Saturday, 10 November 2018

Masala Chai Cake with Vanilla Cinnamon Frosting (Gluten Free)

A deliciously spiced, moist and light cake that no-one will guess the secret ingredient to!

I am always trying to think up new and exciting flavours for cakes to make that everyone can enjoy, and I thought my idea for a masala chai cake was inspired!

As it is autumn, I thought something with warming spices would be delicious, which made me think of masala chai - an Indian take on tea, simmered with whole spices - namely cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and black peppercorns - with a cinnamon and vanilla cream cheese frosting to complement the flavours.

Having thought it through, and adjusted the spicing to what I felt were the right levels, and come up with a really delicious, light and moist cake with what felt like the perfect balance of flavours, I was genuinely disappointed to later discover that I was by no means the first person to decide to make a masala chai flavoured cake! However, I'm pretty sure mine is quite unique in its ingredients, being developed from scratch. Especially with the marrow in it - which is what started me off thinking of another cake to use it up (I'm not a huge fan of marrow in savoury recipes, so if I get one in my veg box, I start thinking about cakes - a marrow is an oversized courgette / zucchini in case you haven't heard of them - if you can't get hold of one just use the largest courgettes / zucchini you can find, or substitute butternut squash flesh).

As my daughter has to have a gluten free diet, it is made with gluten free flour - but you'd never know as it is so light and moist! If you're not on a gluten free diet, feel free to use normal plain flour instead. Either way it will be seriously delicious! The cake batter is also dairy free, so you could tweak the topping with dairy / lacto free substitutes for cream cheese and butter quite easily.

Makes a 9 inch square cake (so 16+ portions depending on how you want to cut it!).


For the masala chai syrup
  • 300ml hot water
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
  • 6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 6 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 inch ginger root, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 5 black tea bags / tea leaves to make 5 cups (preferably Assam tea if you can get it, ensure no gluten, if cooking gluten free)
  • 3 tbsp golden caster sugar 
For the cake batter
  • 335g coarsely grated marrow, or courgette / zucchini, excess moisture squeezed out - peel and de-seed marrow first - around 410-450g freshly grated marrow will yield 335g after a good squeezing - alternatively you could use grated butternut squash flesh
  • 300g plain flour (gluten free or normal - I recommend Juvela GF white flour mix for this cake if you have it, or Dove's Farm is also good)
  • 4 level tsp baking powder (check gluten free if cooking GF)
  • 1 x 15ml tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds (removed from green husks), finely ground
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g ground almonds - optional, tastes good without too, if you're cooking nut free
  • 4 large eggs (preferably organic, or 5 medium - about 250g)
  • 225g neutral tasting oil, plus a little for greasing (e.g. sunflower, groundnut or vegetable)
  • 100ml of the masala chai syrup from above
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
For the topping
  • 200g cream cheese, brought up to room temperature (or lacto/dairy free alternative)
  • 85g butter, softened (or lacto/dairy free alternative)
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinammon, plus a little extra to dust cake with
  • 85g golden icing sugar

  • 22-23cm / 9 inch square silicone or metal cake tin, deep (I use silicone)

1. Make the masala chai syrup by simmering the whole spices in the hot water for ten minutes in a small pan. Then add the tea bags and sugar, and simmer for a further five minutes. Squeeze and remove the tea bags, and strain the syrup into a measuring jug - top up to 200ml (if necessary) and set aside to cool.

2. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 and lightly grease the cake tin and line with greaseproof baking paper. Grate the peeled marrow coarsely (or courgette - which you don't need to peel first), and give a few good squeezes to squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible (discard juice).

3. Mix together the flour, baking powder, ground spices, salt, sugar and ground almonds (if using) in a large bowl, making sure there are no lumps of sugar.

4. Beat the eggs together, and then beat in the oil, 100ml of the masala chai syrup, the lemon juice, and then mix in the grated marrow / courgette.

Add the egg/oil/marrow mixture to the flour/spice/sugar mixture and combine thoroughly, then pour the mixture into the lined cake tin. (If using a silicone tin, place on a baking tray first). It's quite a wet batter.

6. Place into the middle of the oven and cook for approximately 50 to 60 minutes, or until cooked through - where a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out hot and clean (don't worry if there are a few cracks on top of the cake, you won't see these once frosted). Remove from the oven, poke holes all over the top while it's still warm, and evenly sprinkle over the remaining masala chai syrup, then allow to cool in the tin for about an hour or until completely cool to the touch.

7. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese until smooth (best done with a handheld electric beater or similar), and then beat in the softened butter, vanilla extract, and cinnamon, and then finally the icing sugar, which you may need to sieve first if it's lumpy (N.B. if the cream cheese is chilled and/or not beaten first, the butter may not mix with it properly, and be lumpy - if this happens, just set aside until the mixture has come up to room temperature, and mix again until smooth).

8. When the cake is completely cool, spread with the topping and sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon. Enjoy with a nice cuppa tea or coffee!

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