The first time I ordered chai tea in a cafe in Sydney, I was surprised. I had been expecting a pot of black tea and a small pitcher of milk.
Instead, what came to the table was a pot of fragrant, soothing tea brewed directly in whole milk. Obviously, I was living under some sort of rock until then because it had never crossed my mind I could brew tea this way. The result, however, is as lovely as it sounds - a pot of warmly spiced comfort, creamy and exotic, reminiscent of the days when I would be tucked into bed with a story of once-upon-a-time and a mug of warm milk that could put me instantly to sleep.
That is essentially what this cake is - home made comfort, much like a hug from Mom or that warm milk before bedtime. The tea bags are snipped open and the leaves directly infused into the milk, lending the cake its richly spiced aroma and generously speckling each slice with its flavor.
Chai is a wonderful accompaniment to almonds, which are present in two forms in this cake: flaked slices sprinkled on top so they become lightly toasted in the oven and almond meal in place of flour in the cake to give it a dense and incredibly moist texture as well as a subtle hint of nuttiness.
This is the perfect cake to have with your afternoon tea. You'll get to have your tea and eat it too! (I just had to get that in somewhere.)
Chai Almond Teacake
Adapted from Butter Me Up, Brooklyn
Makes one standard-sized 8x4 loaf
Note: As usual, I've reduced the sugar by about 1/4 cup. You can substitute the chai tea with another type if you like - earl grey was what was in the original recipe. I'm a bigger fan of chai so I swapped it around, but feel free to experiment! Also, if you're choosing to use earl grey, you might like to include the lemon zest which I've marked optional (I left it out since I thought too much of it with the chai would overpower its spicy flavor) but with earl grey it would complement its citrus undertones nicely.
3 bags chai tea leaves, cut loose
1/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup oil
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup flaked almonds
Zest + juice of one lemon (optional - see note above)
Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Butter a 8x4 loaf pan and line with parchment.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the tea leaves over low heat until the milk just begins to simmer at the edges. Turn off the heat and set aside to let steep while you mix the batter.
Combine flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, sugar and (if using) lemon zest in a large bowl with a whisk. Then, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, yogurt, vanilla and (if using) lemon juice and whisk until thoroughly mixed and uniform in color. Whisk in the steeped milk and tea leaves and follow with the eggs. Mix the whole thing until smooth.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix well with a wooden spoon. Do not over-mix. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle generously with the flaked almonds. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.