Fans of both chai tea and coffee will really enjoy this dirty chai spice cake. From pretty marbled layers to the simple yet elegant design of the chai cream cheese frosting, this tender cake is a crowd-pleaser that is easy to make and decorate at home. And don’t worry – there’s nothing dirty about it! A “dirty chai” is simply a chai tea mixed with coffee, and here you can enjoy the fall flavor of that drink in cake form.
Ingredients for Dirty Chai Cake
The recipe card below includes all the ingredients, but I’m highlighting a few key ones.
- Unsalted room temperature butter – Butter gives cake structure and flavor. For best results, use room temperature butter. It mixes more easily into the batter, creating a soft cake.
- Vanilla extract – No need for expensive vanilla extract; the options at your local grocery store are perfectly fine. I don’t taste much difference between pricier extracts and more basic ones.
- Chai spice mix – Chai spice refers to a blend of warm and aromatic spices commonly used in chai tea. While the precise combination of spices it contains varies, you’ll often find some combination of these ingredients: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and even black pepper.
- Espresso powder – Coffee or espresso is the ingredient that makes a chai latte “dirty,” though we know it’s delicious! In this recipe, we use powder for a simple way to add coffee flavor.
Homemade Chai Spice
Use half of your espresso chai blend in the cake batter and the remainder in your frosting.
If you don’t want the extra step of marbled layers, nix it by adding your chai espresso ingredients to your flour mixture at the beginning of the cake recipe.
Similarly, you can do the same with the remaining mixture by adding it all into your frosting if you don’t want to divide your buttercream for the marbled design.
Step-by-Step Guide for Baking this Moist Cake
Step 1: After preheating your oven to 350°F, butter and flour two 8” or three 6” round cake pans or coat them with baking release spray. I use bake even strips on my cakes so they rise more evenly during baking. If you do the same, start soaking strips in water.
Step 2: Next, in a small bowl or ramekin, combine all ingredients for your homemade chai spice mix with espresso and set aside.
Step 3: Then, to a large bowl, add and whisk together these dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt.
Step 4: Using the paddle attachment in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla extract together on medium speed for 4 minutes. Occasionally stop mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Step 5: Next, put eggs and canola or vegetable oil to your primary mixing bowl. Slowly mix for about 3 minutes.
Step 6: Add half of your buttermilk and half of your flour to primary bowl. Mix, repeat, and gently mix all dry and wet ingredients together until just combined.
Step 7: Pour batter, evenly spreading half into your pans. Add chai espresso mix before pouring remaining batter into each pan.
Step 8: Use a knife to create a marble effect and then bake for 35-40 minutes. Cake is done once layers begin pulling away from the pans’ sides.
Step 9: Leave layer cakes in pans about 10-15 minutes before flipping them out to fully cool on a wire rack before frosting.
Homemade Chai Spice Buttercream with Espresso
This hybrid buttercream frosting combines unsalted butter with cream cheese for a bit of tanginess.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth, about 2 minutes. Do the same with cream cheese, mixing for another minute until smooth.
Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Continue mixing until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
For marbled frosting, remove and set aside half of your white frosting in another bowl. Next, add the remainder of your chai spice blend and espresso powder to the mixing bowl, incorporating until well-combined.
Place white frosting in one piping bag and brown frosting in another.
Dirty Chai Spice Cake Assembly
Pipe or spread a dollop of chai frosting onto a cake circle to hold the layer in place. Then, set first cake layer on top of that.
Alternating between your two frosting colors, pipe about a quarter of your frosting on top of the bottom layer and spread evenly with a cake spatula or large metal spoon.
Place second cake layer on top of the first and repeat steps with final layer.
Starting from the base of the cake and moving to the top, pipe a thick layer of frosting around the three layers of your cake’s sides and on its top.
Fill in gaps with brown chai frosting, alternating between it and the white buttercream.
Place a cake scraper against the side of the cake and gently pull the cake around to smooth out bubbles in the frosting. Continue using this tool and an offset spatula against the top to create a marbled effect.
Lastly, switch to a decorate piping tip for detailing. Include cinnamon sticks for added decor.
FAQ for Dirty Chai Latte Cake
Ingredients like eggs, butter, and other dairy products are important in trapping air into your baked goods as you mix the batter or dough for them. That air expands during the baking process in the oven. This can mean the difference between a dense and crumbly cake and a nice, fluffy one. So you should always bake with room temperature ingredients if a recipe calls for it. This one does.
This cake will remain most fresh if stored in the refrigerator for 4 days. If possible, bring out about 30 minutes before serving so that cake can reach room temperature for best flavor and texture.
This cake will freeze pretty well for 3 months. Store individual slices in wax or parchment paper in an airtight container.
Tips for Perfecting this Recipe
- Don’t overmix your cake batter! Overmixing batter can yield a dense, dry cake. The photos in this recipe offer visual cues on how your batter should look before baking.
- Let cake layers cool before assembling cake. If the layers are still warm when you pipe frosting onto them, the frosting may melt.
Bake Like a Pro: Use a Kitchen Scale
Weighing your ingredients and writing or following a recipe using a standard metric like grams ensures consistency. The sizes of measuring cups vary. Using them for a recipe can result in noticeable issues and differing end results for baked goods.
As a result, I highly recommend investing $30 or less in a kitchen scale.
More Dessert Recipes Like This Dirty Chai Spice Cake
If you’re looking for more spiced treats, this carrot cake recipe has some of the same ingredients as chai spices.
Or whip up a batch of these Biscoff cookie sandwiches.Print
Dirty Chai Spice Cake
Espresso powder and homemade chai spice add flavor to the layers and frosting on this dirty chai cake. Coffee and chai tea fans will love it!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Decorating Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 70 minutes
- Yield: 1 6-inch, 3-layer cake 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American
Chai Espresso Mix (Half will go into your cake, half in the frosting)
- 3 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 3/4 tsp espresso powder
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 3/4 tsp allspice or cloves
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups (260 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks (171 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 T vanilla extract
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 3/4 cup + 2 T (210 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
- 3 T (35 grams) canola oil (or other colorless, odorless oil like vegetable or rapeseed)
Dirty Chai Buttercream
- 1 stick of butter, room temperature
- 3/4 block (170 grams) of cream cheese, room temperature or slightly softened
- 4 cups (460 grams) of powdered sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Optional: A few drops of lemon or lime juice (or white vinegar) to cut sweetness; add to your preference
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter and flour two 8” or three 6” round cake pans or coat them with baking release spray. I use damp cake strips on my pans for more evenly baked layers.
- Combine all ingredients for chai espresso swirl into a small bowl or ramekin. You’ll use half in the cake and the remainder in your frosting.
- Add and whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Set aside.
- Using the paddle attachment in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat your sugar, butter, and vanilla extract together on medium speed for 4 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add your eggs and canola oil to your primary mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for about 3 minutes.
- Add half of your buttermilk and half of your flour. Mix, repeat, and gently mix all ingredients together until just combined.
- Pour and evenly spread half of the batter into your prepared cake pans. Disperse the chai espresso swirl into your pans before pouring remaining batter into each of them. Take a butterknife to the pan to gently swirl design.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when layers appear buttery and dense but bounce back at the touch of your finger.
- Let cakes cool in pans about 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and mix for another 1 minute until well combined and smooth.
- Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Continue mixing until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Remove half of the frosting and set aside in another bowl.
- Add remaining chai espresso mix to mixing bowl and incorporate until well-combined.
- Put white frosting in one piping bag and brown in another.
- Pipe or spread a dollop of cream cheese frosting onto a cake circle to act as glue to hold the layer in place. Set first cake layer on top of that.
- Pipe about a quarter of your frosting on top of the bottom layer and spread evenly with a cake spatula or large metal spoon.
- Place second cake layer on top of the first and repeat steps with final layer.
- Starting from the base of the cake and moving to the top, pipe a thick layer of frosting all around the three layers of your cake’s sides and on its top.
- Place a cake scraper against the side of the cake and gently pull the cake around to smooth out bubbles in the frosting.
- Pipe lines of the brown frosting around and on top of the cake, using the cake scraper to even it out and create a marbled effect.
- Add detailing with open star tip for remaining frosting.
You can use a mix of the two frosting bags for marbling inside. If you want more white frosting on the outside with small brown sections, use more brown inside or vice versa.
Keywords: dirty chai cake, chai cake, layer cake, cream cheese buttercream