That’s-a-spicy cupa-cake!

They say print media is dying.  And while it is true that we don’t subscribe to The Los Angeles Times, TD and I have had the pink-plastic wrapped Wall Street Journal delivered for years.  TD, the excellent news consumer that he is, reads it every morning cover to news-printy cover.  Me?  Not so much.  But, I do enjoy their weekend editions and have, surprisingly, found the WSJ to be a source of some excellent recipes.  This is one of them.

Spicy and sweet, these cupcakes start out with a homemade chai blend.  I found my cardamom pods at Whole Foods.  Notice the peppercorns are black.  Not pink.

The spice mixture is used to scent and flavor a cake with a dense but moist crumb, perfect consistency for a cupcake in my opinion.

The aromatic cake is further enhanced by a ginger-infused cream cheese frosting that takes five minutes to throw together.

The Wall Street Journal version is actually a layer cake.  However, I think these cupcakes are just that much more festive.  And we are celebrating. At this posting, not only are TD and I leaving on a jet plane for the land of down-under, but I am also about to have one those events that involve blowing out candles.

Like, forty of them.


Amos Lee

Chai Cupcakes with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

adapted from the Wall Street Journal, February 2-3, 2013 (who adapted the recipe from One Girl Cookie, Brooklyn New York)

For the Cupcakes


  • 30 cardamom pods
  • 7 black (not pink) peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 12 ounces (24 TBS) butter at room temp
  •  2 ½ C sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ C sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line  2, 12-cup cupcake pans with liners.
  2. On a cookie sheet, toast cardamom, peppercorns and cloves until fragrant (about 8 minutes.  Once spices are cool, grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and ground spices.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a  paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar mixing until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  5. Set mixer on low speed and add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Mix until fully combined, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Set mixer on low speed, add in flour in three parts alternating with sour cream beginning and ending with flour.  Mix until just combined after each addition.
  7. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for an additional 10 seconds.
  8. Scoop batter into cupcake liners adding until just under the top of the liner.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  Test with toothpick.  Cupcakes are done when the toothpick comes up with moist crumbs.
  10. Allow to cool completely.

For the Frosting


  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 TBS of butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar (more if desired)
  • 1 ½ TBS ground ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C toasted and chopped pistachios if desired


  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat cream cheese, butter and salt on medium until smooth.  Scrape down sides of bowl.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar, grounds ginger and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are combined and the frosting is smooth.
  3. Frost cupcakes as desired and sprinkle chopped pistachios over top to garnish.

But isn’t cake always fun?

March is a heavy birthday month in my family.  TD’s is the 3rd and my brother’s is the 17th.  So, we needed cake.  Lots of it.  While perusing the March issue of Bon Appetit, I spied a recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Fun Cake.  Well yeah, chocolate and peanut butter are always fun.  This is a single-layer cake made in a 8X8″ pan.  And, it starts with chocolate.

This is also one of those no-heavy lifting or serious kitchen tools required sort of recipes.  At least, the cake part is.

The resulting batter will be very dark and very thick.

And really difficult to not stick your fingers into.

Out of the oven, the cake looks a lot like a brownie.  But don’t be fooled.  This baby is all cake.

The frosting is a basic buttercream recipe with a lot of peanut butter thrown in.  Be prepared to be able to smell nothing but peanut butter for the rest of the day after making a batch of this confection.

Enough whipping (and air) and the color fades to a nice, mellow Tuscan beige.

And then the real fun begins.  We happened to have house guests the weekend of TD’s birthday.  So, I enlisted a mini-pastry chef to decorate.  She used salted peanuts, mini peanut butter cups and chocolate curls.

Here our chef spreads a nice thick layer of buttercream.

A border of baby cups.

She spelled-out the birthday boy’s name in peanuts…but was very artistic about it.

And that my friends, is a very fun cake.  I would have liked to hire Kate on permanently but her dad said something about kidnapping and child labor laws.


All kids songs all the time.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fun Cake

Bon Appetit, March 2012


Chocolate cake:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces)

Peanut butter buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 1 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted, dry roasted pinenuts  (TMH note: I believe this is a typo–I used salted peanuts)
  • Mini peanut butter cups (a TMH addition, optional)


For chocolate cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat bottom and sides of pan with nonstick spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cups water; whisk until smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate. Scrape into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For peanut butter buttercream:
Combine sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot to the touch, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat; using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until cool and thick, 5-6 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then peanut butter. With mixer running, add butter a few pieces at a time, beating to blend between additions. Season with salt.

Run a thin knife around pan to release cake. Invert cake onto a serving plate. Spread peanut butter buttercream over top. Garnish with chopped chocolate and peanuts. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Cut into 2″ squares.