Before I begin to heap praise upon praise for this recipe, I just have one quick question: Do you like Chai?
At the beginning I didn’t like Chai. At all. It reminded me of this particular childhood stomachache medicine that my grandmother used to force into me whenever my tummy went bad. I asked her why it smelled odd and she told me it was a concoction of crushed Chinese herbs that will cure me instantly. I admit begrudgingly that my stomachaches do go away pretty quickly after having this medicine, but it certainly always left a bad taste in my mouth. It used to be that the moment I get a whiff or a taste of anything Chai-flavoured, this is the memory that surfaces to my mind.
I guess this cake is about to replace that memory now.
Chai is probably one of those things that not a lot of people like. I myself didn’t touch the stuff until recently. One time I had accidentally bought a box of Chai tea from the grocery store, because in my haste to grab and go, I didn’t notice that there was a box of Chai tea right smack in the middle of the Green Tea section in the Supermarket. When I got home and saw that I had made a mistake, I suddenly had this urge to give Chai tea another chance. My first cup, I still didn’t like it.
The memory from my childhood was just too strong. But because I had already opened the box, there was no way I could return it to the Supermarket. I had no choice but to drink it all down. I could’ve used it in baking, but most of the recipes I had made use of a mixture of spices to recreate the Chai flavour. So drink all of it I did.
A few tea bags of Chai later, I began to appreciate it. And to make a long story short, I’m so thankful for the “freak accident” that caused me to like the Chai flavour enough for me to make this cake. Because this cake, ladies and gentlemen, is a work of yumminess art. The crumb was perfectly spiced; and the cake! The cake was out of this world soft and fluffy and heavenly. Once put together they were a perfect combination. I must’ve eaten a slice every single day.
Chai-Spiced Crumb Coffee Cake
Makes one 9 x 9-inch cake, serving 9 to 12
For the Chai topping
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
For the vanilla coffee cake
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup sour cream, full or low fat is fine
- 1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or lightly greased aluminum foil, or butter and flour the pan.
Make the topping
- 2. In a medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients except the butter. Whisk to blend.
- 3. Gradually stir in the melted butter, using a large fork or spatula to mix. When all the butter has been incorporated and the mixture looks like wet sand, squeeze small clumps together to make large crumbs ranging in size from that of a pea to that of a grape. Set aside.
Make the cake
- 4. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- 5. In a bowl of the electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light.
- 6. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.
- 7. With the mixer set on low speed (or by hand), alternately add in flour and sour cream in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
- 8. When no streaks of flour remain, pour into prepared pan. Top evenly with crumb mixture.*
- 9. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before slicing as the cake will be very soft and might fall apart if not yet set.
If you happen to dislike Chai, I would still recommend you try this coffee cake out. The Chai flavour isn’t overwhelmingly strong, but if you want, you can replace the spices with a combination of cinnamon, ginger and cloves maybe. The cake base is absolutely fantastic and would probably complement anything.