Dirty Chai Cupcakes
Cupcakes are delicious, yes, but stuffed cupcakes are even better! I love stuffed cupcakes so much, in fact, that I wrote an entire cookbook about the, called Bake It in a Cupcake: 50 Treats With a Surprise Inside. There are recipes for cupcakes filled with things like pies, cookies, baklava, and lemon bars… YUM. And perhaps you remember my HelloGiggles-inspired Vegan Cheesecake-Stuffed Red Velvet Cupcakes?
Last month, to celebrate the release of my new cookbook, HelloGiggles hosted a contest, asking readers to submit their own favorite stuffed-cupcake ideas. The winner would not only get a signed copy of my cookbook, but I’d also create a recipe inspired by their suggestion, making their dream cupcake come true. Awesome!
There were so many creative suggestions—lobster, bacon and eggs and root beer and cream cheese to name just a few. The one that really made my mouth water, though, was a dirty chai cupcake, suggested by Ali. Ali is a genius. She said: “I think a dirty chai cupcake would be amazing! Chai spiced cupcake with a chocolate/espresso center and topped with a spiced cream cheese frosting, with a chocolate covered espresso bean topper.”
Your wish is my demand, Ali!
This cupcake is a chai spiced cupcake stuffed with an espresso brownie. And to make the center extra rich, the brownies have a surprise of their own: a chocolate-covered espresso bean tucked inside! They’re topped off with a cream cheese and chai frosting that just might be the best frosting I’ve ever made. After one bite, you’ll be all, “Hostess who?”
Thanks for the great recipe inspiration, Ali! You really should consider getting into the recipe development business.
Ali’s Dirty Chai Cupcakes
Makes 20-24 cupcakes
For the brownies, you’ll need:
- ¾ sticks unsalted butter
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
- 1 or two heaping teaspoons instant espresso powder (depending on how strong you want the espresso flavor)
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
For the cupcakes, you’ll need:
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup liquid chai tea concentrate (I used Tazo brand)
- ⅓ cup whole milk
For the frosting, you’ll need:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup chai tea mixture
- chocolate-covered espresso beans for garnish (optional)
1. First, make the brownies. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Grease a mini 20 or 24 count mini cupcake tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave-safe bowl for two minutes on high. Stir the mixture until all the chocolate is melted and combined with the butter. Stir in the sugar until it’s well combined, then add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and salt, and stir until creamy. Finally, add the flour and stir until just combined. Scoop a heaping teaspoon of brownie batter into greased mini cupcake tins. Press one chocolate-covered espresso bean into the batter, and use a spoon (or your finger, I won’t tell) to cover the espresso bean. Bake the brownies for about 18-20 minutes (be careful not to overbake or you’ll have dry brownies). Allow the brownies to cool for a bit, then start the cupcakes.
2. With the oven still at 350° F, line 20-24 regular cupcake tins (depending on how many brownies your mini cupcake tin made) with cupcake liners. Cream together the butter and sugar, with the mixer on medium high, until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, completely mixing in each egg before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are getting well incorporated. Then add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix again for about a minute, on medium high. Then add the flour and the chai, alternating between the two ingredients in a couple batches, to avoid lumps. Finally, add the milk and mix the batter just until smooth.
3. Remove the brownies from the mini cupcake tin and gently squish into a ball shape (this will help them fit into the cupcake tins better). Fill the cupcake tins with the chai batter so they’re ½ full. Gently press the brownie ball into the batter and, using a teaspoon, spread a little dollop of batter over the brownie so it’s completely covered and the cupcake tins are about ¾ of the way full. Bake the cupcakes for about 20-22 minutes, until the tops of the edges have started to brown and the cake in the center springs back when you gently press your finger into it. Allow the cupcakes to completely cool before frosting.
4. For the frosting, start by creaming the butter for 30 seconds on high. Then, add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until completely incorporated (stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times, too). With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the liquid chai concentrate until you get your desired taste and consistency. If your frosting gets too runny, add some more sugar. If it’s too thick, but you don’t want to add more chai flavor, add a splash of milk. Then frost your cupcakes and top with a chocolate-covered espresso bean or some chocolate shavings.
And! A tip: Should this look like a whole lot of work to you, you can always just make one or the other—the espresso brownies or the chai cupcakes. Each is delicious on its own. Without brownies stuffed inside, the cupcake recipe will yield about 18 regular-sized cupcakes.