Spiced Vanilla Chai Cake Recipe

I’m a tea lover all year round, but once Fall hits and things start to get cozy, chai is a staple in my tea cabinet. The aromatic spices in a cup of chai are unreal and totally reminiscent of Autumn. So when I decided to bake up those spices in cake form, not only did my kitchen smell amazing, but this Spiced Vanilla Chai Cake tasted like an Autumnal dreamscape! It’s the perfect cake for welcoming the changes of the season whether you’re a tea lover or not.

spiced vanilla chai layer cake recipe

The flavor of this Vanilla Chai Cake is created by both adding the perfect spice blend to the dry ingredients and infusing the liquid with chai goodness. By adding, I mean mixing up a blend of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and cloves and whisking it into the cake flour. And by infusion, I mean pouring boiled whole milk over a chai tea bag and letting it steep before adding it to the batter at the end. Both of these methods add tons of spicy chai flavor, and combined with a good dose of vanilla extract, the result is Spiced Vanilla Chai Cake perfection. 

vanilla chai milk and spices
vanilla chai layer cake recipe

To really up the flavor, I’ve filled and frosted this delicious cake with Vanilla Chai Buttercream. It’s basically my vanilla buttercream recipe with homemade Chai Spice Mix added, and oh my. The combination is Fall flavor heaven! You can choose to pair this cake with all sorts of buttercreams (cream cheese, chocolate, vanilla, or anything that pairs well with chai tea), but if you want the full-on chai cake experience, this is it. 

vanilla chai layer cake recipe
spiced vanilla chai buttercream recipe

To decorate, I crumbled up some Speculoos Cookies and added them to the sides of the cake after frosting, then piped some simple stars (Wilton Tip 4B) and rosettes (Wilton Tip 1M) on top of the cake in a crescent moon design. Then, I topped it all off with some cinnamon sticks and more Speculoos cookie crumbles. My favorite part of all of it is the little specks of Chai Spice Mix that come through in the buttercream. I have all the heart eyes for speckled buttercream!

vanilla chai cake with cinnamon sticks and piped buttercream
5 from 5 votes
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Spiced Vanilla Chai Cake

Layers of fluffy, moist vanilla chai cake that's perfectly flavored with chai tea and a homemade chai spice mix. Top it with vanilla chai buttercream for the ultimate Autumn flavor palette.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

Chai Spice Mix

  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Vanilla Chai Cake

  • 1 1/4 Cups (296ml) whole milk
  • 1 chai tea bag
  • 2 3/4 Cups (290g) cake flour, sifted before measuring
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp chai spice mix (recipe above)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 Cups (358g) granulated white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 Cup (112g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

Vanilla Chai Buttercream

  • 2 Cups (452g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 7 Cups (840g) powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chai spice mix (recipe above)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Make The Chai Spice Mix

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and cloves and set aside.

Make The Vanilla Chai Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 6-inch or two 9-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with a cooking spray (Baker's Joy is my favorite) and fitting a wax or parchment paper circle to the bottom of the pan. Alternatively, you can grease and lightly flour the pans.

  2. Place the chai tea bag into a mason jar. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the whole milk, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil. Pour the boiling milk over the chai tea bag in the mason jar and let steep for 20 minutes before removing the tea bag. Allow the mixture to cool completely to room temperature before moving on.

  3. Sift the cake flour and then measure by spooning and leveling it in your measuring cup. Add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, 4 teaspoons of the chai spice mix, and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer (a handheld mixer works fine too!), cream the butter for on high for two minutes until it's light and fluffy. Add in sugar and continue to mix on medium-high for another two minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and sour cream and mix for one minute on high, scraping down the bowl and paddle once more. 

  5. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the (room temperature!) chai milk mixture slowly and mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs to make sure there are no lumps (without over-mixing). The batter will be slightly thick, but pourable. 

  6. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans (no more than 2/3 of the way full) and bake for 30-35 minutes. They're done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for five minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack for an additional few hours of cooling. Make sure they're entirely room temperature before applying any frosting. 

Make The Vanilla Chai Buttercream

  1. With a hand mixer or paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream the butter on medium-high until it’s creamy and light (almost white) in color. About 7 minutes. 

  2. Whisk 1 Tbsp of the Chai Spice Mix into the measured powdered sugar. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar mixture a few cups at a time, scraping down after each addition and making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next one. 

  3. Add vanilla, milk, and salt and mix on medium-low for another two minutes until fully incorporated. 

Assembly

  1. Once the Vanilla Chai Cakes have cooled completely, fill and frost the layers with Vanilla Chai Buttercream. To create the design pictured, add crushed Speculoos Cookies to the sides of the cake by placing them into the palm of your hand and gently pressing them onto the buttercream finish. Then, fit one piping bag with Wilton Tip 4B and another piping bag with Wilton Tip 1M before filling each with Vanilla Chai Buttercream. Pipe rosettes and stars onto the top of the cake in a crescent moon shape, add some cinnamon sticks, and sprinkle more crushed Speculoos Cookies on top.

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead Notes: 

  1. The chai milk mixture can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature before adding it to the cake batter. 
  2. The cake layers can be made ahead and stored, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to two days. Alternatively, you can store the wrapped cake layers in the freezer for up to 2 months before thawing and frosting.
  3. The Vanilla Chai Buttercream can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip in your stand mixer to bring back to smooth buttercream consistency. 

What are some of your favorite Fall cake recipes? I particularly love this Caramel Apple Cake and this Matcha Cake (another tea lover’s dream!). It’s the perfect time of year for baking all of the above. Be sure to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram if you try this Vanilla Chai Cake (or any of my recipes!) – I love to see what you’re creating!

78 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hey, I love all your healthy recipes. Your all recipes look awesome.

    It’s Healthy and tasty. Vanilla Chai Cake recipe is looking mouth-watering.

    I love vanilla cakes. I am going to try this recipe for sure.

    I will let you know the feedback.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Suzanne Petretta

    5 stars
    Made this cake for a work colleague for her birthday and it was given rave reviews. Very, very good! Will be adding to my “birthday cake” rotation!

  3. Hi, what alternative flour could I use for this recipe? I’m in the uk and can’t find cake flour, would self-raising work?

    • Hi Darcey! Self-raising flour will mess with the chemistry of the cake since it already has rising agents in it. Instead, the best recommendation is to make your own cake flour using All Purpose Flour https://sugarandsparrow.com/homemade-cake-flour-recipe/ but you can also just sub straight All Purpose Flour. The cake might end up a little more dense that way but a better alternative than any other flours.

  4. Megan E.

    How could I alter the recipe to make this into cupcakes instead of a cake? Thank you!

    • Hi Megan! This recipe makes perfect cupcakes as-is. Just be sure to fill the tins no more than 2/3 full and bake at 350 for 17-19 min and you’ll be set!

  5. Bhagjit Cheema

    What are some good egg alternatives for this particular recipe? Would love to try it!

    • Hi Bhagjit! I’ve never tried substituting the eggs in this recipe, so I’m not sure how replacements will affect the chemistry of this cake. Feel free to do some research to see how you can convert a cake recipe with eggs to an eggless recipe and let me know if you try it with any substitutes!

  6. Hi! can I use an instant chai instead of the tea bag for the milk? also, can I omit allspice? thanks!

    • Hi Ana! You can totally use instant chai instead of the tea bag and also omit the allspice. Different chai flavors include different spice profiles, so feel free to do what you love best for the spices!

  7. Josianne Grenier

    I have a friend who’s diabetic., Is there something else than splenda that i can substitute the sugar? Because i noticed the last time i used splenda in cup cake it make the cake dense.

    • Hi Josianne! I wish I knew of some great sugar alternatives, but I have never baked anything sugar-free/reduced sugar before. I would do a little research on sugar substitutes to see what people are recommending. If you do end up making this recipe with a sugar substitute let me know how it goes – now I’m curious!

  8. 5 stars
    I made this over the weekend for my birthday (and because I couldn’t wait for the fall). I am so happy with how it turned out. Everyone loved it! It’s definitely going to become a staple within my friend/family groups! 🙂

    • Yay, Mel! I am so happy to hear that the recipe was a hit and hope you had the happiest birthday weekend!

  9. Hi, how would you adjust the recipe for a sheet cake? All of our baking equipment is in storage for a couple weeks and it’s my wife’s birthday this weekend. Working with what I’ve got!

    • Excited for you to make this for your wife’s birthday, Chris! To make this recipe as a sheet cake, be sure to fill the pan no more than 1/2 full and bake at 350 for an additional 5 minutes than this recipe calls for (or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean). Here’s more info on how to convert my layer cake recipes into sheet cakes: https://sugarandsparrow.com/sheet-cake-recipes/

  10. I can’t wait to try this cake recipe out! I’ll be making it for my sister’s birthday this week!
    Just wondering if you could clarify “whole milk”… is that Full Fat Milk (whipping cream) or is that Homogenized Cream (3.25%)?

  11. Hi! I was wondering if I could use this recipe to make cupcakes? And if so roughly how many it would make? Thank you!

    • Hi Aisha! You totally can. Just be sure to fill the tins no more than 2/3 of the way full and bake at 250 for 15-18 minutes. This recipe will make quite a few cupcakes, around 36-40!

  12. AMANDA J MEYER

    I am unable to use sour cream, could you use the full-fat coconut cream (just the solids)?

    • Hi Amanda! I’m not sure about using the coconut cream solids in place of sour cream since I’ve never tried it, but you are welcome to give it a go! I do know that full fat greek yogurt makes a great sour cream substitute, or you could omit the sour cream completely and use full fat coconut milk in place of the whole milk in this recipe. Both options will make this cake extra moist.

  13. I will be using this recipe for a cake. I would like to know if I can use buttermilk instead? I am not sure if it’ll boil properly? Thank you.

  14. Hi. I cannot WAIT to try this!!! I was hoping to try it today, but I have a huge question. The instructions say to add in egg one at a time and mix thoroughly in between each, and the. To mix for a full minute after that. I just want to make sure that is correct? I’m use to instructions always saying be careful Not to overmix the egg. Your the expert though. I want to make this Today and I’m so anxious, lol. Thank you for the recipe

    • Hi Amanda! I can see how that phrasing might lead to over-mixing. I usually just add an egg and mix until the yolk breaks up and begins incorporating before adding the next one. I’ll make that more clear in the instructions! Hope you love this recipe!

      • Oh wow thank you for your quick response! I’m actually making this recipe RIGHT NOW. I can’t WAIT to eat it

  15. Alaa Ibrahim

    This recipe is so good, I tried it from a friend and it’s like a Chai heaven!

    • Hi Sara! Yes, you can certainly bake just one layer. Since this recipe yields three 6-inch layers, you can divide each ingredient by 3 to make just enough batter for one layer (aka only make 1/3 of the recipe). Hope that helps!

  16. Have you tried making cookies from this recipe? If so what temp and how many would it make?

    • Hi Ashley! I have never heard of making cookies from a cake recipe before, but after looking around online it seems to be a thing! Since I’ve never tried it before I’m not sure how it works or what oven temp it requires, but feel free to experiment with this recipe and let me know how it goes.

  17. The cake is in the oven now, and smells divine. The frosting is wonderful, already made it. Thanks for the great recipe.

  18. Hi! This recipe looks great and wanting to try it. Can I substitute almond flour for the cake flour? And coconut sugar for the white sugar?

    Or will that mess up the flavor profile?

    • Hi Maddy! I’m excited for you to try this recipe! Since I’ve never tried it with almond flour or coconut sugar before, I cannot say for sure how it will turn out. I can only recommend the recipe as-is, but if you want to experiment with substitutes feel free!

    • Hi Emma! You can totally whip up an equal amount of chai tea using the latte powder with whole milk. That should work just fine 🙂

  19. Sophia Nelson

    Can I make this recipe gluten free by replacing the cake flour with a gluten free all purpose? Have you ever made this gluten free before?

    • Hi Sophia! I have never tried making this recipe gluten free, but you are certainly welcome to test it with this recipe! If you do decide to try making it gluten free, it would be a 1:1 substitution for the cake flour. Let me know how it goes if you try it!

  20. Amazing. Thank you so much. How much lattee powder would you put in? Making it in 2 days time!

    • Hi Emma! I would just add enough to make the amount you would normally add to make a latte (follow the box directions) and scale it for the amount of liquid in this recipe (1 1/4 cups). Hope that helps and excited for you to make this cake!

  21. Anushka Mahendran

    Hi Whitney, recipe looks great! My 6inch pans are slightly deeper so the batter fits well into 2 of my 6inch pans. Would I need to adjust cooking time? I’ve had it in for 39 minutes so far and its still not 100% cooked in centre so needs a little while longer (I have used an oven thermometer so know my oven is right temp).

    • Hi Anushka! I’ve never tried baking this cake in pans that deep, so I’m not sure what the full baking time will be. I would just keep checking it every so often to see how long it needs and consider how long it usually takes to bake cakes in your deeper pans. Let me know how it goes!

  22. I was looking for a recipe to make for a birthday cake and this sounds delicious. However, I prefer cream cheese frosting to buttercream as they can be too sweet sometimes. Would I still be able to mix in the Chai Spice Mix to your cream cheese buttercream frosting recipe? Or does the Chai Spice Mix cut down the sweetness of regular buttercream? Thanks for the recipe!

    • Hi Sarah! The chai spice does cut the sweetness of the buttercream, as does the salt added. You can certainly add it to cream cheese buttercream though, that sounds delicious!

  23. Thank you for your recipe.
    I tried and the flavour was really good (probably very sweet for my taste).
    However, the cake was very dense in the centre; what do you think could be the problem?

    Thanks,

    • Hi Cecilia! Sorry your cake ended up dense in the middle. It could be a few things, and since I didn’t observe your method or ingredient temps (etc) I can’t say for sure what but the most common culprits are overmixing the batter and using ingredients that are not room temp (too cold or too warm). If the cake sunk in the middle at all, here is a list of the most common reasons: https://sugarandsparrow.com/why-cakes-sink/ hope that helps!

  24. Hi! Would you describe this came as light and fluffy? It is it more of a dense cake?

    • Hi Erin! I’d call it light and fluffy, yet moist. That’s the goal with most of my cakes and the reason why I use cake flour vs. all-purpose and add extra moisture with sour cream 🙂

    • Hi Whitney, this cake is gorgeous and so delicious. I made it for my husband’s birthday (he loved it). I used Monkfruit sweetener and oikos greek yogurt in place of the sugar and sour cream. It came our more dense than light and fluffy, but the flavour is still fantastic! I could not find your cookies and ended up trying Biscoff biscuits by Lotus. They are so good.

      Do you happen to have a calorie breakdown for this cake?

      Thank you for a beautiful cake that s definitely going to be added to the recipe bin.

  25. Hey! I was just wondering about the overall sweetness of this cake? It just looks like quite a large volume of sugar to butter/flour compared to most recipes I’ve worked with! The spice blend sounds great!

    • Hi Cat! In my opinion, this cake isn’t too sweet and I’ve never ever had complaints about it being too sweet from reviewers. It’s one of my very favorite recipes and I hope you get the chance to try it!

  26. Hi Whitney!!

    I’m in the process of making this cake for my friends birthday!! i’m super excited for the results.

    As i was mixing the last of the wet ingredients (sour cream and vanilla) i noticed once i finished mixing, it almost looked.. curdled?? Do you know what could have caused this? I am almost certain everything i used for that, like the butter and sour cream, were room temperature, so i’m not sure what’s up!! i’ll continue with it and see how it goes!!

    Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Jordan! It is totally normal for the mixture to look curdled at that point in the recipe. When you add the flour mixture and liquid at the end, it should come together as a uniform batter and no longer look curdled. Hope it ended up well!

  27. I don’t have sour cream available where I live (Uganda) would plain yogurt be a good substitute?

  28. Nausicaa

    Hello. What brand did you use for the chai tea bags? I plan on making it for my daughters 10th birthday, she loves all things chai. And am excited to try this recipe, it looks delicious! Thank you so much.

    • Hi Nausicaa! I used Trader Joe’s brand chai, but you could use any brand! Enjoy – this sounds like the perfect cake for your daughter’s birthday!

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