WEEK 10: Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cake - nothing 'vanilla' about it
Photo by Flickr user kendiala
Let's talk vanilla. A variety of options is available for all baking budgets. Melissa Gray substitutes vanilla extract to provide the vanilla flavoring in her version of the recipe because it is familiar, less expensive and more widely available. She recommends buying the best quality extract you can afford. Nielsen-Massey is a popular brand. It is available locally at Zingerman's Deli for $11.99 for a 4-ounce bottle. Dorie Greenspan favors an artisan extract blend called Vanilla Crush by Sonoma Syrup Co. I used extract I had on hand from Trader Joe's.
Those who seek a more pronounced vanilla flavor should try vanilla paste. Vanilla paste is a thin syrup which contains seeds so you'll get those tiny black flecks in your cake. Use it in the same way you'd use vanilla extract.
Dorie Greenspan's original recipe calls for vanilla beans. Soft, pliable and wonderfully fragrant, she suggests cutting them open and scraping out the pulp and seeds with a small, sharp paring knife. To flavor the cake, mix the bean paste with the sugar and squeeze with your fingers to infuse the sugar with the flavor and fragrance of the vanilla.
The real fun began after the cakes came out of the oven. For the final steps in the recipe, I broke out my grilling tools; a two-pronged fork and a basting brush. I poked holes in both cakes using the fork. This worked well to produce the right size and depth of holes I wanted.
Next, I brushed the rum glaze over each cake with the basting brush. I repeated this until I'd used all the glaze. I let the cakes sit overnight to allow the glaze to soak in.
Erin Mann | Contributor
I'd like to try this cake with a stronger vanilla flavor. Next time, I'll leave the vanilla extract in the cupboard and use vanilla beans instead.