Chai Cake with Honey Rosemary Cream Cheese Frosting
I think this is my favorite cake I’ve ever developed. I specify “developed” because I’ve made other cakes that were this high-quality and this delicious (see here and here), but this is the first one where I’ve tweaked others' recipes and/or made elements from scratch, to put together flavor and texture combinations that are just mind-blowingly good.
I’m not sure if rosemary as a sweet flavor is an acquired or divisive taste, but I pretty much love anything rosemary, sweet or savory. I’ve fallen in love with the honey rosemary cream cheese at Bagelsaurus (the BEST bagels in Boston), and have been itching to figure out how to work those flavors into a cake. Then I made Smitten Kitchen’s S’mores cake, and her graham cake layers are heavenly - incredible flavor, and the perfect soft and moist texture. AND I’ve been making one of my favorite cookie recipes a lot lately and am really on a chai baked goods kick. So…time to combine everything! And Chai + Honey Rosemary + Cream Cheese Frosting just sounded so perfect, I couldn’t resist.
It’s not a terribly complicated cake, but you do have to infuse the butter for the frosting about 2 hours in advance - at least - days/weeks would be fine. I can’t encourage you highly enough to make this recipe - it’s truly a fantastic cake.
MAKES one 8” 2-layer cake
If making both cake layers and frosting in the same day, start with steps 1 & 2 of the frosting recipe (which takes about 2 hours), then come back to make the cake layers next, then resume making the frosting once the cake layers are in the oven or cooled.
CHAI CAKE LAYERS
3 cups AP flour (360g)
85g graham cracker crumbs (about 7 sheets)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup double strength brewed chai tea (2 tea bags), cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar (130g)
scant cup packed light brown sugar (pack it, remove 1 TB) (190g)
2 8” cake pans
CAKE GOOP! and a silicone brush
Stand mixer with beater attachment
Mixing bowl & hand whisk
Brew 1 cup of double-strength (two tea bags) chai tea according to instructions. Set aside to cool.
Cake goop-up your pans. If you don’t have cake goop (you should! go make some!), you should cut out parchment circles that will fit inside the bottoms of your pans, then grease the pan with butter or shortening, line the bottoms with parchment, grease the parchment & pan sides, and cover all the surfaces with flour, tapping out the excess into the sink or trash. Now, see? Wouldn’t cake goop be SO MUCH EASIER? Also, it works better. Okay I’ll step off my soapbox now...
Heat oven to 350F degrees.
Grind your 7 sheets of graham crackers to a fine powder if not already ground. Whisk in a mixing bowl the 85g graham crumbs with 360g AP (3c), 2tsp BP, 3/4tsp BS, 3/4tsp salt, 1/2TB cinnamon, and 1/2tsp cardamom.
Cream 2 sticks of butter with 130g sugar (2/3c) and 190g light brown sugar (just under 1c packed) for 5-6 minutes on medium-high in your stand mixer, scraping down the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy.
Add 4 eggs one at a time, mixing until just fully incorporated after each.
Mix your 1c brewed tea with 1c buttermilk.
Add 1/3 of your flour mixture and mix on medium until just combined, then add 1/2 of your buttermilk chai and do the same. Repeat, and finish with the last 1/3 of your dry, scraping down the sides and mixing on medium just until no streaks of flour remain. Don’t over mix.
Evenly divide the batter between the cake-gooped pans (use a scale for perfection), and smooth the batter even with an offset spatula. Bake 30-35 minutes, until a tester in the center comes out clean, and/or using my tips on how to tell when cake layers are done.
Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10-15 minutes before turning them out. Let them cool completely before using or storing in the freezer.
If storing to use at a later time, chill them in the freezer until they can be handled easily without bending. Wrap them in plastic wrap and then tin foil. Label & freeze.
If using them imminently, chill them in the fridge so they will be easier to level.
HONEY ROSEMARY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
2 sticks butter
2-3 sprigs rosemary
8oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt)
powdered sugar to taste (~3 cups)
1 Tablespoon cream or milk
Small saucepan w. cover
Small fine mesh strainer
Stand mixer w. beater attachment
Melt one stick of butter in a small saucepan, swirling as needed to melt evenly before it starts browning. Remove from heat, add 2-3 sprigs rosemary, cover and let sit for 60-90 minutes.
After that infusing time, remove the rosemary and strain either into a microwave safe bowl, or pour it back into the small saucepan. Warm/reheat the rosemary butter, then add the second stick of butter off the heat and swirl/stir until it melts, bringing the temperature of the mixture down as it does. Once combined, chill in the fridge until solid but spreadable. If it chills too long and gets hard, bring it back to room temperature before using.
Cream 8oz cream cheese in your stand mixer, then add your butter and beat on medium-high until fully combined.
Add 1/4 cup honey and 1/4tsp sea salt and beat on medium-high until combined.
Add powdered sugar, 3 cups or to taste, 1/2 cup at a time mixing on low, then medium-high until combined each time.
Add 1TB cream or milk and mix until combined.
Then - level, frost, and decorate your cake!