food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

Unintentionally this post is perhaps more for my UK-based friends. Or really anyone whose summer is not quite up to scratch, weather-wise. Despite the assurances of nearly every weather pundit that we would be using parasols to defend our delicate sun-deprived skin, we are in fact using them as defenders against ghastly downpours. And in some parts of the UK (Wales particularly), the parasols are probably mini boats floating downstream and down streets, having been blown there by gale force winds. It has not been nice. Not at all. We in Scotland are better off than most but it is more early March than early June. Not in the least summery or barbequey. But what are you gonna do?

All of this rubbishy weather has really had me pining for exotic climes. As a Floridian at heart I really crave the sun on my skin and the feel of warm sand between my toes. At least for a few lousy weeks in the year. But this doesn’t seem very likely as I sit here typing IN A FLEECE.

It is too late for planning a properly foreign getaway but it is never too late to raid the spice cupboard. And that is where this recipe comes in.

Usually by this time of year I have left what little hot drinks that I drink behind in favour of iced beverages – green tea, homemade cordials, juices, plain water, the odd G&T or caiprinha . But, guided by some kind of internal weather-predicting mechanism, I recently found myself ogling different boxes of exotic tea blends. Normally I skip straight past this stuff as they never seem to deliver what is promised (‘fruit’ teas always taste of unsweetened blackcurrants and grass clippings), but I was drawn in by a sniff of masala chai.

Now I’m no rube, really. I know what masala chai is and have even had it properly made: boiled up whole spices, water, black tea, sugar  and milk. But I’ve never bought it as tea bags. I’m quite sniffy about such things, dismissing them all as tea factory floor sweepings. But I slung some into my basket anyway.  To my surprise and delight they made a damn fine mug of tea that warmed me up and, more crucially, cheered me up – as the wind threatened to ripe off our just-visible Victoria plums. So I stood, mug wrapped in my now only slightly frozen  hand,  imagining stepping out onto a warm terrace, overlooking a warm beach, that was lapped by warm waves…. And then the haar set in. Ach well. There’s always a spot of baking to warm me up.

These muffins are delicately spiced with extra cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. I also added in some pepper but that might be a step too punchy for most (add 1/2 teaspoon if you like of either black pepper or a quarter teaspoon of chilli pepper). If you don’t have any masala chai teabags you could make up the tea with whole spices, strain and soak the raisins. Here’s a link to an authentic looking masala chai recipe if you want to go this route. Just don’t let the tea get bitter.

Masala Chai Carrot Cake Muffins with Coconut Creme Fraiche Icing 


Last Year: Cuban-style Tofu (or Beef) Picadillo – really yummy!

Miss R’s Track of the Week: Kula Shaker (Live) “Tattva” (an Indian inspired British band from the 1990s – long-time fave of mine)

A typical set of Indian chai (tea) spices used in an atypical way, these muffins fuse the smell of exotic adventures and home comforts in one delicious package. Soaking the raisins overnight in the masala chai adds extra depth, but flavour and moisture will be enhanced with just an hour in the chai bath. And, like all muffins, they are best enjoyed responsibly (ha!) and on the same day as they are baked. But, and this is a big but, the moisture from the carrots does help their keeping qualities, and I dare say they would be fine for another day or two without the help of an oven. Otherwise you can heat them up and revive them with a slab of dairy butter or a slather of almond butter (mmm). I think they would make a terrific breakfast muffin with a small pot of yogurt and a piece of fresh fruit, as well as a healthy dessert addition to a child’s lunchbox. Enough reading already, start baking!

50g (2 oz) raisins
2 masala chai teabags (Teapigs brand in the UK is excellent, as is Yogi tea)
255g (9 oz) refined spelt flour OR plain white flour OR gluten-free flour blend (like Dove’s)
2 tsps baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ tsp fine salt
½ tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
100g coconut blossom (coconut palm) sugar OR light brown sugar
150g (5 oz) rapeseed oil
1 small ripe banana, mashed
200g finely grated carrots

Icing

200g (8 oz) crème fraiche or thick sour cream (I haven’t tried fat-free but it should be fine)
8 tbsp coconut milk powder OR 6 tbsp lightly toasted desiccated coconut
4 tbsp coconut blossom sugar OR muscovado/dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla powder/paste or real vanilla extract (try and use powder or paste)
Toasted coconut pieces to decorate

First of all you need to soak the raisins in tea. To do this either put the teabags and raisins in a small heatproof container (I used a Pyrex jug) and pour over about 110ml (4 oz) of boiling water and let this soak – covered – overnight. Or you can just as easily bring the water, teabags and raisins to a gentle boil and then turn off the heat to let cool to room temperature just before using. Either is fine. When you are ready to bake just drain the tea, keeping it to add in later. Set the raisins aside.

this is what’s inside the teapig silk bag

Preheat the oven to 190C/357F. When you are ready to get baking, prepare your muffin tin by either lining each hole with paper muffin cups or by spraying with non-stick oilspray. I cheated and bought some pretty and fashionable brown ‘café-style’ muffin papers, but it is easy enough to get a nice effect with squares of baking paper pressed into the tin holes. They won’t stay put properly until you start filling them but it will work, just press the fold as flat as you can against the sides into flush pleats. I did this technique for my courgette and parmesan mini frittatas if you want to see how I did it – I used wine glasses to help form the shapes! The size of the squares depends on the diameter of the tin holes but for 7 cm diameter (2 ¾ inch) holes I would cut them about 15 ½ cm (6 inches) square.

For the muffins, sift the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices – into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl beat together the egg, banana, sugar, 50 ml (2 oz) of the strained tea and the oil. If you are using gluten-free flour add in an extra 3 tbsp of water or tea. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir until just mixed before folding in the carrots and soaked raisins. The mixture will be lumpy – that’s fine.

Spoon the batter evenly into the tin holes. Bake at 190C (375F) for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are well-risen and spring back when gently pressed.

While the muffins are baking mix together the icing ingredients and adjust the sweetness and coconutiness (is that a word?) to your liking. Allow the muffins to cool before smearing carefully icing the cakes.  Makes 12-14 standard sized muffins. These freeze brilliantly without the icing, and taste great without the icing too.
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38 thoughts on “Masala Chai Carrot Cake Muffins with Coconut Milk Icing

  1. eastofedencook says:

    We may be having a few sunny days between the gloomy fog but I still am finding these carrot cake muffins very enticing! Being a an abashed dessert lovers, I find these scrumptious!

    1. Thanks so much Deb! Our haar is inland fog, so we have more in common than just a love of good food :D

  2. Desi Chick says:

    You’re so smart with your flavor profiles. I make masala chai all the time and even stuck one in my blog. You muffins/cupcakes sound divine. LOVE the coconut frosting idea. Everything about it sounds warm, inviting and delicious from the inside out!

    1. I am glowing from your lovely compliment! Thank you. I must check out YOUR masala chai recipe :D

      1. Desi Chick says:

        I also make a simple syrup with all the masala chai spices and keep it in the fridge. Throughout the summer whenever I want to jazz up a drink or blend up some fruit, I add a little bit. The flavors are enormous in every little teaspoon. BTW, you come by every compliment honestly. I just don’t throw them around ya know! :)

      2. Aw shucks *blush*. The simple syrup is a brill idea. I do them for fruits & flowers but never with masala chai. Inspired

      3. Desi Chick says:

        I’ve never done fruits and flowers so we’re even!! what are some of the combos you’ve used?

      4. Evens! Well, for syrups they are really cordials here. I’ve got elderflower and goji berry on the blog but I also do blackberry & lemon, strawberry and basil. I’m going to have a go with rhubarb before the season completely goes. I’m willing to chuck most stuff in a syrup :D

      5. Desi Chick says:

        Strawberry and basil, oh and blackberry and lemon and the goji berries they all sound heavenly. I’ll go search through your blog now to find what you’ve got posted so far!

      6. I’ve just got the elderflower one on the blog but if a rhubarb one works then it’ll go on too. I think your basic syrup recipe will go with anything you have: flower, herb or fruit-wise – you really can’t go too wrong.

  3. I’m going to have to search out my local Asian Supermarket for the Coconut Milk Powder. But yes . . .it’s cold here in Brissie Australia too. Brrrrr. Coconut Muffins are go

    1. Brilliant! But don’t knock yourself out finding the powder cos desiccated is fine with maybe a little coconut extract for oomph. I’m just not keen on desiccated but I’m just weird that way and prefer the non-texture of the powder. Wrap up warm!

  4. Reblogged this on Living and Lovin and commented:
    OMG this Blog is Wonderful for new things to try on family and friends!

    1. Thanks so much! Glad you like food to glow :-)

  5. sybaritica says:

    Wow… great idea using the tea!

  6. kamellia73 says:

    What are the odds? It’s a rainy “summer” day in Portland, OR, and I too made carrot cake muffins AND I made Indian food last night. The chai-spice idea is a brilliant one! Will try that in the next batch. Thanks for your always-inspiring and clever posts.

    1. That is too funny! I guess rainy weather and yearning for warm spices is universal :-) I think Oregon & Scotland are supposed to very similar – beautiful & wet

  7. We are muffin munchers in our house and also tea pig fans so this is perfecto!
    I’ve been using rice bran oil in my muffins lately, I haven’t caught up with rape seed oil yet although I do love looking at the blazing yellow rape fields in Fife so I must give it a try. Thanks once again for a delicious & imaginative recipe. Genius.

    1. How do you like rice bran oil? I have bought in the past but I had to chuck it after awhile. Same with palm fruit oil. I must investigate these again. I like rapeseed because it is so neutral & stable in cooking & baking. Did you see the Olympic torch being run along West Sands? I was looking for Harvey but don’t know if he was running with the Madras kids or not. Off to see the torch up at the castle this evening. You going?

      1. Yes, I’m finding the rice bran oil very good as it has a high smoking point and very little flavour so good for recipes that I don’t want to alter the taste in.
        Mum & Dad have e mailed me amazing pics of the torch in St.Andrews, looks glorious and there have been several breakfast parties up there! Yep, we will watch it tonight, probably at the Mound or thereabouts. Enjoy!

  8. ah0098 says:

    i like walk undr drizzle.
    this is so good.
    isn’t it?

    1. If it is punctuated by long sunny spells ;)-)

  9. shuhan says:

    Damn the weather. These sound perfect though, I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of chai and of coconut milk and carrots, so it’s a match made in heaven.

    1. I’m glad you like the flavour combos. And, not rubbing it in, but today has been gorgeous in Edinburgh. Perfect blue skies for our turn with the Olympic flame.

  10. sara says:

    These sound delicous! What a unique upgrade to classic carrot cake! I’d take coconut forsting over cream cheese frosting any day.

    1. Well I’m glad it has piqued your interest The frosting idea is one of my better ones, I think.

  11. tracenicole says:

    Read this in great time! :) I just got back from Nepal and it reminds me so much of the amazing food there! Will definitely try this out!

    1. I’m amazed & pleased it reminds you of Nepal. I know a number of folk who have been & I would love to myself. Bhutan too. I hope you had a wonderful time. Himalayan walking trip?

  12. EA Stewart says:

    Oh, yum! We are not protecting ourselves from downpours here, but we’ve been having typical June Gloom these past several days here in San Diego, even including a little drizzle, so it’s spicy muffin weather here for sure! Love these muffins, although I’m not sure I can wait overnight for those raisins to soak. Coconut milk powder? That’s a new one for me! Hope we both get some weather soon :-)

    1. The coconut milk powder is a great little find. So versatile as you can add water & it is coconut milk, as well as add it straight to all kinds of things savoury & sweet. We had a BBQ for 40 people last night despite it having been raining 24 hours straight -and still raining now. It was brilliant but I’m getting a guy in to clean the carpets!

  13. I’ve been doing a menu consultancy job at a wellness yoga retreat spa type place (the kitchen is so NOT conducive to wellness!!) but they make lots of fresh juices & have loads of pulp left. I was thinking of making breakfast muffins with the pulp it seems such a shame to through it away. I love the addition of tea, it feels so right may have to steal it!!! You will be pleased to know that it is boiling here and the kitchen is not a nice place to be so count your blessings, however small!!;)

    1. I have added some pulps to muffins and cakes but most of the time I have such crazy concoctions that I can’t do it. And I get such a dry pulp that it isn’t really a pulp, more colourful hay, so it doesn’t have much taste. Luckily we compost so I don’t feel to bad about chucking it. I’m sorry to hear you are so hot. Tomorrow we join you, kind of, as we are flying to Barcelona and staying in Sitges for a week. I have been quite under the weather so we have only just decided today that I am fit enough to fly. A dose of sunshine and lolling on a balcony with a pile of books and mags will do me the power of good. Sounds so cool about the menu consultancy thing, but hopefully you don’t have to do anything in the stressful-sounding kitchen.

  14. I love Sitges! Have a fabulous time and hope you feel better, we used to stay in the Santa Maria, great for people watching and views of the sea! Helluva seafood platter there too, enjoy!!

    1. Great recommendation Natalie. Thanks:-) I probably won’t be up to venturing to Barcelona so I will get to know Sitges very well. Looking forward to a restorative seafood platter, full of healing zinc.

  15. lemoncake says:

    Masala chai? Coconut? Carrot cake? Wow, my 3 faves in 1! I must ask – does the chai flavour come through over the coconut?

    I ask because I made some masala chai flavour cupcakes (yet to be blogged about) with a honey and ginger cream cheese icing – and while they were lovely, the chai flavour was ever so mild. I also used fresh chai spices, rather than a tea bag to try to intensify the flavour. Any tips on what I perhaps could do to improve the flavour?

    1. They did taste chai-ish, but not strongly so. I guess it depends on how strong you would like them to be. The tea bags I used were top quality with very fresh smells coming through that soaked nicely into the raisins. I think the raisin-soaking was the key because it really held the flavour in the raisins themselves rather than the whole of the cakes. Does that make sense?

      1. lemoncake says:

        Yes that does make sense. Perhaps I need to try and soak something to hold the flavour next time.

        Thanks!

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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