Sometimes I Can’t Help Myself. Others I Help Myself Too Much. Case In Point: Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

After enthusiastically pouncing on the pumpkin bandwagon by making homemade pumpkin puree, pumpkin has kind of been the theme here in our Comfortably Domestic house.  I must admit to feeling a tug in loyalties having committing myself so fully to a week of pumpkin after having publicly stating my unwavering devotion to chai latte on numerous occasions.  A delicate situation, for sure.

After slurping down my first second fifth Grande-non-fat-chai-latte with the requisite seasonal shot of pumpkin, an idea clobbered me with obviousness. A marriage of chai and pumpkin had to be arranged.

A couple of pie pumpkins, and a whole lot of cupcake trials later, these Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes emerged as the winning combination; definitely worthy of your warm-spice-loving sensibilities.

Because warm spices are the official taste of the Fall, y’all!

I think it’s important to note that making these cupcakes is as simple as can be. Two bowls, a whisk, and a little upper arm strength are the only equipment you need to assemble the batter.

We have a relatively simple cast, as far as cake casts go. You’ll need all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, warm spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, the usual leavening suspects: baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter. Oh! And vanilla. It’s a little known fact that my vanilla extract tends to be camera shy and sneaks out of cast shots before the photos are taken.

Vanilla extract and Son #2 have a lot in common.

Preheat the oven to 350° F before lining 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners; set the prepared pans aside.

Measure the flour into a medium sized bowl, and add the leavening components.

Then toss in the warm, chai-like spices. I may or may not have squealed in anticipation at this point in the process.

Whisk the dry ingredients well, then set them aside for a few minutes so that they can get to know each other a little better.  It’s a little know fact that chai-like spices can be a bit bashful.

I’m just chock-full of little known facts, today.

Melt the butter, and pour it into a large bowl. Top the melted butter with the sugar. In my world, all great things begin with melted butter and sugar.

Then add the eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk the wet stuff together until well blended.  But wait! There’s more!

Add the pumpkin puree and the milk to the blended wet stuff in the bowl.  Whisk the new addtions into the wet ingredients until well incorporated.

Note: I made my own pumpkin puree because if you use the canned stuff the cupcakes will be wretched.  Only kidding! I made my own puree because I happened to have the inclination and a pie pumpkin.  Feel free to use canned 100% pumpkin in this recipe. Your cupcakes will be delicious either way!

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, stirring with a fork until just blended.  I recommend preparing this particular cake batter by hand, to ensure that the cupcakes come out moist and tender.

Once the batter is finished, fill the cupcake liners in the prepared pans 2/3 full of batter. I portion batter for cupcakes using a large kitchen scoop. My large scoop has a 3 tablespoon capacity, and perfectly fills the cupcake liners.  If you don’t have a large kitchen scoop, just us a big spoon.

Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 17-19 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in their pans for 3-4 minutes before removing them to cool completely on a wire rack.

If you are like me, you’ll be so excited at the prospect of pumpkin-chai-anything that you’ll completely forget to take pictures of the filling/baking/cooling/frosting processes of the recipe.  My apologies. 😉

But I did do all of those things.  In fact, I made The Only Frosting You’ll Ever Need because pumpkin and cream cheese are made for each other. I also infused the butter in the recipe with a few chai teabags to carry just a hint of the warm spices through the frosting.  You don’t have to infuse the butter with tea, but if you want to, see the method for doing so by scrolling to the frosting portion of this post.  Or use you can skip the cream cheese all together by making your favorite vanilla buttercream.

Now matter how you top ’em, these Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes are sure to bring warmth to a chilly fall days.  I should know. I was apparently so chilly that I powered-down 4 of these cupcakes in one day before I felt the warmth. 😉

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

Makes 24 Cupcakes

2 ½ C. all-purpose flour

¾ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cloves

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. ground all spice

2/3 C. unsalted butter, melted

2 C. pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

2C. granulated sugar

½ C. milk

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 Recipe for The Only Frosting You’ll Ever Need

(Optional: for added punch, infuse the butter with 2-3 Chai tea bags before making frosting)

Note: For moist and tender cupcakes, I highly recommend mixing this recipe by hand rather than with an electric mixer.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and all spice; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, pumpkin puree, sugar, milk, vanilla, and eggs until well blended.
  4. Pour wet mixture into the dry mixture, folding with a rubber spatula to mix until just blended.
  5. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full with batter, being careful not to over fill or the cakes will run over while baking. A large, level kitchen scoop (3 Tbs. capacity) works well for filling the muffin cups.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 17-19 minutes, or until muffins are just set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow cupcakes to cool in their pans for about 4 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Frost cooled cupcakes with The Only Frosting You’ll Ever Need, or your favorite vanilla Buttercream or creamed cheese frosting recipe.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter for 1 day, or refrigerate for longer storage. Cupcakes are best when served at room temperature.

Chai Tea-Infused Frosting

Makes About 4 Cups

½ C. (8 Tbs.) butter

3 good quality chai tea bags (or ¼ C. loose tea)

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

3 ½ C. powdered sugar (or more, depending on desired consistency)

½ tsp. clear vanilla extract

To Infuse Butter:

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan set over low heat. (Or in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute on 60% power.)
  2. Submerge tea bags to the melted butter, and continue to simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. (or microwave on 20% power for 5 minutes, then steep for 3 more on the counter.)
  3. Remove tea bags, and squeeze them well to release all butter from the bags. Or if using loose tea, strain tea out of butter by pouring it into a mesh strainer that has been lined with cheese cloth. Squeeze the cloth to get all the butter out of it.
  4. Let butter cool to room temperature. Butter will re-solidify, but remain soft.   Stir the softened butter before using.

To Make Frosting:

  1. Cream together cream cheese and infused butter until fluffy.
  2. Stir vanilla extract into the creamed mixture.
  3. Sift or whisk powdered sugar to aerate.
  4. Stir powdered sugar into cream cheese mixture, 1 cup at a time, until well blended.
  5. Makes enough to generously frost a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan, 24-28 cupcakes, or an 8-inch layer cake.


  • This makes a soft consistency frosting.
  • For a stiff decorator frosting: add more powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.  Be aware that more powdered sugar will dilute the tea flavor of the frosting.
  • Other flavors of tea may be used to infuse the butter.  Fruit or spice tea varieties taste the best.

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  1. says

    As I read this, I felt like a parent who has turned their back for just one second too long. What mischief you’ve been up to! The infused frosting is such a wonderful idea – do you think these would be good with an infused glaze?

  2. says

    OH MY! TWO of my very favorite flavors as well. My husband will die for these! Thank you so much. A touch of fall for our tropical home…:)
    (baking these will no doubt even beat the smell of my pumpkin candle that I burn daily to help me get through this season….or lack of season! ;))
    Aloha friend!

    • says

      Thanks, Cheryl! I used to scoff at piping bags, but I tell ya…I can frost cupcakes much faster than when using a knife, and they are much prettier when I am done. I do have a few chocolate recipes up my sleeve for you, though. 😉

  3. says

    OK….Alex just whipped these up (with a few substitutions due to lack of ingredients, as usual :)) and they are DELICIOUS!!! SO good!! Thank you for a great fall recipe!

  4. says

    That looks yummy, though I am not a fan of chai. M’Lord is, though.

    I mentioned the lack of canned pumpkin to one of the other Kindergarten moms that I meet while walking, and today she presented me with two cans of Libby’s that she had found at Target. She stocked up for herself, too. So now I have plenty of backup for when I run out of fresh mashed pumpkin and it’s out of season. My pumpkin bread came out very well using the fresh mashed, by the way!

    Keep making me hungry, Ma’am!

  5. says

    These sound fantastic, Kirsten. I love the spices there. These look very much like my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe, but I’ve never tried frosting them. Something tells me that four might be my future as well, with your frosting on top!

  6. says

    I just spent like three minutes staring at that last picture, trying to will it to become real in front of me. Because I’d really like one of those cupcakes right now, and I’m so tired I can hardly lift a finger to type, so I’m certainly not going to whip up cupcakes in this mental state. But I’d find a way to lift a finger to eat them, if one magically appeared in front of me. :)

  7. Justine says

    These were the best cupcakes I have ever eaten!! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!! I will be making them in the very near future. I only regret taking just one home from Jenny’s party the other night!!

  8. Amanda says

    I just made these for a friend’s birthday. They came out wonderfully! Perfectly moist and fluffy. Thank you for the recipe!

  9. says

    Although I am in sunny Florida, where it still feels like summer, I am in the mood for fall, I cannot wait to try this cupcake recipe! I love chai spice flavors, and I love all things pumpkin! Thank you!


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