Recipe of the Week - Chai Malai Cake

Extract from the brand new Brick Lane Cookbook by Dina Begum, with contributions from street food traders and restaurants including Beigel Shop, Blanchette, Chez Elles, St Sugar of London, Cafe 1001 and Moo Cantina, Brick Lane Cookbook is a culinary map of the East End’s tastiest street and a snapshot of London at its multifaceted, chaotic, crazy best.

I’ve seen people’s eyes light up after a single bite of this cake and even those who don’t normally eat cake are usually converted. Of everything I cook, this is the thing most requested by family and friends. I first created it for a Bengali-inspired afternoon tea and wanted to share the recipe for this book as it’s such a wonderful way of showcasing spices in a dessert. The cake layers are reminiscent of fragrant masala chai and the frosting is inspired by rasmalai, the famous Bengali milkbased sweet, flavoured with rosewater and cardamom. Make it as an extra-special birthday cake, decorated with vibrant pink rose petals and pistachios, or as a perfect finish to your next dinner party. For best results, you need a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer to make the cake, but you can do it with a whisk and some elbow grease. - Dina Begum.

Serves 10–12

Serves 10–12


  • 2 tea bags
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 100ml whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium egg whites


  • 100g unsalted butter, at room
  • temperature
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 180g full-fat cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rosewater
  • 250g icing sugar


  • 1 tablespoon dried rose petals
  • 1 tablespoon crushed pistachios
  • 2 x 20cm springform cake tins
  • 2 x 20cm springform cake tins

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan) and grease and line the cake tins.

  • Steep the tea bags in 100ml boiling water, stirring for a minute to extract as much of the flavour as possible. Discard the teabags. Add the ground cardamom to the tea and stir thoroughly, then set aside to let it infuse – this gives you a really fragrant batter.
  • Make your buttermilk next: pour the milk into a glass and stir in the vinegar. Let this sit while you start on the cake batter.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy – this will take at least two minutes. If you’re using a non-electric whisk you’ll need to beat the mixture for longer.
  • Add the cinnamon, ginger and yoghurt and beat for a further minute, then slowly beat in the tea and buttermilk.
  • Put the flour in a separate bowl with the baking powder and salt and quickly mix with a whisk. Add the flour to the buttermilk, butter and sugar mixture in two or three additions, then whisk for about 30 seconds until everything is well combined. Make sure not to overmix at this point or you’ll lose the lightness in the cake.
  • Put the egg whites into a clean mixing bowl. Beat with a clean whisk until they form stiff peaks – five minutes or so (longer, if non-electric).
  • Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter until evenly combined and pour it into the prepared tins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool completely in the tins on a wire rack.
  • When you are ready to make the frosting, beat the butter with the ground cardamom until pale and fluffy.
  • Mix in the cream cheese, vanilla extract and rosewater, then slowly add the icing sugar and whisk together until you have a smooth, glossy frosting.
  • Put one of the cake layers on a large, pretty plate. Using a palette knife, spread with a third of the frosting, then turn the second cake layer upside down and place on top, very gently pressing together to sandwich.
  • Then take the remaining frosting and pile it on top of the second layer.
  • Gently coax some of the frosting down to cover the sides, turning as you go, and smooth the rest in a good thick layer over the top.
  • Finish the cake with two concentric circles of vibrant pink dried rose petals and crushed pistachios and dot a couple of rose petals in the centre.

This cake is a stunner! It tastes best after resting in the fridge for a couple of hours, as this helps the flavours meld together and makes the cake easier to cut.

Cook’s tip – you can bake the cake layers in advance. Just completely cool, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge overnight. The cake will stay fresh and moist.


Brick Lane Cookbook by Dina Begum is published in hardback by Kitchen Press, priced at £20.

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