First of all don’t ask for Chai Tea Latte because you’ll be saying Tea Tea Latte so people could think you’ve already had too much caffeine and refuse to serve you. Ho ho. Yes, Chai means ‘tea’, originating from the Chinese word for it 茶 chá and it has a nice little history we’ll have a peek at later. Masala Chai is made by adding milk and sugar to strong black tea brewed with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs, the most typical of which appear in this cake: green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ground ginger and black peppercorn. I don’t usually drink tea or coffee but would make an exception for a refreshing cup of Masala Chai. Originating in India, chai has hit coffee and tea houses worldwide and become a new trendy cake ingredient! Of course I started dreaming about its spiced milkiness in a lovely layer cake complemented by tangy fresh raspberries and crunchy salted pistachios. The caramel popcorn and marshmallows are not just sitting pretty on top but flattering the masala chai with their sweetness or milkiness. The light genoise sponge soaked in chai syrup is interspersed with two layers of raspberry curd and cream then a middle layer of masala chai syrup cream, all made with mascarpone, quark and whipped cream. The chai cream also covers the cake in a light cloud of frosting making this a floaty subtly-spiced and not very sweet chai, raspberry and pistachio layer cake you should try! 🙂
I googled for a recipe as you do but couldn’t find what I wanted so invented this cake. From my Gateau Moka came the idea of soaking a genoise sponge not with coffee syrup but with masala chai syrup. There are some amazing ‘candy-loaded’ cakes on Instagram that inspired me to decorate with mini marshmallows complementing the sweet milky chai and caramel popcorn adding an attractive yummy crunch. Tada! A cake with influences from countries all around the world including India, the USA and France. And there’s the slightly wacky addition of a decorative tea bag. They do say you should decorate to show what’s in the cake! 🙂
- If you can, make the genoise sponge (30 mins work) the previous day so it will be easier to cut (or a few hours before assembling). Make the raspberry curd (20 mins work) 1 day or 4 hours before assembly so it sets well.
- The masala chai tea and syrup take about 10 minutes to make (plus 20-30 mins waiting) and the two very easy creams take about 10 mins each. Assembling: about 15-20 mins.
Preparation: butter 2 round sandwich (low) cake tins – 18-20cm diametre (to make a tall cake use 16cm diametre. I used 20cm and the layers are quite thin). Line the bottom with baking paper and flour the sides. Preheat the oven to 180°C (static, non-convection oven) or 160°C (fan-assisted oven).
- 4 medium-sized eggs (about 216-220g)
- 125g/half a cup plus 1 tbsp caster/superfine sugar – if you want to nice genoise, caster/superfine sugar (or slightly ground granulated) is best. I used golden caster sugar.
- 125g/1 cup plain/all purpose flour – good quality ‘cake’ flour works better (French T45)
- a pinch of salt
- a knife-tip of vanilla powder or scraped seeds from a quarter of a vanilla pod (optional)
Whisk the eggs and sugar over a bain-marie until ribbon stage (thickened) and doubled or tripled in volume and reaches 45°C/113°F. Make sure the temperature does not go over (use a sugar thermometre to check). If you put your little finger in the batter it should feel hot like it’s in a sauna but not be so hot that you can’t keep your finger in there. If the temperature starts going up rapidly past 42 degrees and your batter hasn’t thickened then take off the heat temporarily and whisk there then return to the bain-marie. For more details on making a genoise over heat please go here, or to make a genoise off the heat, here.
When at the correct consistency (ribbon stage) and temperature, take off the heat and whisk by hand or on the stand mixer until cool (the bottom of the bowl must be cool to your touch). Add the vanilla and whisk till combined. Then gently fold in half the flour till almost combined. Fold in the remaining flour until just combined. Don’t overmix or it will flatten and become heavy. Pour carefully into your cake tins and level out with the back of a metal tablespoon.
Bake the sandwich tins around 20-25 minutes (don’t open the oven door before) until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the top springs back slightly when pressed lightly with your finger. After 5 minutes remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully peel off the baking paper under the cake. If keeping for the next day then store in an airtight tupperware container.
- 170-175g/half a cup plus 4 tablespoons raspberry purée (extracted by passing about 295g/10oz fresh or frozen raspberries through a sieve)
- 70g/4 tablespoons maple syrup
- pinch of salt
- 3 egg yolks (about 60g)
- 1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch
- Place the raspberry purée, maple syrup and salt in a small heavy-based saucepan and bring just to the boil. Take off heat.
- Stir an eighth of a teaspoon of water (or a little more) into the cornflour so it becomes a smooth thick paste. Whisk the egg yolks into the cornflour.
- Whisk the egg yolk/cornflour mixture into the raspberry purée in the saucepan over a low-medium heat.
- Whisk continuously over heat until the curd thickens. Make sure you whisk in the corners so the curd doesn’t burn on the bottom.
- When nice and thick pour into a small clean bowl and cover the curd on contact with plastic film so there’s no air between the curd and film. Place in the fridge to cool until needed.
Masala chai syrup
- Masala chai (spiced black tea) – this makes double the amount you need
- 2 cups boiling water (or make with only the 1 cup you need)
- 2 teabags of black tea (like Assam)
- 1 cinnamon stick (2 inches)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 clove
- seeds from 1 green cardamom pod
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup/215g of your Masala chai (spiced black tea)
- 20g/1 tablespoon runny honey
- 40g/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Brew a strong black tea with all the spices above or your own choice of Chai spices. I left mine to brew in the teapot for about 20 minutes to half an hour. You can use Masala Chai teabags instead.
- Place 1 cup/215g of the masala chai (spiced black tea) in a small saucepan with 3 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey (I added 1 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp maple syrup). Boil for a few minutes.
- Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
You can play around with these creams to make them sweeter, with more icing sugar or maple syrup. If you’d prefer less of the tang from the Quark you can replace it with ricotta.
Preparation: whisk 310g/ml 35% cold whipping cream (or double cream) to very soft peak and store in the fridge.
- 100g/ml of your soft peak whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon/10g icing/powdered sugar
- 80g/2.8oz mascarpone, room temperature
- 80g/2.8oz Quark, room temperature
- 5 tablespoons of your raspberry curd
Whisk the icing sugar into your whipping cream until firmer soft peak. In a medium-sized bowl whisk your mascarpone and quark together until creamy then whisk in a few tablespoons of your cream to loosen the mixture. With a flexible rubber or silicone spatula fold in the rest of the cream. Finally fold in the raspberry curd until you have swirls of pink. Don’t combine completely.
Masala chai cream/frosting
- 200g/ml of your soft peak whipping cream
- 170g/6oz mascarpone, room temperature
- 150g/5.25oz Quark, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons of your Masala Chai syrup (or more, to taste)
Whisk the whipping cream till firmer soft peak. In a big bowl whisk your mascarpone and quark together until creamy with the Masala Chai syrup then whisk in a few tablespoons of your cream to loosen the mixture. With a rubber or silicone spatula fold in the rest of the cream until combined.
- pistachios, roughly or finely chopped
- a handful each of fresh raspberries, mini marshmallows and caramel popcorn
- 1 tea bag
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- Slice your 2 sandwich cakes horizontally into two with a big serrated bread knife so you have four layers of sponge. For details on how to do this (and how to soak with syrup or cover a cake) go to my Gateau Moka recipe.
- Place your bottom layer on the palm of your hand and use a pastry brush to brush the cut side with masala chai syrup. Place on the serving plate or round cake board.
- Spread half your raspberry cream evenly on the sponge.
- Spread half your raspberry curd on the raspberry cream.
- Brush the cut side of your next layer of genoise with the masala chai syrup then turn and place on the raspberry curd. You can brush the top of the genoise layer lightly.
- Spread about a quarter (or less) of your masala chai cream to make your middle layer. Cover with the next layer of genoise sponge (soaked with Masala chai syrup on the cut side, which is facing upwards in the cake).
- Repeat steps 3,4 and 5 to make the next raspberry cream and curd layer.
- Finally cover the whole cake with the rest of the Masala Chai frosting.
- Press the chopped pistachios into the sides or top of your cake with your hand. And add the remaining decorative elements.
Eating and storing this cake
This cake keeps really well in the fridge in an airtight tupperware container up to 5 days (maybe more). But the caramel popcorn will start softening – so have some to put on last minute when serving.
My mum is visiting me here in Barcelona and we’re having a lovely time wandering around. Anyway, she kindly taste-tested this cake (twice) on arrival from the airport and gave it the big thumbs up. My Catalan friend also enjoyed it and managed to devour multiple slices. It’s a very light cake, soft, subtly-spiced and yummy.
Anyway now I’m being a tourist again I’m having trouble multi-tasking so there are no little drawings this time. Sorry. But here’s a short chai history. Yay!
The potted history of chai
Chai is traditionally popular and part of the tea culture in India, Pakistan and Arab countries surrounding the Persian Gulf. Apparently tea there was regarded as medicinal, as were the spices. But how and when did Chai come about?
Well according to Wikipedia’s amazingly detailed article, by 1870 over 90% of tea consumed in the UK came from China and the British were worried about this monopoly. So British colonists in India and Ceylon got to work cultivating tea plantations locally and by 1900 only 10% of tea came from China. Mission accomplished.
But apparently there was still a problem because people in India weren’t drinking enough black tea. Oh dear. So in the early 20th century the British-owned Indian Tea Association started a promotional campaign encouraging factories, mines and textile mills to provide tea breaks for their workers (also a nice idea in terms of working conditions?). Ahem.
The campaign also supported lots of independent chai wallahs (vendors) along the growing railway system. Now officially the tea was supposed to be served like English tea with a little milk and sugar but the vendors took the initiative adding spices and greatly increasing the proportions of milk and sugar so they could save money by using less tea leaves. Tada! And so despite initial disapproval from the Indian Tea Association (oops), the Masala Chai we know and love today was created. Hurray! And well done those stingy (sorry ‘careful’) inventive tea vendors.
So farewell sweet reader! Thank you for stopping by again and hope you have a charming Friday and weekend ahead with layers of yumminess and fun. Happy baking and eating! 🙂 x