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Why isn't my vanilla cake tasting vanilla-ish?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
So I had a recent thread on a classic yellow cake recipe by Sylvia Weinstock I found but haven't tried from CC. The reviews weren't good from CCers who tried it. I have tried many different yellow vanilla cake recipes and found I just don't taste vanilla. A CC member suggested using Butavan. Another said to use Creek bourbon, NM vanilla bean paste, homemade vanilla and one of the following: Makers Mark or Knob Creek bourbon, Hennessy Cognac. Thanks scp1127 for the last set of these recommendations.

Is your vanilla cake tasting like vanilla just like how a WASC cake tastes like almond? Do you use any of the ingredients above like pure vanilla bean paste, bourbon, butavan,etc?
post #2 of 21
For the most vanilla flavor, you're probably better off using a real vanilla bean (and possibly some pure vanilla extract along with it). I've seen as much as 1 vanilla bean plus 1 TBS pure vanilla extract in one batch of cake batter (18-24 servings).

As one would expect, the quality of your extract will speak for itself, so get the best you can afford.

1 TBS NM vanilla bean paste = 1 Vanilla Bean. I would start from there and use vanilla extract till you get as much vanilla flavor as you're looking for.

If I were to hazard a guess, those recipes probably call for 1-2 tsp of vanilla extract.
post #3 of 21
Do you need a yellow cake (rich, buttery with a great depth of flavor that leaves you wondering what was that ingredient is that is so yummy) recipe or a vanilla cake (usually white cake with only one note, vanilla) recipe?
These are two different animals and need to be on a different diet.
OBTW...most of the flavor emulsions will bring a citrus note to the party.
IMO, this is not a good yellow or vanilla cake taste profile.
A great vanilla in generous quantity along with a shot or two of one of the whiskeys scp mentioned (thx scp, great tip) should leave you with a great tasting product.

I have made this http://www.cheftalk.com/a/the-perfect-yellow-cake-recipe-and-techniques and (only complaint is the too tender crumb, easily fixed by serving a bit on the cold side) and added extra half teaspoon of vanilla and was very pleased with the results.
The vanilla was not a prominent flavor, just like in nursery school got an A for playing well with others ... just whispered "this is a really great cake and can I eat the whole thing if I wrap it up and hide it in the walk in cooler"
post #4 of 21
I have a different recipe for every cake. For example, I may use five different vanilla cakes depending on the crumb I want and the other flavors.

My personal favorite yellow cake is Warren Brown's. We can eat it with no buttercream.

I do make changes and I use proper method, but here are my adjustments:

Make your own half and half with whole milk and heavy cream.
Vanilla bean paste, maybe close to a tbsp.
Homemade vanilla, about a tsp. (the two vanillas equal a heaping 1 tbsp)
Hennessy, 2 tbsp (for children, 1 tbsp Hennessy, vbp, no homemade vanilla. Hennessy is much weaker in alcohol than vanilla extract, so it can be a replacement. Any time alcohol is baked, the alcohol burns before the other liquids, leaving the flavor without the proof, or %)
Ground Ginger, 1/4 tsp

Use good butter, LOL, Plugra, or farmer's market fresh churned ( in a butter cake, off brand butters, even though they may be fine on a baked potato, can overpower baked goods because of the unnatural "natural" ingredients, another story)
Every off brand or sub par ingredient will work against making the best cake. I have studied this. A sub here or there in a recipe will be very small in change, but a habit of using every ingredient in off brand form will keep you constantly wondering why you can't acieve cake nirvana.

This will still taste like a vanilla cake with a yellow (yolk) base, not a liquor cake.

My Boston Cream uses Knob Creek, but about the same amount as vanilla, along with the vanilla.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, a yellow cake, uses vanilla and Myers Dark Rum.

Bailey's uses a whipped egg white based cake (but yolks are added separately), vanilla only (Bailey's brushed on). Coconut uses another whipped white recipe, vanilla only (coconut rum in the filing only).

Without going to my site, these are my white and yellow cakes I use the most. None taste like booze cakes. The alcohol is used just like vanilla, or any extract. And they really taste just like vanilla cakes, but just very good ones with great depth of flavor.

Hope this helps.

Pastry creams and sauces are perfect with Makers Mark.
post #5 of 21
SCP1127: Over the past year, I've been on a quest to bake 100% scratch recipes, which has turned out to be quite a learning marathon. I've silently been pouring over your baking advice here on CC, and just wanted to say thank you for all your expertise. I have a couple of questions, relative to this post:

1. Do you make your own vanilla extract? I've heard it's amazing, & much less expensive than buying say Madagascar vanilla, but I'm a little scared to try.

2. Warren Browns yellow cake calls for AP Flour plus potato starch. I'm assuming the starch lightens the AP flour. Do you use this method, or sub cake flour?

Thanks so much!
post #6 of 21
OMG, scp! I am on clear liquids for some testing tomorrow and your post has my mouth watering!
Signing off till I can eat again, lol!
post #7 of 21
duplicate post.
post #8 of 21
Prima, some of my favorite chefs are ivy league chemists and lawyers. Warren Brown is one of those lawyers. These brains make excellent innovative bakers and dessert makers (add to that list Joanne Chang and Gesine Bullock-Prado). He developed his recipes and I really like them. Even his pastry creams are thickened with potato starch. It's in the natural aisle of grocery stores. So yes, every one of his recipes have been good. The potato starch seems much smmother than cornstarch, which is usually my thickener of choice.

Even though I have now modified it, his IMBC is well-balanced and much loved on CC.

I forgot the vanilla part. People will not agree with me here, but homemade vanilla is more expensive than store-bought. If you use cheap vodka or not enough beans, then the store-bought is a better choice. Just like every chef has stated since the beginning of cooking, you will only get the quality of the spirit that you use. No amount of vanilla beand can cover up cheap or mediocre vodka. Those who disagree have never made premium.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

Prima, some of my favorite chefs are ivy league chemists and lawyers. Warren Brown is one of those lawyers. These brains make excellent innovative bakers and dessert makers (add to that list Joanne Chang and Gesine Bullock-Prado). He developed his recipes and I really like them. Even his pastry creams are thickened with potato starch. It's in the natural aisle of grocery stores. So yes, every one of his recipes have been good. The potato starch seems much smmother than cornstarch, which is usually my thickener of choice.

Even though I have now modified it, his IMBC is well-balanced and much loved on CC.

I forgot the vanilla part. People will not agree with me here, but homemade vanilla is more expensive than store-bought. If you use cheap vodka or not enough beans, then the store-bought is a better choice. Just like every chef has stated since the beginning of cooking, you will only get the quality of the spirit that you use. No amount of vanilla beand can cover up cheap or mediocre vodka. Those who disagree have never made premium.



Hah! I have a degree in architecture from Cornell, but never thought that this might be a clue as to why I need to see how things are "made" in the world of cooking (ie...I love Alton Brown). You may be onto something there with how these guys brains work. I'm always on the lookout for good cookbooks that breakdown the science of baking. While I love RLB's books, I don't love the flavor of some of her recipes. I will definitely check out the other pastry chefs you mentioned, and look into Warren Brown's book. You've got me intrigued.

I've used potato starch couple of times (mostly in gluten free baking), and have used it in Three Little Blackbirds yellow butter cake (recipe here: http://www.threelittleblackbirds.com/2011/12/yellow-butter-vanilla-cake/). The basic ingredients in her recipe seem similar to Warren Brown's, with a few modifications (buttermilk, sour cream, additional egg, etc). Perhaps I'll try a head-to-head comparison of TLB's & WB's.

As for your advice about vanilla, you do make a good point. The NM Madagascar Vanilla I buy is about $30 for 32 ounces. I did some cost research into making my own, & here's some rough numbers: Grey Goose Vodka: $60 for 1.75L, 1/4LB Madagascar Vanilla Beans: $45. So that's roughly $105 for 60 oz of vanilla extract. Do you make your own? Is the flavor so superior to NM that it justifies the extra cost? I make my own butter (and buttermilk) from local cream, which is definitely more expensive than store bought, but tastes amazing. I may be willing to consider this, if it's worth the effort.

Thanks again for the advice! Always a pleasure to read your posts.
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Do yal use both NM vanilla beans paste and vanilla extract in yellow cakes? I have access to vanilla beans here but not NM Vanilla extract. Only pure clear vanilla. How does BC taste with vanilla bean paste in it? Recommended or not? I sliced open a vanilla bean for the 1st time after all these recommendations and found the paste inside had no taste.
post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

I have a different recipe for every cake. For example, I may use five different vanilla cakes depending on the crumb I want and the other flavors.

My personal favorite yellow cake is Warren Brown's. We can eat it with no buttercream.

I do make changes and I use proper method, but here are my adjustments:

Make your own half and half with whole milk and heavy cream.
Vanilla bean paste, maybe close to a tbsp.
Homemade vanilla, about a tsp. (the two vanillas equal a heaping 1 tbsp)
Hennessy, 2 tbsp (for children, 1 tbsp Hennessy, vbp, no homemade vanilla. Hennessy is much weaker in alcohol than vanilla extract, so it can be a replacement. Any time alcohol is baked, the alcohol burns before the other liquids, leaving the flavor without the proof, or %)
Ground Ginger, 1/4 tsp

Use good butter, LOL, Plugra, or farmer's market fresh churned ( in a butter cake, off brand butters, even though they may be fine on a baked potato, can overpower baked goods because of the unnatural "natural" ingredients, another story)
Every off brand or sub par ingredient will work against making the best cake. I have studied this. A sub here or there in a recipe will be very small in change, but a habit of using every ingredient in off brand form will keep you constantly wondering why you can't acieve cake nirvana.

This will still taste like a vanilla cake with a yellow (yolk) base, not a liquor cake.

My Boston Cream uses Knob Creek, but about the same amount as vanilla, along with the vanilla.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, a yellow cake, uses vanilla and Myers Dark Rum.

Bailey's uses a whipped egg white based cake (but yolks are added separately), vanilla only (Bailey's brushed on). Coconut uses another whipped white recipe, vanilla only (coconut rum in the filing only).

Without going to my site, these are my white and yellow cakes I use the most. None taste like booze cakes. The alcohol is used just like vanilla, or any extract. And they really taste just like vanilla cakes, but just very good ones with great depth of flavor.

Hope this helps.

Pastry creams and sauces are perfect with Makers Mark.



I googled the Warren Brown recipe, since I am in the recipe testing mood. I didn't have any brandy, so I just flavored it with vanilla, I was more interested in texture (I added more 1/2 & 1/2 to compensate for the missing brandy, but will try it with brandy soon).

This might just be the best textured butter cake that I have made so far. I made it into cupcakes and we've been eating them plain, uniced. It has been 48 hours and the cupcakes in a ziptop bag are still nice and moist.

I think that the potato starch is the magic of this recipe, I know how soft it makes my dinner rolls (I use mashed potatoes and potato water). I will be keeping potato starch in my pantry from now on, this cake is wonderful, and I can only imagine how nice it will be with my next batch of vanilla and some good brandy! Topped with my modified SMBC and I might be in Vanilla heaven!
I have a scratch baking blog! www.bakingbetter.com
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I have a scratch baking blog! www.bakingbetter.com
Reply
post #12 of 21
The recipe I found for Warren Browns butter cake calls for 2 T of brandy. I found the recipe here:

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sectionfront/life/yellow-butter-cake-482544/

Is this the same recipe you found? Does anyone know if this is in his Cake Love cookbook?
post #13 of 21
post #14 of 21
Thanks! I'm ordering the book. The other cakes in his book sound delicious, too.
post #15 of 21
Yes, they are. I'm a fan of Sassy, the orange cake with mango purée.
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