Cranberry Chai Cupcakes

When it comes to holiday meal planning, I can never contain all my tried-and-true favorites and must-try recipes to one meal.  I don’t even think I could contain them all to one table!  

There’s just something about the holiday season that just makes me want to go above and beyond.  I love the sights, the smells, the crisp air, and the time with family and friends.  Naturally, I show those dearest to my heart how much I love them through food.  

cranberry chai cupcakes

These beauties use butter, sugar, and a warm blend of chai spices make the most beautiful, fluffy buttermilk cupcakes.  They’re studded with bright red flecks of cranberry and topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting that gets another hit of the chai spice blend.  Just about the only thing better than these cupcakes themselves is enjoying them with family and friends on a cold holiday night. 

cranberry chai cupcakes

Moist and fluffy buttermilk cupcakes get the holiday treatment with a healthy dose of warm chai spices and flecks of deep red cranberries.

Cranberry Chai Cupcakes

slightly adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Cupcakes


For the chai spice seasoning:

1 tsp. ground fennel

3/4 tsp. ground cloves

2 tsp. ground cardamom

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

For the cupcakes:

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 c. granulated sugar

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 TBSP chai spice seasoning

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 1/4 c. buttermilk

3/4 c. chopped fresh cranberries

For the frosting:

1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, at room temperature

4 TBSP (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp. chai spice seasoning

4 c. confectioners’ sugar

For the garnish:

1 c. sugared cranberries (I use this method)

24 star anise


1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line 20-24 muffin cups with paper liners.  In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the chai spice seasoning. 

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium high speed for 30 seconds to loosen.  Gradually add sugar, 1/4 c. at a time.  Continue cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together flour, 1 TBSP chai spice seasoning, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

4.  Return to butter and sugar.  Scrape down sides of the bowl then lower speed to medium and add in vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

5.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then turn to low speed.  Alternate adding flour mixture and butter milk in three additions, beginning and ending with flour.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more and fold in cranberries.

6.  Using a standard-sized scoop or scantly filled 1/4 c. measuring cup, fill each muffin well two-thirds full.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

7.  Let cupcakes cool on a wire rack, in the pan, for 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.

8.  While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by creaming together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer set on medium.  Add the vanilla and 1 1/2 tsp. chai spice seasoning and beat until fully incorporated.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 c. at a time, until the frosting reaches desired sweetness and consistency.  Frost when cupcake are completely cooled.  Garnish with sugared cranberries and star anise.

Yield: about 24 cupcakes

*Note: This recipe was previously submitted to Beantown Baker’s Friday Favs.  Here’s what I wrote at the time:

I am so happy to tell you that, today, I joined the ranks of Beantown Baker’s Friday Favs!  Just like me, Jen is a lover of cupcakes and cranberries.  With this in mind, I decided to make cranberry chai cupcakes with chai cream cheese frosting for my guest post.  While you’re over on Jen’s site, I hope you’ll check out her Power of Pink challenge–an event Jen hosts every October in support of breast cancer awareness.  

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  1. elly
    October 14, 2011 / 2:28 pm

    The cupcakes are gorgeous! And they sound delicious, too. Yum.

  2. Josie
    October 14, 2011 / 2:50 pm

    Kelsey, those are so pretty! And I bet they taste great too – definitely want to try these this fall!

  3. Ammie
    October 14, 2011 / 2:51 pm

    These are beautiful! I'm a cranberry lover too, so I'll need to make these soon!

  4. Krystal
    October 14, 2011 / 5:17 pm

    OMG…Kelsey, these are the most gorgeous cupcakes ever!! I love the flavor combo of this. Can't wait to try these out for the holidays!!

  5. ally_m146
    October 14, 2011 / 5:25 pm

    Those are beautiful, adding them to the list of things I'd like to bake soon!

  6. Jessica @Sunny Side Up
    October 14, 2011 / 6:21 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous!!!! Love!

  7. Cara
    October 14, 2011 / 8:56 pm

    I looove your photos on Jen's blog today! Great job 🙂

  8. Kelsey
    October 14, 2011 / 11:16 pm

    Thanks ladies. I appreciate all your kind words!

  9. That Girl
    October 15, 2011 / 8:53 pm

    I think I would put chai cream cheese frosting on just about every cupcake. It sounds heavenly.

  10. Alida
    October 16, 2011 / 12:14 am

    You did such a beautiful job on these!

  11. All Things Yummy
    October 17, 2011 / 3:06 am

    Yum, those look delicious.

  12. Shirley
    October 17, 2011 / 4:04 am

    These are positively beautiful with the sugared cranberries. They scream winter holidays.

  13. Jen
    October 19, 2011 / 1:13 pm

    Thanks again for participating! These cupcakes are perfect.

  14. james
    December 7, 2011 / 2:22 pm

    Amazing blog I like it !!!Chai

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