This chai spice buttercream frosting is fluffy, smooth, and full of warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and black pepper. It's like a chai latte in frosting form! Use it to decorate vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, pumpkin bread, vanilla cake, and more.
I'm a big frosting gal, and this blog has tons of frosting recipes! From no butter cream cheese frosting, to whipped chocolate ganache, to almond buttercream and coffee cream cheese frosting- there's something everyone will love. But this chai spice buttercream might be my new favorite! It only takes 10 minutes to make.
This frosting is inspired by a chai latte. Masala chai is a black tea that originated in South Asia and India. When you mix that warm spiced tea with frothed milk, it becomes a chai latte. They're spicy, creamy, and a little sweet- perfect for Fall.
This frosting has spicy flavors from aromatics like ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper swirled into a base of vanilla American buttercream made with butter and powdered sugar. I love it on this dirty chai cake, but it's also amazing piped on coffee cupcakes and almond cupcakes or slathered on brownies!
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For quantities and the full instructions, see the recipe card below.
- Unsalted butter- This creates the creamy base of the chai frosting while adding a rich, buttery flavor. I prefer unsalted butter so we have full control over the amount of salt. Make sure it softens on the counter for at least 30 minutes before you start so it's easy to mix.
- Chai spices- Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper make up our homemade chai spice mix.
- Salt- A pinch of salt helps to balance the sweetness of the powdered sugar. Make sure it is finely ground so there aren't big salt chunks in your frosting!
- Powdered sugar- This finely milled sugar easily blends into the butter while sweetening and thickening the crusting buttercream. Most powdered sugars are made with cornstarch (an anti-caking agent), so you don't need to sift it.
- Vanilla extract- A splash of vanilla helps offset the intense spices and rounds out the flavor profile.
- Milk- This optional ingredient helps get the frosting to the right consistency. It can be cold or room temperature.
Substitutions & Variations
- To make dairy free buttercream, try using plant-based butter sticks and non-dairy milk.
- Half and half, heavy cream, or plant-based milk or cream can be used instead of regular milk. Coconut milk is delicious!
- Instead of milk, use a small amount of strong chai tea concentrate (brewed and cooled) for an authentic chai flavor.
- Add more flavor to the buttercream by adding lemon zest, almond extract, rosewater, or orange blossom water.
Helpful Equipment & Tools
This recipe's instructions and process shots are specifically for a stand mixer, but they work with a handheld mixer too.
Step by Step Instructions
STEP 1: First, cream the softened butter in your stand mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes until smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
STEP 2: Next, mix in the spices and salt on low speed. Once they are incorporated, mix in half of the powdered sugar on low speed for about 2 minutes. Repeat with the second half of powdered sugar.
STEP 3: Once the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high to make the buttercream light and fluffy. Slowly stream in the milk (optional) until the desired consistency is reached. Now your chai spice buttercream is ready to use!
Tips for Success
- Use room temperature butter. Cold butter will make the frosting too thick and won’t mix well with the other ingredients. It will leave behind big, unmixed flecks.
- Always start the mixer on low speed. This helps prevent a huge sugar cloud and mess on your counter. I like to pulse the mixer on low until the sugar is incorporated and then increase the speed to medium.
- If your frosting is too thick, add ½ teaspoon of milk and mix in until desired consistency is reached. If it's too thin, add another tablespoon of powdered sugar.
Storage & Freezing
Store leftover buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Remember to let it come to room temperature and give it a good mix before you use it.
Wrap the frosting in plastic wrap or scoop it into an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months. When you're ready to use, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator and whip it in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer to get a creamy consistency again.
Frequently Asked Questions
This recipe yields about 2 cups of frosting. This is enough to frost a 2 layer 6" or 8" cake, a pan of brownies, or 12-24 cupcakes (depending on how much you pipe).
You can substitute black tea or traditional masala chai for the milk.
Definitely! Use any color you want, but the natural brown from the spices might muddy up the color. I recommend gel food coloring. Also note that adding too much can make your frosting thin.
More Frostings & Fillings to Try
Chai Spice Buttercream Frosting
- 1 5-quart stand mixer or handheld mixer
- 226 grams unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 480 grams powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-4 tablespoon milk optional
- Add softened butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until creamy.226 grams unsalted butter
- Mix in the spices and salt on low speed. Once incorporated, beat in half of the powdered sugar on low speed for about 2 minutes.1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, 480 grams powdered sugar
- Add the second half of powdered sugar and beat on low for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla.2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Increase the speed to medium high, beating until light and fluffy. Stream in the milk until the desired consistency is reached.2-4 tablespoon milk