Fragrant Vanilla Bean Cake, or The Most Vanilla-y Vanilla Cake in the World


Vanilla gets a bum deal.

How did it become a synonym for boring, normal, and ordinary?

We add it to everything, but you can't really taste it.  Some small nuance might be gone if you left it out, but no one would really miss it.

I took this close-up so you could see the vanilla bean seeds.  Can you see the seeds?
The worst is when we call things 'vanilla' that aren't even vanilla.  Things that are butter-flavored, sugar-flavored, or just simply white-colored and not chocolate.

It's a travesty.

Vanilla is...elegant.  Evocative.  Exotic.

What about here?  I WANT YOU TO SEE THE SEEDS.
Vanilla is a flower, an edible orchid.  Can you imagine eating an orchid? 

Yesterday was my birthday.  And I wanted to make a cake that was vanilla.  Completely vanilla.  Unmistakeably vanilla.

And people would sit up and say, "What is that flavor?  What is that strange, floral, musky flavor infusing this cake?"

And I would look at them and say..."Vanilla."

And their eyebrows would shoot through the roof.

This cake is a flower, a spritz of perfume, an intense experience.

I'm rescuing vanilla from the dustbin of boring, from the refuse heap of 'un-chocolate'.

I'm rescuing it, because it is possibly the best flavor in the world.  And it deserves respect.

Also - fun with circus tent frosting!

Fragrant Vanilla Bean Cake or The Most Vanilla-y Vanilla Cake in the World

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups vanilla sugar*
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, set aside. In a small bowl, combine flours; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add vanilla sugar, beating until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add scraped out seeds of 1 vanilla bean.  Add dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, and scraping down sides of bowl in between each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and cool completely on rack. 
For frosting:
3 1/4 c powdered sugar
1 c butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes. Add vanilla and milk, beating on medium for another minute.

*To make vanilla sugar, put one vanilla bean (or the scraped out husks of one; this is a great use for scraped out vanilla bean husks!) in a sealed container with sugar.  The longer it sets, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be.


Micha said...

Happy Birthday! Have you used vanilla bean paste? I love it. It is seriously amazing in creamy things (whipped cream, cream cheese icing, creme brulee, etc.) and I don't think I'll ever be the same without a jar of it in my kitchen. I agree that vanilla gets overlooked far too often. It is tuly fantastic.

avagabondmom said...

Happy birthday! I'm sure the cake was fab. I love vanilla too, sometimes it's just taken for granted that some would not even think about making it the star of the recipe!

LynnieBee said...

This looks divine! Happy Birthday!

M. @ Stuffed Grapes said...

Happy birthday! Love the pattern of the frosting on this cake, and the super-vanilla sounds divine.

Anne Regalado said...

Belated Happy Birthday , Anna ! Hopefully , somebody will give you some vanilla pods as birthday gift ! lol Have you ever made vanilla extract ? I've been planning to make for ages but until now I haven't bought vanilla pods yet :P

That cake looks yummy ! Love those gorgeous vanilla seeds dotting here and there . The frosting looks very colorful :D

jeannesioux said...

How would you feel if you got a birthday cake like this?! Wow! It's beautiful.

a. maren said...

so nice to see all of you here! to micha - no i haven't tried vanilla bean paste! i have heard of it, and it sounds AMAZING. but i haven't been able to find it! do you know where to get it around here?

a. maren said...

vagabond mom- right? vanilla. so overlooked. but so great!

a. maren said...

thanks lynnie! love seeing you here :)

a. maren said...

thanks m! i was playing around with the frosting. cake decorating is not my strongest suit, but if you can't experiment on your own birthday cake, when can you?

a. maren said...

mmm anne i have not tried making my own vanilla yet! i know i's so expensive. of course, so are vanilla beans! i treated myself for my birthday...

a. maren said...

haha jeanne, i did get a cake like this for my birthday! and i'm going to be honest with you - it felt great. :)