The ingredients list of a recipe is a precious thing. Each item has its purpose whether it’s for leavening, binding, texture, or flavour. Vanilla extract can (and will) be found in almost every recipe to awaken the flavour of your baking even if vanilla is not the main event featured in your dessert. She is always there.
And how often do we “settle” for artificial vanilla extract? I’ve definitely arrived at the grocery story and stared at a self where a large bottle of artificial vanilla extract ($3.99 CA) towered over a tiny bottle of pure vanilla extract ($12.99 CA) and thought, “Good enough.”
While vanilla bean pods aren’t that cheap either (I believe Bulk Barn carries them at $7.99 CA for two pods), making your own for that amount will definitely leave your pantry with more than 43 mL of vanilla extract. And all you need in addition to vanilla pods to make that happen is vodka.
I found the recipe for this classy cupcake at CookingClassy.com though I used my own strawberry buttercream. I was looking for a lovely cupcake to complement a lovely meal prepared by my friend’s mother. Alright, I’ll level with you, I was trying to impress the mother. Not sure why, probably because I can’t impress my own sometimes.
(If my mom is reading this, I’m totally kidding! Love you!)
Surprise! This decadent dessert may have originated in England, not France… maybe, most likely, probably, I dunno. On my last day in London, the last meal of the journey took place at Dean Street Townhouse in Soho, where I capped it off with a Crème Brûlée (which appeared on the menu as “Trinity Vanilla Cream”). A symphony of rich creamy vanilla custard and crunchy toffee is just as sweet, no matter where it’s from. But for the sake of my “British Invasion” series, let’s say England.
I tend to judge a Chinese restaurant by their fried rice, a Thai place by the Pad Thai, a pizzeria by its pepperoni and cheese, and a bakery by its vanilla cupcake. The beauty of its simplicity lies in how versatile it can be yet how it can stand alone as a dessert show-stopper untouched. Two ways I’ve played with this recipe is first by giving it a tropical flare by topping it with toasted coconut and candied dried pineapple, and then filling the cupcake with something (in this case, some candy… more on that later).
I had purchased a bottle of agave nectar from a local organic bulk store but never used it… until late last night at around 10pm when I decided to bake (this happens often). So I dug up my copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and made these (I de-Veganized them though). The flavour is familiar but I can’t place it: it’s very light and subtle but mingles perfectly with the frosting (also adopted from the same book).
The agave also makes the texture of the cake more moist (sorry for using that word). Also note, that these were baked at 325°F and not your usual 350°F.