
Cupcakes are one of those desserts that are just fun to eat. Of course, I usually end up eating more than one, no matter how hard I try to limit myself. I’m a true sugar-aholic, what can I say?
Chai tea is one of my favorite warm drinks to sip on when the weather starts turning chilly, in particular my white chocolate chai latte. There’s something about those warm, autumn spices that just makes me feel cozy and relaxed.
This chai cupcake recipe has all the flavors of classic chai in it. Moist, tender brown sugar cake with chai spices is topped with creamy, velvety-smooth cinnamon cream cheese frosting for an elegant and tasty dessert for those cold winter months.
How to make chai cupcakes
Here’s how to make these tasty cupcakes!
- Combine dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
- Cream butter and sugars together. In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment or using a handheld mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs and vanilla. Add 1 egg at time, combining completely before adding the next one. Then add the vanilla. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate all the ingredients together.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Add buttermilk and beat until combined. Add the other half of the dry ingredients and beat slowly or fold by hand only until combined
- Bake. Divide the batter equally between 12 cupcake liners in a cupcake pan and bake for 14-16 minutes at 350°F/180°C. Cool completely before frosting.
- Prepare the frosting. I like to do this while the cupcakes are baking. Place room temperature butter and cream cheese in an electric mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment and beat together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract, sugar, and cinnamon, and mix together until incorporated. Try not to eat it all with a spoon before the cupcakes are ready (yes, it’s that good! This is always the hardest part for me:)
- Decorate the cupcakes. Using a piping bag or spoon, top cooled cupcakes with cinnamon frosting using a piping tip. My personal favorite tip for topping cupcakes (and what I used in the photos) is the Wilton 1M star tip, but you can use any tip you like. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.
Tips for making chai cupcakes
- Use dark brown sugar for the best flavor. You can certainly use light brown sugar if that’s what you have on hand, but dark brown sugar really amps up the flavor.
- Don’t overmix the cupcake batter. Cupcakes should be light, fluffy, and tender. Overmixing the batter, especially once the flour is added, can make them more dense because the more you mix, the more gluten will be produced from the flour. Try to combine the ingredients just until they all come together.
- Use room temperature cream cheese and butter for the frosting. This makes it easier for them to combine, creating a more smooth, fluffy, and lump-free frosting.
Commonly asked questions
Can I use light brown sugar instead of dark?
Yes, but dark brown sugar has more molasses which really gives these cupcakes more flavor. But if light brown sugar is what you have, go ahead and use it.
What if I don’t have all the chai spices? Can I leave one or two out?
Don’t worry–the cupcakes will still taste delicious if you leave out a spice or two. The complete chai spice mix really gives these cupcakes the flavor of chai, but if you leave 1-2 out, they’ll still be great.
Should I refrigerate my chai cupcakes?
Because the frosting contains cream cheese, once they are topped with frosting they need to be kept refrigerated. They’ll stay good for 3-4 days. However, the cupcakes themselves can be left out at room temperature, so if you don’t frost them all, feel free to leave the unfrosted one unrefrigerated.
Can I freeze my cupcakes?
The cupcake base freezes great. Wrap them up in a freezer-safe container and they’ll stay good in the freezer for up to 2 months. However, I do recommend making the frosting fresh.
More amazing cupcake recipes
- Snickers Cupcakes: Just like the candy bar in cupcake form!
- Lemon Cupcakes: Vanilla and lemon come together for a bright and deliciously flavored cupcake.
- Funfetti Cupcakes: Perfect for any special occasion..
- Carrot Cake Cupcakes: Rich, moist, and topped with the creamiest cream cheese frosting.
- Red Velvet Cupcakes: Decadent in flavor and absolutely gorgeous.
- Pumpkin Cupcakes: A delicious taste of fall.
Moist and tender brown sugar and chai spice cupcakes topped with velvety-smooth, luscious cinnamon cream cheese frosting.
Chai spice mix
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 ⅛ cups (160g) all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick/113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (65g) dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) buttermilk
- ⅔ cup (150g) block style, full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- ⅔ cup (150g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 ⅓ cups (375g) powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, chai spice mix, and salt. Set aside.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. On medium speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Add buttermilk and beat until combined. Add the other half of the dry ingredients and beat slowly or fold by hand only until combined. Do not over mix – the less you mix, the lighter the cake will be.
Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ full. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes to set for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time and beat until smooth. Beat on medium high speed until combined, then add cinnamon and vanilla. Beat another minute until the frosting is light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes once they’ve cooled.
Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge. They’ll keep for 3 days. Bring to room temperature about 1 hour before serving.
Unfrosted cupcakes can be kept tightly covered at room temperature or in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, still covered, on the counter or overnight in the fridge.