Not so Vegan Chai Latte Cupcakes with Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Icing
Adapted from Love and Olive Oil and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup Tazo Chai Concentrate
(*Note: Keep your liquids equal to 1 cup. For a mild chai taste use 1/4 cup of chai and 3/4 cup of milk. For a stronger chai flavor, use 1/2 cup of chai and milk each.)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Measure the chai in a measuring cup; add milk until mixture equals 1 cup. whisk in cider vinegar and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Pour in soy milk mixture, along with oil, sugar, and vanilla, and stir just until no large lumps remain.
4. Fill cupcake liners with 1/4 cup of batter (liners should be 2/3 full), and bake for 20-22 minutes or until puffed and golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
5. For buttercream: put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream.
6. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick and shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until is is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and whip for another 30 seconds until incorporated. Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes.
The cupcake obsession continues. A week ago Kiesha (52 Weeks of Baking) made Vegan Chai Latte Cupcakes from “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Being the huge chai fan that I am, I REALLY wanted to try them myself. I started scouring the internet for other chai cupcake recipes that I could try too, and came across Love and Olive Oil's adaptation with Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. It sounded and looked absolutely delicious. Both Kiesha and Love and Olive Oil both made the spiced chai themselves by steeping black tea bags in hot soy milk, but I had been eyeing the Tazo Chai mix at work for some time. I wondered if I could cut out the steeping step and save myself from buying some extra spices I didn't already have (mainly cardamom) and just use the Tazo mix instead. While shopping yesterday at Whole Foods I decided to go ahead and buy some and give it a try.
I had today off so instead of cleaning my house like I promised myself I'd do, I decided to procrastinate and make my cupcakes! I know.. I really should have been cleaning, but the Tazo was just calling to me from the pantry. I had to.
Like all good chefs should, I checked out my ingredient list and directions first to make sure I had everything--which I didn't.. I swear every time I go to make something, I'm always missing at least 1 ingredient. This time it was cider vinegar. So off to the store I went, even though I had just been to the store twice yesterday and once the day before. But after the short detour, I was finally ready to make my cupcakes!
The recipe was actually really easy to do. Like my Chocolate cupcake batter from last time, it was a one bowl recipe. Well a One Bowl + One Measuring cup. But simple nonetheless. The only minor bump in the road was having to guess how much chai mix to use. I didn't really know how much of it would be equal to steeping 4 tea bags, so I used 1/4 cup and mixed it with 3/4 cup of milk and the teaspoon of cider vinegar. I was leery of using more than 1/4 of a cup because I didn't want it to be overpowering. I wasn't too concerned about making them vegan cupcakes, so I used regular milk instead of soy. I also just left the milk cold instead of heating it since I wasn't steeping anything in it. It wasn't until about halfway through that I wondered if I should have heated it anyway.. It didn't seem to make much of a difference though, so I guess not heating it was alright. I sifted the dry ingredients together, omitting most of the spices from the sifting, since they were already in the chai mix. I did sift the nutmeg however, since it was the only spice not listed in the ingredients of the chai mix. I added the chai mixture to the dry ingredients, whisked to combine, and poured the batter into my cupcake pan. 20 minutes in the oven and out came beautiful golden cupcakes! Now for the frosting!
I'm not much of a fan of frosting myself. Most frostings are too sweet or too rich for me, and I end up scraping most of it off. However, Love and Olive Oil said the Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream was the best frosting she had ever made being a lot less sweet than traditional buttercream. I was convinced that maybe this was the frosting for me! It was a bit more complicated to make than the cupcakes themselves, but I was willing to try. I heated my sugar and egg whites (totally not vegan) over simmering water until it looked like marshmellow like she said. So far so good. Then it was on to whisking it in my mixer until it cooled and got thick. I'm not sure I whisked it for long enough. It was mostly cool and shiny like it was supposed to be, but I'm not sure it was thick enough. From there it was on to adding the butter (again with the not vegan), one tablespoon at a time until it was smooth and incorporated. After all the butter was added it was time to mix it on medium high until it was thick and "very smooth". I started to worry when my buttercream looked like a little chunky instead of smooth, but after 6 minutes it ended up being pretty smooth. I added the vanilla and the cinnamon and whipped it to combine. It came out pretty well. I don't think it was quite as delicate as it should have been. It seemed more like a regular buttercream than a light fluffy meringue.
As I got ready to ice the cupcakes, I realized I was missing one more thing that I needed. I was out of pastry bags! I had to resort to using a ziploc bag, which I've never been very good at. For some reason, it always squishes out whenever I try to use a ziploc bag, making a huge mess. Today, however, wasn't bad. I was able to mound up my icing like I wanted to do with my Peanut Butter Cup-Cakes, and sprinkled sanding sugar on top to give it some sparkle. They ended up looking quite pretty. It was finally time for the taste test!
The cupcakes were incredibly soft and moist. They had a very subtle spice flavor, not too overpowering at all. Although, if you're a chai lover like me, you might want to bump the chai mix up to a 1/2 cup instead of a 1/4 for a bit more chai flavor. Just remember to adjust your milk accordingly as well, keeping your liquids to 1 cup so you don't get runny cupcakes.
The icing was rich and full of buttery flavor with just a hint of spice from the cinnamon. It wasn't nearly as sweet as regular buttercream, which was great, but it was still a bit too much butter flavor for me. All in all they turned out very well! I'm really happy with them!
As a side note-- Does anyone have suggestions of what kind of frosting I can make that isn't too sweet and doesn't taste like I'm eating a stick of butter? I'm a fan of cream cheese frosting, but it doesn't go well with everything.