Did you know there is a man employed by NASA to smell everything that becomes part of a space mission? From the freeze-dried food to the material that covers the seats to everything in between, it all has to pass the test of the Staff Sniffer. The smell of the smallest things gets important when you are going to spend weeks or months breathing recycled air.
I may not be an aeronautical engineer, or a cosmonaut, but I would like to proffer my home made solution for keeping people happy with the scent of their environment: Chai Spiced Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Believe me, if you were stuck in space with the smell of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and brown sugar you wouldn’t mind. You might get extremely hungry, but you wouldn’t mind as long as someone handed you a piece piled high with spiced cream cheese frosting. (Side note: do they give astronauts freeze-dried cake?)
I wanted you to be able to really taste the chai spices in this cake, so I infused the milk with teabags, and also boosted the spices by adding them in powdered form to the batter. The result was a soft, light-crumbed cake with a heady aroma and deep flavour. Cream cheese frosting spiked with its own dose of spices is the perfect cap to the sweet cake below. This cake is a little bit of everyday fancy too. The batter comes together quite quickly and then all you have to do is wait and enjoy the scents filling your home.
The spices in chai tea, and this cake, certainly remind me the most of home. Cinnamon from fresh baked buns or fruit toast breakfasts; ginger from the gingersnap cookies my Mum loves with a cold glass of milk; and cardamom, which features heavily in Danish sweets and calls to mind the traditional baked goods my grandmother made as treats. I can guarantee the scent of the warm spices emanating from your oven will call to mind your own fond memories, or perhaps over a slice or two of this you can create some sweet moments in the present. NASA – you should definitely send this into space with your next mission.
Chai Spiced Cake
Gluten Free | Makes 1 x 9-inch round cake | Leftovers will keep up to four days in an airtight container in the refrigerator
For the cake:
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 chai tea bags
- 120 grams butter
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- 60 grams white rice flour
- 75 grams almond meal
- 60 grams brown rice flour
- 60 grams buckwheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup plain Greek/natural yoghurt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 125 grams cream cheese (full fat is best), softened
- 50 grams butter
- 3-4 cups icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (a decent sprinkle)
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Heat your milk gently in a saucepan until steam starts to come from the surface. Do not bring to the boil. Add tea bags and steep for twenty minutes. Allow to cool. Once cooled remove teabags, cut open and empty contents into spiced milk mixture.
- Preheat oven to 180C. Butter the sides and base of a 9-inch round cake tin. Line bottom with baking paper. Set aside until needed.
- Place butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Melt butter by heating in 30 second bursts in the microwave and stirring well in between bursts. When butter is melted whisk in sugar and set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk together white rice flour, almond meal, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.
- Mix eggs, yoghurt, and vanilla extract into cooled milk mixture.
- Whisk flour mixture and milk mixture into cooled butter mixture. Do not overmix but ensure there are no large pockets of flour. This batter is quite loose, don’t worry it bakes up very well.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and place in preheated oven.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in cake tin. Then remove from cake tin to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
- To make frosting: beat together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add 3 cups of icing sugar, spices and milk. Beat until combined. You want a slightly stiff mixture. If frosting is too loose add extra cup of icing sugar. Spread evenly across the top of the cooled cake.
- Serve and enjoy.