This Chai Spiced Apple cake is full of warm chai spices – cinnamon, cardamom and cloves to name a few. It’s full of crispy apples and toasty, crackly, rich pecans. This is the perfect autumn cake that’s good all year round.
So, I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re probably thinking: Sara, it’s January and you’re trying to give me an apple forward dessert? What’s up with that? Well, hear me out. I know that it’s January and we’re staring down the barrel of that long slog of time between New Years and Memorial Day that means no breaks (unless you’re lucky/brave/wonderful enough to be a teacher). But isn’t that the perfect time for a break in the monotony? We’ve all been overwhelmed with cookies and Santa and cheer for the past month, and it’s nice to just throw all that aside for the next 11 months and throw some ingredients into a bowl and have it come out as this moist(sorry), tender, spicy cake full of appl-y chai deliciousness.
If you’re a person who doesn’t like Chai spices, you can totally leave that out and just cook the apples in either apple cider or apple juice and you’ll still have a wonderful apple cake. If, on the other hand, you want MORE Chai spice, you can add extra spices to the batter. So yes, this cake as written is totally a celebration of fall flavors, but it’s also super adaptable. It also makes your whole house smell divine while it’s baking.
Traditional Chai Spice Mixture:
Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, black pepper
If you added a ¼ teaspoon of each, or just mixed and matched your faves, you would get an even chai-ier chai. If you do that, add the extra spices at the same time as the salt and baking powder.
Best Baking Apples
The best apples for baking are almost always going to be something crisp that will keep its structure when baked, so:
Granny Smith, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Pink Lady
Are the go-to apples. Here’s my issue with that. I can never find Braeburn apples where I live. Jonagold – same thing. Pink Lady apples aren’t my favorite. Honeycrisp are amazing, but they’re also expensive and almost never go on sale. I prefer to eat them rather than bake with them unless it’s in a real showstopper of a dessert. I actually used Gala for this cake, because it’s what I had on hand the day I made it and it turned out fine. For something like a pie or a crisp where the apple is the real star, you definitely want to use a traditional “baking” apple, but for this cake, literally any apple you have on hand will work. It honestly wont stick around long enough for the apples to get soggy.
To make this cake, you’ll start out by cooking the apples with the chai concentrate and a little bit of sugar until they’re soft enough to pierce with a fork or knife.
Then you’ll mix together the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, adding the cooked apples in at the end. You then bake for 40-50 minutes and let cool almost completely before cutting into squares and serving with either a nice cup of Chai, or a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or both. You do you.
The other thing you could do with this is instead of adding the liquid from the apples into the cake, you could drain those juices into a bowl, then add a little bit of apple juice or apple cider to that, and a little more sugar, and a small knob of butter, and cook that down in a small saucepan (use the same one you used to cook the apples) until it’s nice and thick, and make a chai sauce to go on top of the cake. Doesn’t that sound heavenly?f
I know that basically everyone everywhere is inundating your feeds and inboxes with healthy, veggie forward content, or trying to get you to partake in a Whole 30 challenge, or give up sugar for the month, or any number of other “new year, new you” kind of witchcraft. And I’m not immune. I toyed with the idea of a sugar-free January. But at the end of the day, it’s not sustainable for my life which includes a LOT of baking and recipe testing. There’s just too much that I wouldn’t be able to make. And you know – I just like cake. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
So eat your cake, and enjoy it too. Because if the previous year taught us anything, it’s that even if you never eat sugar, that doesn’t make you immune from a pandemic where you’ll end up sitting at home in your pajamas for 9 months.
Chai Spiced Apple Cake
- 2 cups of apples, peeled, cored, and diced
- ½ cup Trader Joe's Chai Concentrate
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (chop, then measure out ½ cup)
- ⅛ cup of sugar*
- In a small saucepan add the apples, chai concentrate and the ¼ cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until apples are easily pierced with a fork. Set the apples aside in a bowl to cool to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350, and line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar for 3-5 minutes, or until butter no longer feels grainy when you rub it between your fingers.
- Add the egg and stir to combine.
- Add the salt and baking powder and stir to combine.
- Slowly add the flour and stir until combined.
- Add the apples and chopped nuts.
- Spoon the cake batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle the ⅛ cup of sugar over the top of the cake. Bake 40-50 minutes or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
*you can use a fancy finishing sugar here like Demerara, or you can just go with regular granulated sugar. Either will be delicious.