At my Thanksgiving, we get creative with the placecards. We've decorated turkeys and stuck name tags onto gourds. I thought it would be cool to stick little place card flags into pumpkin cupcakes, thus, this recipe... When I was younger--before chai tea was everywhere--I used to make homemade chai in a saucepan by combining cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, honey, milk, and black tea. It was delicious, and the inspiration for this absolutely delicious cream cheese frosting. - SmallKitchCara —Cara Eisenpress
Test Kitchen Notes
Everyone in my family loved these adorable little cakes. They are spiced a la pumpkin pie, and SmallKitchCara uses a generous amount of oil to ensure a moist and tender crumb. But the crowning touch is that chai frosting! You make fragrant chai tea syrup and incorporate it into the frosting. It adds a subtle yet lingering spiciness that marries well with the warm flavors of the pumpkin cupcakes. Next time I might add additional syrup to the frosting for a more pronounced chai flavor. (Note: the recipe refers to adding ginger to the cupcake batter, but no amount is given. I added a teaspoon.) —cookinginvictoria
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the cupcake pans very well, and, if you like, place cupcake liners in each.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl). In another, larger bowl, using handheld or stand mixer, beat together the sugar and oil until the sugar is saturated by the oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the pumpkin. Add the flour mixture, and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. Divide batter equally among cake pans.
Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.
Make the Frosting: Combine the sugar, 5 tablespoons water, the chai tea bags, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves, then simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup steep another 20 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick, and squeeze out all the flavor from the tea bags, then toss them. Let the syrup come to room temperature before proceeding.
Using a food processor or a mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, honey, and chai syrup until very smooth. If you have time, refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors come together, but take out of the fridge at least 1 hour before frosting the cupcakes, so that it’s spreadable.
Spread a generous amount of frosting on top of each cooled cupcake, then sprinkle the gold sugar on top.
I'm the founder, editor, and head chef at the blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen (www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com), a site dedicated to easy-to-execute recipes and stories from a quarter-life kitchen. I'm also the author of In the Small Kitchen published in 2011.