Baking from scratch is a hobby of mine, and my favorite thing to do is develop my own recipes! This particular recipe took me a little over a year of off-and-on work to perfect, and when a friend suggested I enter it into a local cake contest, I decided to give it a shot!
This being my first cake contest, I decided to go all-out on the preparation. I carefully wrote the recipe down (submitting the recipe was part of the contest’s requirements), and followed my own directions for a test cake, making tweaks to the written instructions as I went along.
Let me tell you, that test cake was the queen of all cakes. The one cake to rule them all. Perfect crumb, perfectly smooth frosting, it came together beautifully in the naked cake style, and of course, was incredibly delicious.
On the one hand, this was a good thing: the recipe was great! On the other, I was worried when it came to making the real cake for the contest, something would go wrong since the test batch had gone so smoothly.
Call it choking under pressure (< likely), call it fate, but when I made the actual cake for the contest, so much went wrong. I cracked one of the layers when moving it after torting. I over-browned the butter for the icing, leaving flecks of butter that were almost black (yuck). But, worst of all, the icing would not cooperate! It was piece-y and so unappealing to look at, and made my contest cake (the one in the photographs) look like an embalmed version of the test cake.
What caused the icing to be so rough? Turned out, I'd let the temperature in the house creep all the way up to 75F (!), and all the butter and cream cheese just got too warm. Add in that it was a hot and humid day, and it was a recipe for one ugly cake.
I tried to salvage what I could of the appearance with flowers, but I was sure that anyone looking at the cake would immediately find it off-putting. So I was pretty surprised when I took home the third-place ribbon out of 12 contestants! Turned out, I was the only person who’d created their own recipe (others linked blogs or cookbooks as their source, or doctored boxed cake mixes), and most of the cakes were lacking in the decoration department. The judges also made the facetious PSA that salt is an important ingredient in baking, which got a chuckle from the crowd.
So! Mind your ingredient temperatures, and you too can create this prize-winning white-chocolate chai cake ;)!
Holly von Fox
Recipe | White Chocolate Chai Cake
Yields: 2 8″ cakes or 24 cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 3 minutes (includes cooling time)
4 oz (112 g) White Chocolate
2 and 1/2 cups (300 g) Cake Flour
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Chai Spice Blend
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
2 sticks (224 g) Unsalted Butter, at cool room temp
1 and 1/2 cups (300 g) Granulated Sugar, divided in half
4 Large Eggs, yolks & whites separated
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup (240 g) Buttermilk, at cool room temp
2 sticks (224 g) Unsalted Butter
1 8-ounce block Cream Cheese, at cool room temp
4 cups (480 g) Powdered Sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
Make your own chai spice blend: ½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground cardamom, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp ground allspice
Baking time will be shorter if making cupcakes; start checking at 15 minutes
Store in airtight container at room temp for up to 3 days
Brown the Butter (for use in frosting): In a medium pan, melt 2 sticks of butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, turn the heat up to medium. Stirring often, cook until the butter goes silent and smells warm and nutty, 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and place in freezer or fridge until solid. Allow to come to room temp before use in frosting. Can brown the butter days in advance.
Set oven to 350°F to preheat. Grease 2 8” cake pans.
Melt the white chocolate. Set aside to cool.
In a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the dry ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium for 20 seconds. Add half the sugar (¾ cup | 150 g) and beat for 4 more minutes, stopping halfway to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl
Add the vanilla extract and chocolate. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating for 30 seconds between each addition.
Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk. Set cake batter aside.
In a very clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites with whisk attachment on med-high speed for 1 minute. Gradually add the rest of the sugar (¾ cup | 150 g), continuing to beat until stiff peaks form, 2 to 5 minutes more. Fold the whipped egg whites gently into the cake batter.
Pour batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on wire rack.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the room temp browned butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients, beating on low until moistened, then on medium until smooth.
Frost and assemble cooled cakes.