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[Photograph: Sarah Baird]

Call it blasphemy to all things good and right in the universe if you want, but I am just not a big fan of coffee. You can douse it in sugar, fill it up with cream, put any sort of amalgamation of honey and flavorings in it you want, I'm just probably not going to bite. In order to not appear a complete freak of nature at morning meetings and brunch time, I've learned to drink any other number of breakfast beverages, from a hearty earl gray tea to the weekend-time appropriate mimosa. My favorite coffee substitute, though, is a nice chai. Iced or piping hot, chai has the perfect balance of spices and rich aromatics to perk me up first thing in the morning while remaining a creamy, delicious drink.

My love affair with chai doesn't stop when the clock strikes noon, though. One of my favorite cakes to present at parties is the chai cake with honey-ginger cream frosting from the cookbook Sky High by Alisa Huntsman, which focuses on multi-layered, ceiling scraping cakes with refreshingly adult flavor profiles. If there's a cake taking on the wonders of my favorite sunrise concoction, it is high time a pie exists that does justice to the subtle nuances of chai flavor. Enter: the black bottom chai cream pie.

Striking the proper balance of spices in chai-flavored bake goods is really what separates an elegant dish from one that merely seems like a spice bomb. If you're looking to up the ante on spice flavor, add in two tablespoons of cardamom instead of a single one, and consider an extra tea bag. If the filling is too spicy for your palate, removing a half a teaspoon of ginger will go a long way towards calming the bursts of flavor.

The black bottom (read: totally chocolate) crust is a sugary counterpoint to a filling that is rich with mature, complex flavors. Chocolate wafer cookies may be difficult to find on your first hunt through the grocery store, but do not give up and spend your valuable baking time scraping the filling out of several dozen Oreos. Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies come in an unassuming yellow box, and might be found closer to the sweets section than the baking aisle.

When allowing the dessert to set in the refrigerator, cover the filling securely with plastic wrap to ensure that a skin doesn't form on the top of the pie. While it should be ready to go in five or six hours, letting the pie get nice and firm overnight is your best bet.

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Black Bottom Chai Cream Pie »


About the author: Sarah Baird is a writer, editor, and petit four aficionado living in New Orleans, Louisiana. She likes planning elaborate dinner parties surrounded by her collection of dwarf citrus trees. You can read her latest musings and about her various misadventures on her website: hellosarahbaird.com or follow her on Twitter: @scbaird.

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