Spiced Chai Fig Cake With Vanilla Buttercream


November 12, 2018

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Is there any flavor that really says fall liked chai? Okay maybe pumpkin, but even that is usually mixed with chai spice to evoke all those warm and cozy fall feelings. The moment the cold weather hits I immediately begin reaching for cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, and allspice to warm up my favorite fall soups and desserts. Not to mention I basically keep a revolving pot of chai tea on the stove, which was how the idea for this recipe came to fruition in the first place.

why sustainably sourced tea matters

Before we get into this recipe I want to talk a little about the ingredients used, and specifically the tea used to evoke the delicious spiced chai cake flavor.

When it comes to tea, I am very particular. This is partly because after traveling to Asia many times I have now become somewhat of a tea snob, but also because the tea industry like most agricultural crops is riddled with issues of corruption, labor rights violations, and environmental health issues that I am just not willing to support.

Tea is the most popular drink in the world after water, and according to the Fair Trade Foundation an estimated 70,000 cups are consumed every second. That’s a lot of tea, and a lot of impact if more tea drinkers decided to purchase tea that supports better workers rights, and sustainability in the regions the tea we enjoy comes from.

Which is why when it comes to my tea, I almost exclusively buy from Arbor Teas, a small tea company based here in the USA with some of the most rigorous tea sourcing, and sustainability standards I have ever seen. From compostable packaging, to sourcing only organic and fair trade teas, to carbon neutral shipping methods, Arbor Teas is the definition of a company using business as a source for good.

Sustainable And Ethical Tea - Arbor Teas - The Well Essentials

why organic/fair trade?

Tea is a cash crop, like I mentioned above more than 70,000 cups are consumed every second around the world, yet in tea growing regions like Kenya and Malawi children are still malnourished, stunted, and living in poverty. This paradox is quite common in developing countries around the world where most of the cash crops of the world are grown, yet poor workers rights and low wages continue to keep communities in the cycle of poverty.

This is where organizations like the Fairtrade Organizations International (FLO) are working to help improve the health and economic wellbeing of farmers and laborers. Fair Trade helps give farmers a better voice in the global trade industry, and ensures that minimum prices are paid to the producer to ensure that producers can cover their costs for long-term sustainable production.

Similarly in the organic industry, organic tea production supports a more biodynamic and regenerative agricultural model that makes a far smaller impact on the environment when compared to conventional agriculture practices. Supporting organic helps eliminate harmful fertilizers and pesticides that degrade soil health, improve ground water quality, and improve the health and wellbeing of both the tea producers and consumers.

Sustainable And Ethical Tea - Arbor Teas - The Well Essentials

sourcing fair trade and organic ingredients

But Fair Trade and Organic obviously goes well beyond the tea industry. You can find fair trade and organic working in almost all ingredients you would use in any recipe, from sugar, to chocolate, to coffee, and other spices.

So the next time you go to bake or source ingredients for your next recipe I encourage you to think beyond price, and see if there is an organic or fair trade option that you could switch to. Often times when it comes to baking products I find that the cost difference is negligible, but the taste and impact is significant.

Spiced Chai Fig Cake With Vanilla Buttercream (gluten free) - The Well Essentials

the perfect fall cake

Now back to this Spiced Chai Fig Cake. This is a cake that I have been wanting to make for a long time, and with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up I figured what better time to test out a warm and cozy cake that is beautiful enough for your Thanksgiving dessert table.

This cake is a denser cake that is infused with warm chai spices thanks to Arbor Teas Organic Masala Chai Black Tea and is made extra special with a whipped vanilla buttercream frosting, fresh organic figs, and crushed pistachios.

While figs are not local/in season to my region (New England) this time of year, they are one of those special once or twice a year purchases that I love to buy around the holidays for special desserts like this one. I was luckily able to find organically grown USA figs at my local co-op and they truly do turn this cake into a showstopper.

Spiced Chai Fig Cake With Vanilla Buttercream (gluten free) - The Well Essentials
Spiced Chai Fig Cake With Vanilla Buttercream (gluten free) - The Well Essentials

how to infuse chai tea flavor into the cake

To get that warm chai flavor into the cake you are going to have to infuse the chai tea flavor into full-fat canned coconut milk. Flavors transfer best through fat, which is why the coconut milk has to be the full-fat kind you get in a can, not the liquid you buy in the refrigerated section.

To infuse the chai tea simply scoop the coconut cream from the top of a full-fat coconut milk can that has cooled in the refrigerator overnight. Scoop the cream into a small cup and heat on high for 1-2 minute in the microwave. Once the coconut milk is liquid and hot, add your chai tea and allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes.

Once the tea has steeped, strain the tea from the coconut milk using a fine mesh strainer. Make sure to save the chai flavored coconut milk as this will be used in the recipe. Thanks to this chai tea infusion this cake is just as delicious as it is beautiful to look at.

Spiced Chai Fig Cake With Vanilla Buttercream (gluten free) - The Well Essentials
Spiced Chai Fig Cake With Vanilla Buttercream (gluten free) - The Well Essentials

spiced chai fig cake with vanilla buttercream


  • 1 cup gluten free flour

  • 2 cups gluten free oat flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

  • 3 tablespoons Arbor Teas Masala Chai Black Tea

  • 2 eggs

  • 8 tablespoons butter (room temperature)

  • 1/2 cup raw honey

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar

  • 1.5 tsp vanilla

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp cardamon

  • 1 pint fresh figs

  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios


  • Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 9″ round baking dish.

  • Combine gluten free flour, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and baking powder in a medium size bowl and whisk throughly to remove any clumps.

  • Infuse chai tea into coconut milk by heating coconut milk in a small cup in the microwave and adding chai tea to coconut milk.

  • Allow tea to steep for 5 minutes, then strain tea from coconut milk. Saving the chai flavored coconut milk liquid.

  • Next, using a high-speed mixer (or hand mixer) combine coconut milk, butter, eggs, honey, coconut sugar, and vanilla.

  • Continue to mix wet mixture on a medium speed until well combined.

  • Next, add dry mixture to wet mixture, and slowly continue mixing until well combined, and no clumps remains.

  • Bake for roughly 35-40 minutes, or until the center of the batter has cooked through.

Spiced Chai Fig Cake With Vanilla Buttercream (gluten free) - The Well Essentials

Frosting Ingredients

  • 3 sticks butter

  • 4 cup powdered sugar

  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting Methods

  • Start by chopping cold butter into cubes, then add butter to a mixture and whip on high until butter begins to soften and lighten in color.

  • Next, lower the mixer speed to low and add vanilla extract. Then slowly begin to add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until frosting is light and airy.

  • You may need to scrap down the sides of the mixer as you go to ensure butter and sugar are well combined.

  • Once cake has cooled throughly ice the cake with the whipped buttercream frosting.

  • Top with sliced figs and crushed pistachios and serve.

Now that your cake is complete take a second to sit back and admire how beautiful it looks before digging in. And I promise that if you bring this cake to a holiday party this season your dessert will be a guaranteed hit — even if people are afraid to eat it because it looks so pretty.

This post is in partnership with Arbor Teas, an incredible sustainable tea company whose standards are unparalleled and who I am proud to partner with to help improve education about the global tea industry.

Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN

Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN

Megan is a maternal-child health dietitian and mom of two. With nearly a decade of experience working in maternal-child nutrition both domestically and abroad, Megan is passionate about supporting mothers and their little ones through pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.

Megan especially loves helping to nourish families with simple, delicious recipes that both children and adults will enjoy. All of the recipes at MADRE are gluten free, and focused on celebrating food culture, seasonality, and supporting the nutritional needs of growing children, mothers, and families.

Megan holds a MS in Nutrition and MPH in Global Health from Tufts University, and received her dietetic license (RDN) from Brigham and Women's Hospital. She has advanced training in pediatric nutrition and baby led weaning, and is currently working towards becoming a certified lactation consultant.

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Mom of two girls under two, and registered dietitian specializing in prenatal, postpartum, and infant wellness. My passion for supporting moms and babies began more than a decade ago, but nothing made me more committed to helping moms and babies thrive than going through my own pregnancy and postpartum journey.

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