Falling for Fall: Chai Cake with Coffee and Spiced Vanilla Sugar Glaze


I have to admit that there isn’t much I love more than fall. I love the changing leaves, that blazers and boots are acceptable attire, and that porches are aglow with snaggle-toothed pumpkins. I don’t even mind the dreary weather. And with the change in seasons, come intense baking pangs. However, I truly wished I could dedicate more time to it. As of late I’ve been juggling two part-time jobs, four classes, a huge audition at the end of the month, and still searching for more work. Needless to say, I’ve been chaotically busy, and October has brought an even busier schedule than I could have anticipated.

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While I’ve enjoyed the different work style for a myriad of reasons, I do admit that I’ve been desperately searching for what I want to do with my life. I’ve been trying in vain to get my novel written, I’ve been searching for magazines who might want a one-year veteran with a passion for writing and a mean eye for editing, and I’ve also been trying to keep my sanity. However, I’ve also realized that the typical 9-5 might never be right for me.

I enjoy a good lunch workout, and sometimes I want to be able to take a trapeze class at 10AM on a weekday without having to explain it to my boss.  Nevertheless, sometimes I feel like I’m floundering; packing my schedule full of new things, hoping and praying that one of those things will eventually become my career and everything will just click.


Therefore, it was a lovely reprieve to go home in August to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. We enjoyed festive drinks,mouthwatering food (in my opinion, East Coast seafood can’t be topped), and relaxing days (who doesn’t love wine at lunch?). It was exactly what I needed to get my mind off everything. But, of course, the minute I came back I was desperate to go home again. I often miss the creature comforts that only home can provide.Image

However, there is also something about fall that reminds me that winter is coming and Christmas will soon be here and I’ll be whisking my way across the country to go home once again. I fully admit that on these colder days I’m excited about going home to visit my family, drinking hot buttered rums, wrapping presents until the wee hours, and snuggling with my puppy and a good book. While I don’t welcome the freezing winters here, I fully welcome that warm, cozy feeling of the holidays, and soon peppermint mochas and gingerbread men will be acceptable dinner fare (OK, maybe just a snack). However, with the chilly weather and the intense desire for home, I’ve also been longing for a place of my own. Before I lost my job, I was shopping for condos. However, this isn’t exactly a practical use of my time now since I don’t have the money. Despite this, I’ve still been considering finding a new apartment that’s all mine. I need a space of my own, a place that I can sprawl out and do what I want without explaining anything to anyone. So I may also be facing a potential move soon. So, I guess you could say that I’ve been nomadic in almost all aspects of my life right now. I’m just hoping that at some point I can set down my bags somewhere and unpack for good. Until then, I’ll fly through the air with the greatest of ease and hope that when I stretch my hands out, that there is someone to catch me—or at least a safety net to break my fall.


There are many things that remind me of home when I’m homesick, but one thing that always comes to mind is my grandmother’s cinnamon cake. That has been a tradition for as long as I can remember. Whenever I would come back from college or the summers would meld into fall, my grandmother would make a beautiful pound cake with a buttery cinnamon sugar glaze that was just a little piece of heaven. And still, to this day, I crave it whenever I long for home. So until I can go home, I figured I would put on my thinking cap and create a variation of this beloved classic, because I’m not exactly home, but it’s as close as I’m going to get at the moment. So grab a cup of tea, your best blanket and book, and take a generous bite of this cake that is sure to be the food equivalent of all things fall.

Chai-Spiced Cake with a Coffee and Spiced Vanilla Sugar Glaze

 Serves: 12


1 ½ cups pastry flour

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 cup evaporated milk

4 tsp vanilla extract

2 oz chai spices

4 eggs (room temperature)

1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

2 cups sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.DSC_0725
  2. On the stove, heat the evaporated milk on low. Once it begins to bubble, add the chai spices and let simmer. Continue to stir to ensure that the milk doesn’t stick to the sides of the pot or curdle. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes, depending on how strong a chai flavor you want. Also, you can add more than the recommended amount of chai spices and simmer less. Once, the milk has turned a lovely golden color, remove it from the heat and let cool.DSC_0722
  3. While waiting for the milk to cool, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.DSC_0727
  4. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until well combined.
  5. Then add one egg at a time to the butter and sugar and beat well.
  6. DSC_0735Then combine the vanilla extract to the mixture.
  7. Once the milk is completely cool, you can combine everything together. Gently fold one-third of the dry ingredients and alternate with the evaporated milk. Do this three times until everything has been combined.
  8. Then pour the batter into a greased and floured pan and pop this beauty into the oven for about 35-40 minutes.DSC_0740 For me, this took a bit longer to cook all the way through because my oven is a bit off. So I gave it a full hour; however, I don’t recommend the full hour unless you’re oven is a little off temperature-wise. The best test is to insert a toothpick in the center of the cake to see if it’s done.


I was lucky to find all these amazing spices at a new spice shop that recently opened near me. I jumped with baker’s glee when I saw this place. It’s a dream, and I may spend way too much time and money in here if I’m not careful. However, this place quickly inspired me, as I found towering shelves of baking spices. I immediately grabbed the spiced vanilla sugar. I knew immediately that this would be topping my chai cake. As I delved further into the annals of this spice haven, I found a gorgeous smelling coffee spice that I knew would compliment the sweetness of the vanilla sugar beautifully. And boy do I love being right!


9. Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven. While it’s still piping hot, rub half a stick of butter over the top of the cake, making sure to generously coat it. Once coated, sprinkle the coffee spice over the cake, followed by the spiced vanilla sugar. Then let the cake cool (I know, this is always the hard part. It’s OK, you can break off a small nibble. I recommend nibbling at the crispy, sugary edges).

Now pour yourself a heaping mug of apple cider and enjoy together. God, I love fall!

I served this cake to friends, who all gave the thumbs up and garbled compliments through ravenous bites. Needless to say, it was a hit and it gave me that little sweet piece of home to tide me over until the holidays. Happy Fall, everyone!


3 thoughts on “Falling for Fall: Chai Cake with Coffee and Spiced Vanilla Sugar Glaze

  1. Dear Stephanie:   A beautiful blog – I loved it!  I wish I knew where to get chai spices  I love you.   Mom  

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