Chai Latte Cupcakes

When it comes to cupcakes, I find that inspiration can always be found near and far – and this recipe is no exception. These easy, homemade chai latte cupcakes combine deliciously warm chai spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger with soft and fluffy cupcakes. Topped with my chai spice buttercream, it’s the ultimate coffeehouse-inspired treat. Sip and savor, my friends!

chai latte cupcake with a cinnamon stick garnish

Can I confess something? I’m over pumpkin spice lattes. Am I even a real foodie if I don’t like pumpkin spice lattes? They’re too sweet for me, which is ironic given the mountain of buttercream in these photos. (I also don’t like matcha lattes. They taste like grass-flavored milkshakes. Can someone – anyone – please say they feel the same?!)

So, when brainstorming new cupcake recipes, I naturally turned to my favorite fancy coffeehouse beverage: a warm chai latte. A dessert you can prepare ahead of time, these chai latte cupcakes are fall must-try whether that means a batch of seasonal cupcakes for your coworkers, a unique contribution to a fall bake sale, an impressive ending to a Friday night dinner party, a Sunday football treat, or even if you just freakin’ love chai tea lattes like I do!

What’s not to love? When you combine the airy cupcake base with the rich chai spice buttercream, this dessert pushes all other fall-flavored desserts to the back of the line. I have a feeling you’ll appreciate this autumnal, beverage-inspired cupcake as much as I do!


Tell Me About These Chai Latte Cupcakes

  • Ease: There are 3 simple parts to these chai latte cupcakes: making the homemade chai spice blend, preparing the chai-infused cupcake using my basic vanilla cupcakes recipe as the base, and mixing up the chai spice buttercream. 
  • Texture: The best cupcakes are light and airy, and this chai latte is no exception. Soft, fluffy, and moist, it has an irresistible texture that will delight the most discerning cupcake lovers! In fact, here’s a run-down of my vanilla cupcakes recipe explaining why cake flour, sour cream, and egg whites are KEY to an irresistible texture.
  • Flavor: Chai may be an unusual recipe flavor, but you’ll be impressed with the outcome. Infused with deep, aromatic notes of warm spices, the cupcake is intensely flavoured with a double-jolt of chai flavor by combining the chai latte cupcake WITH the chai spice buttercream.
  • Time: You’ll need to steep the tea for 20-30 minutes, then make the batter and bake the cake for about 20 minutes. That lush buttercream frosting can be prepared while the cupcakes are in the oven. You can complete this recipe in a little over an hour, allowing for cool time before frosting the cupcakes. (If you plan on making mini cupcakes, you’ll shave off about 10 minutes of the total time.)

chai latte cupcakes

chai latte cupcakes on a wood slice cake stand

When cooking or baking, I encourage you to use the best-quality spices you can. While spices don’t necessarily expire, they do tend to lose their flavor and intensity over time and it’s worth replacing them every three to four years.

Overview: How to Make Chai Latte Cupcakes

The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through it so you understand each step before you get started.

  1. Make the homemade chai spice mix. This blend of 4 readily available kitchen spices makes the delicious chai spice flavor you love. Grab some cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and allspice. This mix will be used in both the cupcake batter and buttercream, as well as the garnish on top.
  2. Prepare the chaiinfused cupcakes. We’ll use my basic vanilla cupcakes as the base, adding a generous amount of our chai spice mix. Instead of regular milk, we’ll use chai tea milk made from a bag of chai tea steeped in 1/2 cup warm whole milk (steep it the night before to save time). This concentrated amount of chai flavor turns our spiced cupcake batter into a delicious chai cupcake batter. It’s the secret sauce. Let the milk cool before adding to the batter. 
  3. Whip up the chai spice buttercream. Remember when I said rainbow chip frosting is the best frosting in the world? Lies. This richly flavored vanilla buttercream is spiced with our homemade chai spice mix. It’s unbelievable how much flavor dry spices can add to frosting.
  4. Decorate the chai latte cupcakes. This chai spice buttercream, in all its creamy, silky-smooth glory, sits at the top of the frosting world. I used the Wilton 8B piping tip (which I love) for this recipe. (Remember my white chocolate strawberry cupcakes and lemon buttercream photos?) You simply start in the center of the cupcake and swirl upward. You can watch me use it in this frosting tutorial video (1:09 mark).
  5. Garnish cupcakes. A cinnamon stick and a sprinkle of sugar/leftover chai spice mix adds a rustic chic garnish to our chai latte cupcakes. 

chai spice mix in a white measuring cup

First, here is our chai tea milk that we’ll use in the cupcake batter. This stuff is potent!

Chai tea milk in a glass measuring cup

Because of the chai tea milk and chai spices, the chai cupcake batter is a beautiful shade of caramel. 

Chai latte cupcake batter in a glass bowl

chai cupcake batter in a cupcake pan before baking

Tip: Fill the cupcake liners only about 2/3 full to avoid overflowing.

When it comes to leavening in baking, balance is key. Find out why some recipes – like these chai latte cupcakes – call for both baking soda and baking powder.

chai buttercream in a glass bowl

chai buttercream swirled on cupcakes with cinnamon stick garnish

More Chai Inspired Recipes

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chai latte cupcake with a cinnamon stick garnish

Chai Latte Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes
  • Yield: 14 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Soft and moist chai latte cupcakes prepared with chai tea, chai spices, and topped with whipped chai buttercream. This simple cupcake recipe tastes exactly like your favorite coffeehouse chai latte drink.


Ingredients

Chai Spice Mix

  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Cupcakes

  • 1 bag chai tea
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 3 and 1/2 teaspoons chai spice mix (above)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature

Chai Spice Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 56 cups (600-720g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chai spice mix (above)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • optional for garnish: cinnamon sticks + mix the remaining chai spice mix

Instructions

  1. Prepare chai spice mix: Mix all of the chai spices together. You’ll have 5 and 1/2 teaspoons to use between the cupcake batter, buttercream, and garnish.
  2. Steep the tea*: Bring milk to a boil or heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Pour over tea bag and steep for 20-30 minutes. This chai milk is the milk you’ll use in the cupcake batter. This can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight. Make sure the chai milk is room temperature before adding to the cupcake batter.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2-3 liners – this recipe makes 14-15 cupcakes. Set aside.
  4. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, 3 and 1/2 teaspoons of chai spice mix, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  5. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour and mix in the chai milk *just* until combined. Do not overmix. Batter will be slightly thick and smell incredible!
  6. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners. Fill only 2/3 full to avoid baking over the sides. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 35 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  7. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 5 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, 1 and 3/4 teaspoons chai spice mix, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add another pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  8. Frost cooled cupcakes and serve. I used Wilton 8B piping tip, stuck a cinnamon stick in some of them, and sprinkled with a mix of the remaining chai spice mix and a pinch of granulated sugar.
  9. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: An easy way to get a head start is to prepare the chai spice mix and steep the milk/tea 1 day ahead of time (steps 1 and 2). Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Glass Measuring Cup | Chai Tea | Cupcake Liners | Cupcake Pan | Cooling Rack | Wilton #8B Piping Tip | Reusable Piping Bags or Disposable Piping BagsWood Pedestal Cake Stand
  3. Step 2: You’ll steep 1 bag of tea in 1/2 cup of hot milk to use in the cupcake batter. You could also steep a 2nd chai tea bag with the heavy cream to use in the buttercream, if desired! Make sure it’s hot when steeping, then cool to room temperature when adding to buttercream.
  4. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this homemade cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  5. What to Do with Leftover Egg Yolks? I have some recipe ideas for you!
  6. Why is Everything at Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  7. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
  8. Cake Version: I suggest following my white cake recipe as the base, which is almost double this cupcake recipe. Use 2 tea bags for the milk since that recipe calls for 1 cup. For the chai spice mix, increase the cinnamon to 2 and 3/4 teaspoons, ginger and cardamom to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons each, and the allspice to 3/4 teaspoon. You’ll have 6 and 1/2 teaspoons of chai spice mix. Use 4 and 1/2 teaspoons in the cake batter and 2 teaspoons in the vanilla frosting recipe listed with the cake.

chai latte cupcake with a bite taken from it

128 Comments

  1. Catherine Smith says:

    Oh my goodness, this sounds amazing!!! Can it be made into a layer cake?

    1. Hi Catherine! Definitely! I suggest using my vanilla layer cake recipe. You can slightly increase the amount of chai spice mix. Use 2 tea bags for the milk since it calls for 1 cup.

  2. As it was our Wedding anniversary today I decided to make your Chai Cupcakes for an after dinner treat. And a lovely treat they were. The chai flavour is quite subtle and not at all overpowering. Thankyou for having this recipe in time for us to enjoy. 🙂

  3. Holy cow, Sally, I don’t know how you did it, but you did. I’m a total chocoholic, yet I took one look at this recipe and thought, “I have to make these.” I can’t explain why, cause my usual take is if it doesn’t have chocolate, it’s not worth the calories. Well……..these are beyond awesome! I made 9 regular size plus a tray of mini’s thinking that would keep me from eating a whole cupcake. Wrong. After consuming 4, (the mini’s, not the full size, LOL!), I immediately put the rest that are unfrosted in the freezer. Can the buttercream be frozen, as well? I sure hope so, otherwise I might have trouble eating dinner tonight….er, I mean, a healthy dinner!

    Thanks for a fantabulous recipe!!!!

    1. Haha – I’m thrilled you tried these and loved them so much! Yes you can freeze the buttercream as well! Just let it come to room temperature before you use it again – don’t try to heat it up in the microwave 🙂

  4. Hi Sally! Do you think this would translate well into a sheet cake?

    1. Hi Mallory! I can’t see why not, though I would follow my recipe note for making a layer cake and instead of dividing into 2 cake pans as the recipe I linked to instructs, pour into a 9×13 cake pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  5. I made these yesterday. While the flavor was good, the cupcakes turned out dense and spongy. I’m not sure what happened. I am really cognizant of not overmixing and did only two turns of the mixer after adding the milk, and otherwise followed the recipe to the T. I was thinking it could be my baking powder. A friend tried them and described them as “dry” and “dense”

    1. The baking powder could be the culprit. Make sure the baking powder and baking soda are fresh.

  6. I made these this week and the recipe turned out great. It’s a subtle chai flavor but I think just enough with the chai incorporated into both the frosting and batter. Plus the aroma is lovely. Brought them into work and they were gone in record time!

  7. Can the heavy cream in the icing be replaced with 2% milk?

    1. Sure can!

  8. Made these for a kids and parents costume party. The taste and texture was perfect. They were pretty to look at and tasted amazing (used a Wilton 2D tip to decorate). Recipe is definitely a keeper.

  9. I made these this week and they turned out fantastic! I’m usually not a big fan of butter cream frosting, but even the frosting was delicious. I got 12 muffins out of my batch, baked for 20 minutes and they came out perfect and plenty moist. I took the step of freshly grinding whole cardamon pods and I think it made the difference. The Chai flavor really popped (in a good way).

  10. Would this work as a 2 layer 6” cake ?
    If I wanted a stronger Chai flavor in the batter, how much more do I add ?
    Since the scale of ingredients is small, due to it being a cupcake recipe.

    1. Hi Emmi! This amount of batter will yield a 3 layer 6-inch cake. An extra teaspoon or 2 of chai spice mix would be plenty extra if you think the recipe needs it!

  11. Hi Sally, I saw your note about making this into a 9-inch layer cake, but I am wondering do you think this recipe would be enough as is for a 6-inch layer cake? (2 layers would be fine, wouldn’t need to be 3) Thank you!

    1. Hi Ashley! I find that most cupcake recipes translate beautifully into a 6-inch layer cake. This batter will give you 3 layers. Not sure how to reduce it down to 2 layers without testing. So I recommend 3 🙂 Bake time will be similar to my 6 inch birthday cake: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/6-inch-funfetti-cake/

  12. Hi Sally,

    I see you already answered that you can sub the dairy in this recipe with almond milk – is the same true of coconut milk? I was thinking of using coconut milk for the batter and then coconut cream for the buttercream – any suggestions/thoughts would be appreciated!

    P.S. Green tea lattes are the worst!

    1. Hi Alix! Regular coconut milk (from a carton) would be great in the cupcakes. Canned coconut milk is awesome for the frosting, but regular coconut milk (from a carton) works too.

  13. These were really good, but didn’t have super strong chai flavor. The cupcakes were fluffy and delicious, but I don’t think I’d go to the work to make them again.

  14. Lovely recipe. I tried it out in a venture to find a recipe for my cousins baby shower and it was perfect!
    Can it be adapted to make a 6″ layer cake?

    1. Yes absolutely! Cupcake recipes fit perfectly into 3 6 inch cake pans. Follow the bake time and temperature for my 6 inch cake.

  15. Laura Saich says:

    I made these for a school fundraiser last night. Every one was gone- they were delicious!! I followed the recipe exactly using a Tea Forte Bombay Chai tea bag and my one stray was to add just a very small amount of fresh ground black pepper to the chai mix to mirror the tea bag and help cut the sweetness. Every faonly member said they were on the ” make again” list. So lucky to have a friend who gifts me with high quality baking spices and vanilla!!

  16. Hi Sally! My sister and I made these cupcakes yesterday, but we ran into a few problems. Our cupcakes turned out rather dry, even though we only baked them for 20 minutes. That was disappointing, as I’ve made the original vanilla cupcakes before and they turned out perfectly. The cupcakes still taste good, but we were so sad about the texture. Maybe a minute or two less bake time would’ve been better? A few family members commented that they thought the cupcakes were over-spiced, what with the spice cupcakes, frosting, and garnish. So if we make these again, perhaps a plain vanilla buttercream would be better (or maybe even a lightly cinnamon-spiced whipped cream). The frosting piped beautifully, and tasted amazing on its own. All in all, we liked the overall flavour, but need to work on the texture. Thanks for the recipe! Yours look absolutely beautiful! Love that piping tip 🙂

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the flavor of these! Try baking them for a minute or two less if you try them again – every oven runs a bit different! You can certainly use less spice, leave off the garnish, or use vanilla buttercream with the garnish!

  17. These are amazing!! I’ve been eyeing the recipe since last year but only just made them – half batch with same amount of steeped tea, milk cream Cardamom pods and cinnamon stick,
    cream cheese chai spices frosting and Biscoff speculoos cookies crumble topping – perfectly spiced and so good!!! Thank you Sally!

  18. Hey Sally,
    Love the recipe. Just made it with my sister. The only problem is the final product (cake) was a little bit dense. It didn’t really rise at all. I believe my baking soda and powder were fresh. I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour. Could that be the cause? I saw your diy cake flour which I will try next time. Would love any advice!
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Kate! Yep, it’s important to use cake flour in this recipe.

  19. The aroma of these are as appealing as the taste. Thank you so much for the recipe. It’s easily a favorite.

  20. Was curious if this could be done baked in tea cups? It would look very cute.

  21. I have wanted to make these since you posted the recipe last year. I do not like coffee, but I love chai! I was so excited to try this recipe! I did use your white wedding cupcakes recipe instead and modified it with the addition of the chai spices and chai milk (and left out the almond). They were amazing!!! I found a new favorite!

  22. Any tips on converting this to mini cupcakes (how full to fill the cups, baking temp & time)?
    Also wondering what you think about using this chai spiced buttercream and then coloring it? I know the chai makes it that nice creamy tan color, and i’m wondering if I can add red food coloring to make it red. I’m making mini cupcakes that look like caramel dipped apples!

    1. For around 35 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. You can certainly color the frosting- they sound like they will be adorable!

  23. These look fantastic! If I’m avoiding tea, would it be alright to just use the milk with some of the spice mix in it?

    1. Yes, that should work Cindi. Enjoy!

  24. What can you substitute to make dairy free? Coconut milk, shortening and soy yogurt?

    1. Hi Nina, I have not tested these with dairy free ingredients but let me know if you do!

      1. Just made these with coconut milk, coconut yogurt, and vegan butter. Did a combo of 2/3 crisco and 1/3 vegan butter on the frosting. Turned out perfect!

    2. Thank you for these substitutions! I’m dairy free and this is perfect 🙂

  25. Hey Sally!

    I LOVE chai lattes, and this frosting was AMAZING!
    However, my cupcakes were a little dry and tasted a little gritty….
    Could they have been over-baked??

    Thanks!

    Love your stuff,

    ~Alyssa

    1. Thanks Alyssa! The cupcakes could have been over-baked, yes. Keep a close eye on them. Start checking at 18 minutes. Also, make sure you are spooning and leveling the cake flour. (Or weighing it!) Packing flour into the measuring cup almost always guarantees you have more than the recipe calls for.

  26. Love the idea of Of this recipe. But if I don’t hv chai teabag
    Can i use loose chai mix to infuse the the milk?

    1. Absolutely!

  27. they are amazing!!! made them non-dairy with no problems at all! love love love i will be making them again!

  28. Cassie McGough says:

    Hey Sally! Any tips for how to incorporate coffee/espresso to make a ‘dirty chai’ cupcake? Love your blog!

    1. Hi Cassie! You can definitely add espresso powder to this cupcake batter. I recommend 1-2 teaspoons.

  29. Hi Sally, what would you think about using this chai buttercream with gingerbread cupcakes?

    1. Sounds incredible to me!

  30. Hi Sally! this sounds amazing, can i made a cake instead of cupcakes with the same amount of ingredients?

    Love your blog!

    1. Hi Edith, This recipe will fit perfectly into three 6-inch pans. Follow the baking directions on my post 6 inch cakes. Enjoy!

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