I think I finally went off the deep end, cake-wise. I mean, what possessed me to make what is essentially a tiny, 4-inch, 4-layer wedding cake? I have no idea, but this was an idea that would not let go of me until I made it reality. Sometimes you just have to follow your brain wherever it takes you.
Even when you know it's crazy you are heading back to the store for more roses because you want them literally bursting out of the top of your cake. Lit-er-al-ly burs-ting, ok?
Even when you make said cake two different times because you just know that you can make your vision of gold elephants come true if you just try this other gold spray instead of paint, but you had to order it online, and the pastry cream you just had to fill your cake with won't last the 3-5 business days Amazon is demanding for delivery.
Even when you make another separate trip to yet a third grocery store for the cheater's chocolate that doesn't have to be tempered, because you spent an hour on the phone with your sister telling her how you were going to wrap your cake in an awesome chocolate band (with gold elephants dammit), but you are tired of ruining the expensive, real stuff by stubbornly not buying a digital thermometer.
Even when you swear you will never make a cake this complicated again, because you are so, so tired, but then the ok photos you manage to take of it convince you that you belong on the next season of The Great British Bake-Off, even though you aren't British and Mel and Sue aren't there anymore.
Even, even, even if.
Yes, hello, it's been quite a journey. I'm really fine, how are you?
Why Bride & Prejudice?
Have you ever seen the movie? It's a basically a Bollywood-lite take on Pride & Prejudice by the director of Bend it Like Beckham, starring Aishwarya Rai and that guy from Britney's "Toxic" video. Sayid from Lost and Illarya Sand also show up as Darcy's friends, and Rory Gilmore and one of the Originals from The Vampire Diaries too. If all of that pop-culture overlap isn't enough to convince you this is the greatest movie ever, let me assure you that combining Jane Austen with Bollywood-style musical numbers and some questionable East-meets-West comedy is truly movie magic. I've been obsessed since I first saw it in college, and it's been a go-to comfort movie for years.
I took one look at my sketches for how I wanted to decorate this cake and realized I had turned the joy that all of the above conjures in my mind into pastry form.
The result is a chai-spiced cake filled with a golden milk pastry cream and wrapped in ginger buttercream and chocolate. The flavors, plus the gold elephant accents and burst of roses on top, all combine into a very over-the-top, only tangentially Indian confection just waiting for the appropriate occasion.
Kind of like this movie I know...
Chai Cake with Golden Milk Filling
There are a lot of special items called for in this cake, so check below the recipe for helpful links to buy online if you don't have a local source.
Before starting, brew 1 cup very strong chai tea.
- 1/6 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup jaggery (or another 1/4 cup sugar)
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 2/3 tsp vanilla
- (2/3 cup + 1 tbs)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/6 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup strong chai tea
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two, 4-inch cake pans.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer, add egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the chai, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl and beat one more minute to combine.
- Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool a bit in the pans then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cool, level the cakes and cut each layer in half horizontally, into 4 layers. You can leave one of the cakes unleveled if you want; use it for the top layer and it will be covered by flowers.
Golden Milk Pastry Cream:
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1/8 cup jaggery (see note)
- pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- pinch cardamom
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tbs cornstarch
- 1/2 tbs turmeric ghee (or 1/2 tbs ghee or butter plus 1/8 tsp turmeric)
- In a small saucepan, combine milk, vanilla bean paste, 1/8 cup jaggery, salt, and spices and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch with remaining 1/8 cup jaggery. Pour in the hot milk mixture into the eggs and cornstarch, bit by bit, whisking constantly, to temper the yolks. Pour the combined mixture back into the pot and place over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixture, and add the ghee. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for 5 minutes until cooled and well-combined. Scrape pastry cream into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap to the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours, up to 2 days. Whisk just before using.
Chai Ginger Soak:
- 2/3 cup remaining chai tea
- 1 inch ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup sugar
- In a small pot over medium-high heat, add the chai tea and ginger and reduce to 1/3 cup. Strain out ginger and add sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring until sugar fully dissolves. Remove from heat and cool completely, chill until needed.
Ginger Turmeric Buttercream:
- 1 1/8 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks + 2 tbs), softened
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- pinch salt
- 3/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 3/4 tbs turmeric ghee (or 1/4 tsp turmeric or a few drops yellow food dye)
- 2 drops orange food coloring
- With a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, ginger, salt and vanilla bean paste together until fluffy and well combined. Add turmeric ghee and beat until blended to a pale lemon yellow color, then add orange food coloring and beat to marigold yellow.
Assemble the cake:
- On a 4-inch cake board (or 6-inch if you want), spread a little of the butter cream frosting and lay your first cake layer down, cut side up. Using a pastry brush, dab on a bit of the chai ginger soak. Pipe an edge of buttercream around the perimeter of the cake, and fill with 1/3 of the golden milk pastry cream. Top with a 2nd layer of cake and repeat, until you top with your final layer of cake (if you left a domed layer it should go on top). You may need to set the cake in the fridge to firm up between layers if it seems to be squishing while stacking. Once fully stacked, place in the fridge to firm up, for at least 5-10 minutes.
- Frost the cake: Spread a bit of the frosting into a crumb layer, smoothing the frosting around the sides and top of the cake with a bench scraper or spatula. Smooth the frosting around the sides, scraping any excess, crumb-filled buttercream into a bowl. Transfer cake to the refrigerator to let the crumb coat set, about 30 minutes.
- Using the remaining buttercream, coat the sides and top of the cake, smoothing into an even layer of frosting. Try to get the top of the sides as smooth as possible, but don't stress over the top or lower sides, as these will all be covered by decorations.
Decorate the cake:
- chocolate elephant band (directions below)
- As many red roses as you want to place atop the cake
- plastic wrap or flower cake inserts
Chocolate Elephant Band:
- 5 oz Ghirardelli dark melting wafers (this should be enough for a practice band + the one you use)
- 2 sheets Acetate (3 inches wide x 13 inches long)
- Wilton Gold Color Mist
- Elephant Stencil
- Gold decorative sprinkle balls
- Following the melting directions on the package, melt the chocolate wafers until smooth and glossy. Lay one of the acetate sheets down on a sheet of plastic wrap, and working quickly, smooth the chocolate over the surface into a thin layer, making sure to coat as evenly and smoothly as possible. Immediately pick up chocolate coated sheet and lay on another, clean sheet of plastic wrap to start to set. This will keep the edges of your chocolate band as neat as possible.
- As soon as the chocolate band seems to be setting, but while it is still pliable, pick it up and wrap around the cake, pressing the still soft chocolate into the buttercream. Try not to move the band around too much, as the soft chocolate can smear and leave gaps in the band. Press the ends of the band together, overlapping a bit. If you completely botch this part, it's ok! Let the chocolate set, then carefully chip off the chocolate from the cake, smooth the icing a bit, and try again with the remaining chocolate.
- Transfer the cake to the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes and let the chocolate fully harden and set.
- Once the chocolate has set, remove cake from the fridge and gently pull off the acetate strip. It should come away easily, leaving a smooth, shiny chocolate surface. Where the band overlaps, you should be able to gently snap off the overlapping chocolate, leaving a smooth, connected band behind. Make this join the "back" of the finished cake.
- To decorate the band, start in the back of the cake, and place the elephant stencil gently agains the side of the chocolate, and lightly spray with the gold spray. Hold the stencil in place for a few minutes while the spray evaporates, then gently let go. You should have a gold elephant! Repeat until you have circled the cake completely. Any smudges can be cleaned up with a Qtip, and I strongly suggest rinsing and drying the stencil in between elephants. I also strongly suggest practicing first on something other than your chocolate!
- Once elephants are applied, carefully place gold sprinkle balls around the top of the chocolate band, to look like beading.
- Place the roses: Press your flower cake inserts into the top of the cake, spacing as desired. Be careful! This is a tiny cake surface, and I noticed some cracking around the sides of the cake when I got a little overzealous with my roses. Into each insert, place a rose, stem trimmed, or as many as you can fit if you have smaller roses. You can also wrap stems of any remaining roses and tuck into any gaps. You just don't want to stick bare stems into your cake. I used organic roses, but even so, there's no telling what was in the water they were sold out of, so make sure to protect the surface of your cake from any contamination!
- Once you have finished decorating, step back and admire, tell your friends, post on Instagram, do a little dance. This thing is a beast! To serve, remove the flowers, smoosh frosting on top into a presentable state, then slice into desired portions.