Alicia Kennedy, Food & Drink Writer

old blog

that holiday swing / chai cake w. cinnamon–vanilla bean frosting

Christmastime is here, feeling as lovely as always but also as blurry as the lights in the first picture. But there is cake! I always make sure there is cake.

There's also been the Lucky Peach holiday party, a good time I was lucky to attend, where I found some Momofuku eggplant that was quite delectable and mercilessly free of fish sauce. I've seen some comedy; taken some walks; read Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement (a poetic, nonjudgmental look at a fascinating love story), Icon (a collection of essays by mostly women on their female icons — unmissable), and began reading a galley of Kim Gordon's memoir, Girl In a Band, that I don't think I'm supposed to talk about but that broke my heart in so many pieces that I don't know when I'll be able to get through the second half. I went and looked at all the cake plates at Fishs Eddy without buying one, somehow, because I'm attempting reasonability. We'll see how long it lasts.

Yesterday, the Teenage Guide to Popularity (i.e., me and Doug) purchased our Christmas tree from Seasons 358 in Bed-Stuy. There is nowhere else that anyone should go for their tree and garden purposes, because the woman who owns this place is a goddam riot and knows her shit inside and out. Last night, our best friends came by to decorate with us and watch Home Alone 2. Sareen and I ordered veggie sandwiches from Roberta's that were good, but I was missing the pickled shallot that I was promised—or there was just very little. It was lacking acidity, is all I'm saying. For some reason, I saw the bottle of spiced rum that was graciously brought over and decided it should be blended up with ice and bananas. I grated on some nutmeg in an attempt to warm its tropicalness. My head hurts today.

Before that, though, I had made a cake with the Dona Chai concentrate that I bought at the Brooklyn Flea a week ago. I also finally used the vanilla beans my friend Julie had brought me back from Mexico a while ago, which added to the deep spice and slight smokiness I was going for with this cake. You don't need fancy Chai concentrate or vanilla beans straight from the source to make this one, of course, but they do help.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Bean Buttercream
300 g butter
430 g powdered sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/4 of a vanilla bean, scraped; or 1/4 t vanilla extract

Put all of these ingredients in the food processor and let it go for just about a minute or two, until you've got fluffy buttercream. Depending upon when you're going to decorate your cake, you can put it in the fridge still in the food processor just to stay firm until you're ready, or dump it into a container to store. If it's in there for a few hours, it'll need time to come to room temperature to be usable.

Chai Cake

210 g flour
2 T arrowroot or cornstarch
¾ t baking powder
½ t baking soda

½ t kosher salt
1 ¼ C almond milk + 1 t apple cider vinegar
88 g coconut oil, melted
100 g sugar
100 g dark brown sugar

3/4 of a vanilla bean, scraped; or 1 t vanilla extract
3 T of chai concentrate

1. Heat the oven to 350 and line your cupcake or cake pans. If making cake, rub the whole inside of the pan down with coconut oil and then stick a parchment round in the bottom. 

2. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave or over a double boiler. Put the apple cider vinegar in the almond milk and set it aside to curdle.

3. Measure all the dry ingredients into one bowl and whisk to combine well and aerate. 

4. Pour the melted and cooled coconut oil into a big bowl for the wet ingredients. Add the almond milk mixture, the sugars, your vanilla, and the chai concentrate. Whisk until it's all very well blended, and then pour in the dry ingredients. Mix until there are no more lumps. 

5. Each cupcake liner should get 1/3 a cup of batter; each 6-inch cake pan should get about 400 grams. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 15, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.

I did a what we will call rustic frost of the cake and garnished with broken cinnamon stick. You can make this cake look as sloppy as you like and people will still bow to your skills, because this buttercream especially is one you'll wanna eat with a spoon.