Let’s Be Pen Pals

Well hello there dear ones! 

I am so happy to be back. It feels like an age, but it’s only been two weeks since I’ve been able to sit and chat with you guys. I’ve really missed blogging. Right here is the place where I I feel I have a voice and can be myself. Without sounding overly  dramatic, I love that I get to come here as Anna, not only as wife or mama. I get to share my dreams and unleash those burning creative ideas. Getting time alone to write in such a busy household is in itself akin to Mission Impossible.

Recently I achieved a small dream. It sounds a bit silly, but whenever I go to a trendy cafe and see all of those important people doing their important work on their laptops over a latte for uninterrupted hours on end, I can’t help but goggle at them for a few too many seconds, letting out an inaudible sigh at their enviable indulgence. They are so focussed, so lost in the moment doing whatever it is that they do, living in the luxury of unattainable delight (for mothers everywhere across the globe) of doing one thing at a time. The only juggle is looking at the menu to choose brunch and ordering another coffee.

Yesterday I impressed myself by pulling a Cruise worthy manoeuvre. Secretly grabbing my laptop, dodging well intentioned wails of  ‘can I come with you Mum pleeeeease!’ from one smallish human, and clamouring hugs from another at home sick, sidestepping the teenager before she asks me to do something for her and another one before she rebukes me for not cleaning the blender properly, I swoop over to hubby with good-bye kiss mumbling something about going to the Doctor to get a small procedure done, grab the keys and flee.

YESS! (insert M.I theme music). I did it! Ha! And no-one even noticed that I left hours before my Dr appointment. Talk about walking on the wild side folks. 

Ten minutes later I’m sitting in that same trendy cafe, latte ordered, laptop open, feeling like a really important person doing really important work. Texting a friend to share my hard won victory, I push mother guilt aside and type away at my precious little Mac feeling on top of the world. Oh yes! it was every bit as glorious as I imagined. Being waited on by attentive staff, glancing every now and then at the tumultuous surf right across the road,  I basked in the bliss of being me and doing what I love. My tank was filling up fast.

And now, onto this amazing cake. But first, it really must be said….how insanely gorgeous is this vintage wallpaper!? I have decided that orange is the new black and I can’t get enough of these divine retro colours. So inspiring in fact that I designed the whole cake around the backdrop. One day this wallpaper will adorn a vintage caravan that I don’t own yet, called ‘Sonny’, complete with every 70’s vibe you can imagine including a brown macramé owl hanging on the wall. Oh it’s good to dream.


Anyway, This chai cake is absolutely delicious. No mucking around with teeny bits of spice you can hardly taste, I amp up the flavours so you get all warm and fuzzy inside when you take a bite. There are a few steps you might want to consider before making the cake which will help create your masterpiece:

  1. Definitely have a go at making your own dulche de Leche caramel. You will want to do this the day before (or any time really, just don’t leave it to the day of baking). Simply take the label off a can (or two) of condensed milk, put it in a huge pot of water, ensuring the can is well covered, and simmer for 3 hours. Easy. If you are short on time however, and aren’t that interested in impressing your friends, just buy a jar of caramel in the supermarket. I recommend Bonne Maman caramel.

2. You can easily substitute coconut sugar for the brown (or castor sugar) in this recipe.It can also be Gluten Free by using GF flour. (Just check the store bought caramel is ok if you are using it).

3. Ideally, you will need 3 round 20cm tins to bake these cakes. You could try to split the mix between two tins, but by the time you trim the domes off your cakes the end result will be a much smaller cake.  Alternatively, you can use this recipe to make 18 cupcakes. 

4. This cake really needs to be baked a day before you want to put the layers together and frost it. This is pretty important. You want your cakes to be stable and easy to stack. Bake the layers, cool completely then wrap individually in cling film and refrigerate overnight. This also makes them much easier to trim and crumb coat.

5. Make sure you serve the cake at room temp. The Swiss meringue buttercream will then melt in your mouth and blow your mind! Trust me on this.

Spicy Chai Caramel Cake

A delicious caramel cake infused with aromatic chai spices and dulche de leche swiss meringue buttercream.


  • 2 eggs, lighly beaten
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup boiling water with 4 chai tea bags Let tea steep for ten minutes. Remove bags.
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 1/2 cups brown (or coconut) sugar You can use castor sugar if desired
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2/3 cup dulche de leche caramel * Feel free to use store bought caramel. I recommend Bonne maman.


  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • Spray and line 3 round 20cm cake tins. (This recipe can also make 18 cupcakes or you could put the mix into two tins, they will just be a bit higher/fuller.)
  • In a medium bowl using a hand whisk, mix eggs, oil and sour cream.
  • Add chai tea and caramel. Mix until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, sift flour, bicarb soda, baking powder and spices. Add sugar. Whisk well.
  • Carefully pour wet mix into dry mix and whisk until well combined.
  • Divide cake mix evenly between 3 cake tins. Bake for 25 minutes, then check every 5 minutes after that until cakes are brown, firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  • When cakes are cooked, leave on a wire rack to cool. Remove from tins. When completely cool, wrap individually in plastic wrap and refridgerate ideally overnight. The cakes are more stable, easier to put together and ice when they are a day old and cold.
  • Use a serrated bread knife to level each cake. Apply a generous amount of frosting in between each layer. Flip the top layer upside down for a neater finish. Give the cake a crumb coat, which is basically a thin layer of buttercream to seal in the crumbs. Chill for half an hour. Finish frosting and use an open star tip for some sexy swirls around the top if you want. Enjoy! This cake is so delicious with a generous amount of spice. It will keep well at room temp for about 5 days.

Dulche de leche caramel

  • Take the wrapper off a can (or two) of condensed milk. Fill a large pot with water, covering the can well. You may need to top it up to ensure complete coverage. Simmer for 3 hours. Use tongs to take the can out. Let it cool. Open the can and marvel at the magic!!

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Put 6 (room temp) egg whites into an electric mixer bowl.
  • Add 1 1/4 cups castor sugar. Stir until combined.
  • Place mixing bowl over a small saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water, like a double boiler. Briskly hand whisk sugar and egg for about 20 seconds. Leave for about 4 - 5 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Rub mixture between your fingers and when you can't feel the sugar it is done. Switch bowl to electric mixer. Beat on high for about 5 minutes or until meringue like with stiff peaks.
  • Chop 150g butter. Put mixer onto lowest speed. Add pieces one at a time until each is dissolved. Mixture will look soupy, then lumpy like scrambled eggs, before turning silky smooth. This may take about ten minutes, so be patient.
  • When buttercream is ready, add 1/2 to 3/4 cups dulche de leche caramel, depending on your preference. If you ask me, go for the max caramel flavour!

All too soon my time was up and off I went to the Doctor. Feeling renewed and energised I hardly noticed the procedure and was just grateful for the chance to take time out and do what I needed to do to fill up that creative well within. Make no mistake about it, I had to fight for it and getting out the door wasn’t easy, but, feeling stronger in my small victory, I think I might just do it again next week. 

In the meantime, have a go at making this cake. The flavours are so endearing and will appeal to the whole family. Gather some friends, put the coffee pot on and have a wonderful weekend. 

Until next week,

Love Anna xx


  • Good on you Anna! Love that your back with your wonderful stories.
    The cake sounds delicious! I’m yet to make the banana one yet (that’s diabetic friendly) it’s on my to do list.
    Sending hugs and glad you took time out for you . ?

  • Thalia Gamble

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, did you make this cake for a customer?
    I have now transitioned over the last 3 years, to a life of living on my own which has been odd but I’m getting used to it and actually enjoying it. I have my Ragdoll cat, fish and plants to keep me occupied.
    I’m losing my vision to a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. I have good central vision but no peripheral vision. I am grateful that I can still see to read and watch tv.

    • A
      Anna Hogbin

      Hi Thals, so lovely to hear from you. Not, I did not make this cake for a client, just for the blog.
      So Sorry to hear you are losing your eye sight. That must be hard to adjust to, but it sounds like you are doing well despite the restrictions. Take care, love Anna xx

  • I LOVE that you got to do this. I miss you!!! The cake sounds amazing and I will definitely try it. Been making the banana bread a lot!

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