I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

Vanilla Cupcakes with Mascarpone Vanilla Cream Frosting

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Have you noticed how many baked goods will lead with “Vanilla” but the cake, cookie, etc. tastes completely bland and doesn’t have the signature flavor of pure vanilla? If so, you will really enjoy this recipe. Not only does vanilla flavor come through loud and clear, the Mascarpone frosting is so good you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful right from the bowl! A perfect recipe to give as a thank you gift, but make sure you make extra for yourself!

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Viennese Holiday Pannetone

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Viennese Pannetone, is a molded cake filled with currants and only loosely similar to the Italian pannetone, which is a yeasted bread. What I love about this recipe is that it’s easy to make and it makes a lovely holiday gift for friends and family. It adds festive color and flavor to holiday feasts, afternoon tea and brunches. If you are making these cakes ahead, they do well with a little Kirschwasser (unsweetened cherry brandy), Grand Marnier or brandy sprinkled on them when they come out of the oven. Wrap them well and store in the refrigerator. Flavors develop nicely within a few days.

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Oat Flour Fruit Basket Cake

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 Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.

Alice says, “Too simple for words: soft, tender layers of oat flour génoise are filled with preserves, whipped cream, and fresh berries. Team strawberry preserves with fresh strawberries, or pair them with apricot or peach preserves instead. In winter, swap the berries for diced bananas. It will be hard not to eat leftovers for breakfast—but there’s nothing wrong with oats and fruit for breakfast.”

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Oat Flour Sponge Cake

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Excerpted from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Leigh Beisch.

Oat Flour Sponge Cake
Serves 8 to 10

Alice says, “Oat flour turns a plain-Jane sponge cake into something elegant with the subtle but distinct flavors of butterscotch or toffee. The crusty edges I picked off my first oat flour sponge cake were delicious with my coffee.”

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Chocolate Oblivion Tart

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 Long before the California food revolution began, my mother was given one of these dazzling tarts as a gift. It was a predecessor of the exceptional chocolate desserts that emerged in the 1980s. We were impressed by the simplicity of ingredients and the deep, rich, creaminess of the tart.

At some point in the 1990s, the recipe was featured in Gourmet magazine, complete with raspberry coulis and a glaze, both of which are optional. It became a regular in my repertoire for special events, and when I launched my online business I featured it in my chocolate section.

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How to Make Perfect Cheesecakes

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 It’s hard to imagine anyone who doesn’t like cheesecake. There are several camps, however, regarding  which type of cheesecake is best.  Some of us like thick, satiny super creamy cakes; others like  drier, fluffier cakes. A third camp loves the savory version — no sugar but lots of delicious cheese — and yet another faction especially likes flavored cheesecakes — pumpkin, chocolate, blueberry — the list is endless. Finally, there’s a really big camp  filled with those devotees who love any version.  Just bring it on!!

Although cheesecake’s a snap to assemble, things can easily go south during the baking process. Cracked top anyone? Leaks dripped on the oven floor? Lopsided? Oh well…

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Vanilla Queen’s Cake

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Much to my surprise and delight, vanilla fan and serious home baker, Sandie Rymal, created a special cake recipe then named it in my honor! I admit, this is a first for me.  It’s a beauty and, although I haven’t yet baked it myself (nor even tasted it as Sandie lives in Oregon and I’m in California), it certainly looks luscious!

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Lemon Trifle with Berries

Lemon Trifle with Berries

If you have teenagers, you’ll probably want to skip this blog as the main ingredient in trifle is stale cake. If you actually do occasionally have stale (or extra) cake — with or without teenagers — read on!

If you’re unfamiliar with trifle, it’s a British invention for using  stale cake. Which does lead one to wonder if stale cake is a common problem for the Brits because their teenagers are sent off to boarding school.

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Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse Tart

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While this recipe involves some time and dedication, it isn’t difficult. It was inspired by a recipe in Sunset magazine, which I’ve adapted. For instance, the original recipe called for two tablespoons of hazelnut liquor, such as Frangelico. The local liquor store didn’t have any “shooter” bottles and I didn’t want to invest in a large bottle, so I added some extra vanilla extract.

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Rose Red Velvet Cake

Courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum, Real Baking With Rose

I long resisted the charms of Rose Red Velvet Cake, believing it to be merely a layer cake tinted red with a bottle of food coloring. But when several people on my blog sang its praises, I decided to investigate it more thoroughly. It turns out that there is more to this cake than its shocking color. This beloved southern cake is traditionally prepared with oil, a mere suspicion of cocoa, and a teaspoon of white vinegar, which raises the acidity of the batter and intensifies its color. The liquid component is usually buttermilk, which is thought to raise the acidity as well, although the baking soda normally used neutralizes most of the acidity and makes the crumb more coarse and the color darker. So, when I created my
version of this classic, I used only baking powder to employ the full acidity of the buttermilk, making vinegar unnecessary. I also used half oil and half butter for the flavor-enhancing qualities of butter and the moist, softening quality of the oil. The resulting cake is as flavorful and tender as you can hope for and stays soft enough to eat even straight from the fridge. A heart-shape pan is perfect for Valentine’s Day. And the contrast of the white chocolate cream cheese buttercream against the red cake is alluring.

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The Sensational Kaese Sahne Torte from Maria Reisz Springer

Kaese Sahne Torte

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An Austrian Cheese and Cream Cake

Today I am bringing you a blog from a dear friend, Maria Reisz Springer. Maria is from Europe and grew up with incredible desserts. She now has a cooking school in Maryland and tempts sahne-torte-0311those of us who don’t live nearby with incredible blogs. When I saw this blog on Facebook, I asked Maria if she would be comfortable sharing it with my readers and she said she would be happy to be a guest blogger.

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Deep Down Orange Cake

Deep Down Orange Cake

 This is a gem of a cake. It’s a rich, buttery cake with an orange and Grand Marnier glaze, a perfect completion to a lovely meal. I made the cake in the picture for a friend’s birthday party. The Satsuma Mandarins had just come into the Farmers Market so I purchased a bag filled with the sweet orange orbs, and added lots of fresh zest to the cake batter.

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