Serves 12
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For the chai steeping mixture:

For the cream topping:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4.
  2. First, toast all the spices for the chai steeping milk mixture and the cake together (to save time) and then separate them out. Place the cardamom pods and cloves in a large dry frying pan over a medium heat and toast them for about 10 minutes until fragrant, then remove from the heat. Separate the cardamom pods from the cloves, then use a spice blender or pestle and mortar to grind the cardamom first, then the cloves separately afterwards. (If using a pestle and mortar, then remove the cardamom shells. However, don’t chuck these out as they can be added to the steeping milk – as this will be strained – but should not be included in the sponge.)
  3. Take out 2 teaspoons of the ground cardamom and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the ground cloves and reserve these for the sponge, then place the remaining spices in a large saucepan for the steeping mixture. To this saucepan, add the milk, tea bags, black pepper, cinnamon sticks and ground ginger and place over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring every so often. Then take off the heat and set aside to infuse while you make the cake.
  4. Grease a large rectangular 22 x 30cm casserole dish with coconut oil and set aside.
  5. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or a large mixing bowl if using a hand-held whisk). Add the cream of tartar and beat on a high speed until foamy, then add 75g sugar slowly, a tablespoon at a time, while still beating on high, until stiff peaks form – be careful not to over-whisk. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
  6. Add the coconut oil to a small bowl and melt in the microwave for about 45 seconds until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  7. Now add the egg yolks to the bowl of the stand mixer (no need to clean out the bowl) and add the remaining 85g sugar with the vanilla bean paste and salt, beating on high until the mixture has doubled in size, is pale yellow and has reached the ribbon stage – meaning that the mixture leaves a trail when you lift the whisk and draw a figure of eight.
  8. In a separate bowl, place the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger and mix together with the reserved, toasted ground cardamom and cloves.
  9. Gently fold in half the egg white mixture to the egg yolk mixture until it has mostly been incorporated. Next, sift the flour mixture into this batter in three parts, gently folding each time with a spatula. Then, take about 1⁄4 cup of the batter and mix this with the coconut oil until smooth. Add this mixture back to the batter and fold to combine. Finally, fold in the remaining egg white, until no streaks remain.
  10. Pour the cake batter into the greased casserole dish and tilt the tray from side to side to level the surface, then bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
  11. Once baked, use a large skewer or fork to poke holes all over the cake, making sure they go all the way to the bottom, then set aside in the dish for about 10 minutes, until cool to the touch.
  12. Squeeze the tea bags in the chai steeping mixture, to get as much flavour from them as possible. Then, add in the double cream and condensed milk and mix well until combined. Strain the mixture into a jug. Pour half of this over the cake, waiting for a few seconds for it to seep in, before pouring over the remainder, leaving about 200ml of the liquid in the jug (which will be used to serve with the cake). Cover the dish in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight), for the milk mixture to really infuse the cake.
  13. When ready to serve, prepare the cream topping. Place the coconut in a large dry frying pan and toast, stirring, over a low heat for 5–7 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Set aside.
  14. In a large (preferably cold) bowl, whisk the double cream and vanilla bean paste to almost stiff peaks, then add the cold coconut milk and whisk again until combined and thickened.
  15. To assemble, use an offset spatula to spread the coconut cream all over the cake, creating some texture. Sprinkle over the toasted coconut with a light dusting of cinnamon. Cut the cake into squares and serve with some of the reserved chai milk.

Recipe and images courtesy of Crystelle Pereira, taken from her new book ‘Flavour Kitchen’, which was published by Kyle Books in May 2023. Photography by Vanessa Lewis.