Thai Iced Tea Cupcakes with Condensed Milk Buttercream

Bowen Close steeps Thai tea in a mixture of milk and sweet condensed milk to make a cupcake that tastes shockingly like its inspiration.
By Bowen Close

These cupcakes easy to make, and a little confusing to eat. (In a very, very, very good way.)

See, they exactly like Thai iced tea – you know, the delicious kind you order at Thai restaurants to calm down fiery curries and noodles packed with chili. (The one you inevitably end up drinking most of before your food even arrives …) You’d swear you were drinking a big glass of creamy, sweet, orange-colored Thai iced tea – but it’s a cupcake. 

I co-hosted a bridal shower for one of my best friends this weekend, and developed a Thai iced tea cupcake to go along with a fresh, flavorful Thai barbeque-type menu (think: satays, spring rolls, larb lettuce wraps, Thai-inspired cole slaw). This is another in a line of recipes I’ve developed as I’ve been playing with basic recipes and adding new flavors and interesting combinations of things.  I’ve been experimenting in particular with steeping flavoring elements in the milk that goes into a basic yellow cake, and have been very pleased with the tasty items that follow. I steeped saffron in buttermilk to make this Persian birthday cake, and this time I steeped Thai tea in a mixture of milk and sweet condensed milk to make a cupcake that tastes shockingly like its inspiration.

A tasty, easy condensed milk buttercream pulls together the flavor ruse even further and helps to mimic that layer of milk that often comes on top of the tea.

One of my favorite parts about making these cupcakes is handing one to someone without telling them what the flavor is and seeing their excitement as they recognize the flavor.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Thai iced tea cupcakes
 
Prep Time
Cook Time
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Thai iced tea cake with condensed milk buttercream - tastes exactly like the beverage!
Author:
Recipe Type: Dessert
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup condensed milk
  • ¾ cup Thai iced tea mix (see note, below)
  • 2¾ cups cake flour (unsifted)
  • 2½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
Condensed milk buttercream
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups condensed milk
  • 1⅔ cups powdered sugar, sifted or whisked to remove lumps
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. For cupcakes, grease and flour or line with paper liners 24 cups in muffin pans. For cakes, grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch round pans or one 9x13-inch rectangular pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the milk and ¼ cup condensed milk in a medium pot. Heat over medium or medium-high heat until scalded - steaming with bubbles forming around the edge - stirring occasionally. Add the tea mix, remove from heat, cover, and let sit 10 minutes. Pour through a sieve, coffee filter, or tea screen to strain out the tea. Let the mixture cool to somewhere between room temperature (a bit warmer is okay, too), using the refrigerator or freezer to cool down quickly if necessary. You can work on the next few steps while you're waiting for the milk mixture to cool down.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer (stand or handheld) on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (4-6 minutes). Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape down the beaters and the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. Reduce speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture. As soon as the flour is almost incorporated, add half the milk mixture. Repeat with a second third of the flour mixture, the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour, making sure not to overmix after each addition.
  6. Use a rubber spatula to give the batter a final stir, scraping along the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure all lumps are incorporated and that there are no pockets of dry ingredients hiding in the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s), filling cupcake cups about ¾ full. Bake 20-30 minutes (shorter end for cupcakes and rounds, longer end for sheet cake), rotating pans halfway through baking. When done, the middle of the cake will spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip and a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come back with a few crumbs attached.
  8. Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. For cupcakes, remove each one and let cool on wire racks until completely cool. For cakes, run a small, sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan, then flip onto wire racks. Remove the parchment paper and flip upright. Let cool on wire racks until completely cool. Frost.
  9. For the buttercream: Beat butter with an electric mixer until completely smooth, about 1-2 minutes. With the mixer on low, pour in the condensed milk. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar in a few batches. Add vanilla. Beat until completely incorporated.
Notes
- I purchased Thai iced tea mix from a Thai grocery store in Los Angeles (this brand: http://www.amazon.com/Thai-Iced-Traditional-Restaurant-Style/dp/B000UPNK9S). This recipe will work with any dry Thai iced tea mix that instructs you to steep in hot water and then drain (i.e. not an instant tea powder), whether you purchase it or make it from dry ingredients. Most mixes I've seen seem to contain food coloring, which I like to avoid - but I haven't yet tried making my own mix at home, but I found some good options doing an internet search for thai iced tea recipes. - The tea flavor develops as the cupcakes sit, so they're best if you make them 24 hours or so before eating. Finished and frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated for 48 hours before eating (bring to room temperature before serving), and unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to three months (you can even frost them without thawing, if you want).

 

Bowen Close

Bowen Close believes that food should make people happy and healthy, and loves bringing together people with creative, delicious food made from the heart. She loves making farm-inspired, flavorful dishes with sustainable ingredients - whether that's a big plate of roasted veggies, a towering chocolate layer cake, or a cocktail utilizing backyard ingredients - and collects recipes and other food-related stories on her website, Bowen Appétit. She is a chef, cooking instructor, and food writer living in Southern California with her husband and fully stocked pantry.

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20 Comments
  1. It’s like you read my mind. I’ve been craving Thai Iced Tea for ages – for some bizarre reason Thai restaurants in Britain don’t make it! Crazy and tragic, but true. I need to make a trip into London to a specialist Asian food store to get some of the mix, at which point I may very well go on a bender and try your cupcakes. :-)

  2. I made these cupcakes! YUMMY!! I cut the recipe in half with one exception, the tea amount, I kept it at 3/4 cup and passed it through a sieve without a cheesecloth. The second change I made was with the fat 1/2 butter, 1/2 shortening. I used to be a professional baker (not pastry chef) and I know a half and half mixtures keep in moisture without being greasy.
    These were minor changes and this is still a solid recipe.
    Great crumb, moist, tender, all in all a really tasty recipe. Freezes well (tightens the crumb… a good thing).

    Way to go Bowen Close!

    1. Hi Ana – I have not experimented much with direct substitutions of eggs in cake recipes. If you have a substitution you’ve used in other recipes, it would likely work here as well. I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment until now! Good luck.

  3. Hi Bowen,
    2 c. whole milk + 1/4 c. condensed milk is used to steep the Thai tea and then 3/4 c. of that is used for the recipe, correct? We don’t actually use all of the tea we steep? Thanks :)!

    1. Hi Tina – You’ll use all the milk mixture; the 3/4 cup measurement refers to how much dry tea mix you steep into the milk. Hope that’s clear – let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck! Hope you enjoy the recipe.

  4. Hi Charmaine – buttercream can be fairly thick and rich, but not always. I’d say this one is kind of in the middle. If it’s too thick and rich for you, you can always add more liquid (preferably milk, but water would work too) to thin it.

  5. If I have frost the cupcake already, how long can I keep it refrigerated?
    I intend to refrigerate my frosted cupcakes for 4 days before consumption. Will the cupcakes spoil by then?

    1. Hi Cherly – In four days the cupcake won’t go bad (it would probably take at least a week for that to happen), but the cake will dry out significantly. Usually I recommend refrigerating cake for no more than 48 hours. You could definitely freeze them, though, which is what I’d recommend for 4 days. Either way (fridge or freezer), they’ll probably taste best if you let them come up to room temperature before eating. (Sometimes I do love a good chilled cupcake, though!)

  6. Hi Bowen, I made the frosting…but it is quite runny that when I frosted the cupcakes, it dipped on the sides of the cupcake. What possibly went wrong?

    1. Hi Joanne – It could be a number of things that happened. The ratio of dry (powdered sugar) to thick (condensed milk) to wet/soft (room temp butter) should give you the right consistency, but if the butter was too soft, the condensed milk too thin, or there wasn’t enough powdered sugar, the consistency would definitely be off. Any clues there? Unfortunately beyond that I can’t say much unless I saw how you did it.

  7. Hi Bowen,

    I tried this recipe couple times and it turn out great. I follow the recipe, but my problem is with the frosting, as soon as I put the condensed milk, the buttercream curdled right away. How do I fix this?

  8. Hi Bowen,

    Please help. My tea is too thick, it’s sludge and won’t pass through the sieve. It’s barely dripping out. I followed the measurements – 2 cups milk, 1/4 cup condensed milk and 3/4 cup tea mix powder. What can I do? I’m supposed to get 2 cups of tea out of it?

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