Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting


jump to recipe

Nathaniel’s birthday was actually almost two weeks ago, but when Sandy knocked out the power, birthday baking was put on hold. Then I went away to BC, and so it got further delayed. Then I got home, we restocked the kitchen, and the time for birthday treats for his class finally arrived. I’m making him a birthday cake this Friday too, so it’s really the super-duper extendo birthday. And so: cupcakes.

Nathaniel wanted vanilla chai cupcakes, after enjoying those muffins I’d made so much, and up until that day we were going to do cinnamon buttercream frosting. Then he remembered the peanut butter frosting he loves so much, made his case, and that was that.

I started by mixing up some spices to make the chai.  I was making a double batch of cupcakes, so I had to double everything: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

chai spice

I set that aside, and put the butter & sugar into the bowl of my stand mixer. I don’t do much baking with butter and white sugar these days, so it’s kind of fun.

butter and sugar

I creamed them together. It’s a satisfying process, the way it takes on a completely new texture. (As I said, I don’t bake with butter and white sugar much.)

butter and sugar, creamed

I added the vanilla and the eggs, beating after each one. I didn’t want to overdo it; in my research about batch doubling, I saw that one of the dangers was exactly this: overmixing due to the instruction to beat after each egg.

eggs added

Then I added the chai spice.

adding chai spice

I folded in all-purpose flour (another ingredient I don’t use much), alternating it with buttermilk (1%), until it was well combined.

adding flour

adding buttermilk

In a small glass bowl, I added baking soda to some apple cider vinegar and watched it fizz.

apple cider vinegar and baking soda

Fun! I added it to the batter and mixed well. I scooped the batter into muffin tins, into these cute polka-dotted muffin cups I picked up for the occasion. I was hoping to get 28 cupcakes, but I got an even 24, which was just enough for Nathaniel’s purposes: 20 kids in the class, one teacher, one for Juliet, and at his request, one for Juliet’s teacher (who had been his teacher when he was in kindergarten), and one for Juliet’s student teacher, who had been his student teacher earlier this year. He’s such a nice guy, that son of mine.

I baked for about 20 minutes, maybe a little more. They came out looking and smelling wonderful.



Later that day, it was time for the frosting.

Juliet had already gone to bed at that point, but when I stepped out into the hallway, I noticed she’d left me a little surprise, one in each shoe.

gerbil in shoe

So thoughtful.

I had bought a new decorating contraption so I’d be able to make the cupcakes look pretty instead of just spreading the frosting on with a knife so Nathaniel assembled it while I kept busy with butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and a touch of 1% milk, as needed.

frosting in bowl

When it was done, I decorated. It’s my first time trying to actually do cupcakes with any kind of flourish, so given that, I think I did a decent job.

cupcakes with frosting

cupcake with frosting

I sent them off to school the next morning without even getting to taste them! But since Nathaniel’s teacher didn’t want one, he brought the extra one home, and we shared it. I have to say, I was skeptical of the vanilla chai / peanut butter combo, but the boy was right. Delicious. A nice light-ish sort of cupcake with just the right flavor balance, and still sweet and celebratory. He said the kids were begging for more. Whether that was true or he was just trying to say something nice, I’ll take it.

Happy 9th birthday, Nathaniel!

VANILLA CHAI CUPCAKES RECIPE  (original from The Culinary Enthusiast)


My version of Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting for a 4th Grade Class (double batch):


chai spice mix
3 tsp. ground cardamom
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
4 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
4 tsp. chai spice mix
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup + a little bit more Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
2 cups powdered sugar (actually, you can use a little less)
3 tbsp milk, as needed


Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a 12-cupcake pan. You’ll be doing this twice unless you happen to have two pans. I don’t.

Mix the chai spice mix ingredients together, and set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla extract and beat in one egg at a time, being careful not to overmix after each one since this is double the recipe — you don’t want double the mixing. Stir in 4 teaspoons of the chai spice mix. Take the bowl out of the mixer and manually fold in the flour and buttermilk alternately, stirring until combined.

In a separate, small bowl, mix together the baking soda and vinegar. Watch it fizz, just for fun, and then add it to the batter and mix until combined.

Spoon into prepared cupcake tins until 3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Repeat with second tray. Cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting: in a stand mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter until creamy and thoroughly blended. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it gets too thick, use a little milk to thin it out. When the frosting is thick and creamy and spreadable, you’re good to go. Just keep tasting it. You’ll know.

Speak Your Mind