Mary Beth Johnson is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. She is currently writing her first book in between school drop off and laundry piles.
She can be found every day on Instagram and at the local coffee shop. Post by Sweet MaryBeth:
The Thanksgiving table is many things, but nothing spells grateful like a dessert table abundantly overflowing with sugar and spice. This Chai Pumpkin Cake with Maple Browned Butter Frosting will upstage the traditional pies, crumbles, and fudge with light and fluffy textures and all the flavorful spices. Besides, no one can argue that cake is the perfect nightcap to a menu of roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes.
If you’re in charge of hosting Thanksgiving this year, plan ahead. There are great resources out there (like THIS) that offer Thanksgiving Day prep timelines. As a chronic procrastinator, I love the idea of ironing your linens several days in advance, planning out which dishes will hold what, and prepping food as early as possible. Most of your desserts should be made before Thanksgiving day. Cakes and pies can hold their own (and often taste even better) on day two. This Chai Pumpkin Spice Cake with Browned Butter Frosting is no exception. If storage is an issue, you can bake the cake, let cool, and then wrap the cake up snugly with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator till you’re ready to frost.
I’m going to let you in on a secret life hack: when baking a cake, use a cake mix as the base and then “dress” it up with additional flavors. This baking method will shorten prep time and also give you as little or as much creative control as you desire. In this particular recipe, I started with a vanilla cake mix. I added pumpkin puree, which increases the moistness of the cake. Then, I added tons of spices for the chai flavor, per Half Baked Harvest’s suggestion. Having baked for years, I can promise you that cake mixes are no downgrade. They are reliably moist and light in texture, details I find uncompromisable in cake baking.
Thanksgiving day is a gathering. There will most likely be a guest list with a variety of taste preferences and dietary stipulations. I think it’s important to be accommodating, while also remembering the table represents bounty and blessing. I, personally, like to have a mix of textures on the table so there’s a little something for everyone. There are plenty of diary-free, gluten-free dessert options, like these decadent baked pears with walnuts and honey or this flourless crumble. This Chai Pumpkin Cake with Maple Browned Butter Frosting doesn’t solve any dietary restrictions, but it is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.
This chai cake was inspired by a favorite pumpkin cake my grandmother would bring to Thanksgiving every year. I like threading old and new traditions together in a recipe. I find bakers from the past kept things uncompromisingly simple, while modern cooks are more free with their expression of flavors. For example, my grandmother made a killer pumpkin loaf cake with a simple cream cheese spread. But with this recipe, I amped up the flavor with the spices and borrowed Half Baked Harvest’s amazing cream cheese maple browned butter frosting.
If you take a quick glance through old newspaper recipe clippings you won’t find our grandmothers using browned butter. Yet, browned butter this and browned butter that are all the rage on baking blogs. I swear it is one of the things millennials have really gotten right. If you’ve never tried it before, here’s how you do it:
This frosting with browned butter makes the recipe. Drizzle the cake with some leftover maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon for extra pizzazz.
Whether you make this cake for Thanksgiving day, or use the autumn inspired spices for an afternoon treat with a homemade cup of coffee, enjoy!