Make This Easy Chai Spice Cake

Sun Basket Pastry Chef Paul Conte was inspired to make a spice cake using the traditional Indian spices found in chai. He serves it with a fruit compote of apples and oranges, though you can swap in pears, fresh berries, or whatever fruit is in season and serve it warm or at room temperature. Go ahead and guild the lily with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Chai Spice Cake with Brown Butter Apple-Cara Cara Orange Compote Recipe

Serves 8 to 10 

Shopping List
Spice cake:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 organic eggs
½ vanilla bean, optional
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic whole milk
6 Darjeeling or Earl Grey tea bags
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1⅓ cups plus 1 teaspoon organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Chai spices:
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ teaspoon allspice
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
1½ teaspoon black pepper

Apple–Cara Cara compote:
2 organic Fuji apples
1 organic orange, preferably Cara Cara
1 organic lemon
1 tablespoon currants 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ half vanilla bean, optional
⅛ teaspoon/pinch kosher salt 
Butter, olive oil, or cooking spray 

Sifter or fine-mesh strainer, stand mixer or hand mixer, 2 small bowls, medium bowl, medium sauce pot with a lid, 9 x 5-inch loaf or 9 x 6-inch rectangle pan

1. Prep the ingredients; steep the tea
Heat the oven to 350°F.

  • Bring the butter and eggs to room temperature. 
  • If using, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the pulp; reserve the remaining half for the apple-orange compote.

In a small sauce pot, add the milk, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Add the tea bags and half the vanilla pod and pulp and a generous pinch of salt; cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Squeeze the tea bags to release any remaining liquid into the steeped milk. While the tea steeps, prepare the cake batter. Wipe out the pan.

2. Make the cake batter

  • In a small bowl, using a fork or whisk, mix together the chai spices.
  • In a medium bowl, sift the flour and baking powder; add the 1 teaspoon salt and stir to combine.
  • In another small bowl, crack the eggs. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and chai spices and mix until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add half the flour mixture and mix until just combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly stream in the steeped milk; then add the remaining dry ingredients and mix on medium until just smooth. Wipe out the bowl.

3. Bake the cake  

  • Lightly grease or spray the baking pan.

Transfer the cake batter to the greased pan; sprinkle with the fennel seeds, pepper and the 1 teaspoon sugar and bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool; cut into slices. While the cake bakes, prepare the compote. 

4. Make the apple-orange compote 

  • Cut the apples lengthwise into quarters and cut away the core; cut each quarter lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices.
  • Using your hands or a sharp knife, peel the orange; working over a medium bowl, cut along both sides of each membrane to release the segments into the bowl. Squeeze any remaining juice from the fruit into the bowl. Alternatively, cut the fruit in half crosswise and separate each half into segments. Discard any seeds. 
  • Juice enough lemon to measure 1 tablespoon. 

In the same sauce pot used for the chai, over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples, orange, currants, lemon juice, salt, and remaining vanilla pod and pulp, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are softened and the compote is fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Cover, turn off the heat and let cool.  


Transfer the cake slices to individual bowls or plates, top with fruit compote, and serve. 

Chef’s Tip: To prevent the cake from sticking to the pan, lightly coat the baking dish/pan with cooking spray, then line the pan with parchment paper (cut to fit the size of the pan, plus some extra length for easy removal).

Nutrition per serving: Calories: 670, Protein: 7g (14% DV), Fiber: 3g (12% DV), Total Fat: 22g (34% DV), Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 13g (65% DV), Cholesterol: 100mg (33% DV), Sodium: 390mg (16% DV), Carbohydrates: 111g (37% DV), Total Sugars: 85g, Added Sugars: 77g (154% DV). Not a significant source of trans fat.


Bonus recipe—ingredients not included in box.