All About Vanilla For Baking

Vanilla is one of the most popular and famous ingredients in food. It’s been present in countless cookies, cakes, and pies; it’s so common that people don’t really think about what vanilla is actually composed of. Well now you know!

So if you are looking to make a cake with a vanilla flavor, or want to know how to get your icing done the perfect shade of vanilla, here are some helpful hints for you:

– Vanilla extract is simply pure extract made from steam distilling the blossoms and aging them for up to two years. It can also be made from seed-pods or removed from pods by steaming them whole with water before harvesting their aromatic oils.

– If you wish to grow your own vanilla orchids, remember that the blossoms are the only part of the plant used for baking and consumption. The pods are used solely for producing vanilla extract.

– Pure vanilla extract is made with an alcohol base because alcohol can very effectively extract flavor compounds from blossom parts.

– Vanilla beans are dried and then soaked in a mix of alcohol and water to create pure vanilla extract.

– Pure vanilla extracts such as “McCormick’s” brand use a 70% ethanol solution as its extraction solvent, which by law must be at least 35% vanillin (the most active ingredient in vanilla).

Vanilla is one of the most important flavorings in baking. Whether it is the main flavor or a supporting flavor, vanilla is used more than any other seasoning in baked goods. Learn the different types of vanilla products you can use for baking and how they are best used.


Today we are diving into arguably the most common flavoring used in baking, vanilla. Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors used worldwide and it is incredibly common to use it in baked goods.

If you’ve ever baked anything in your life then you likely have a little bottle of vanilla extract in your cupboard. But there are many other vanilla products available and they all have their best uses.


True vanilla comes from a pod, sometimes referred to as a bean, of a climbing orchid. This orchid is native to central and northern South America.

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Inside the vanilla pod, there are thousands of tiny seeds that are highly aromatic and contain most of the vanilla flavor. Often when you buy something labeled as “vanilla bean” flavored you will notice all of the tiny little seeds throughout the product. This is a visual cue that the flavor is the real thing.


While Mexico is known as “the birthplace of the vanilla bean,” currently Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla. Tahiti is also a big producer of vanilla beans, and depending on the origin of the beans, it has a different flavor profile.

The whole process of producing vanilla from start to finish is both labor-intensive and time-consuming. This is why vanilla is among one of the most expensive spices in the world.


Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla pods in alcohol and water. Over time the complexities of the vanilla flavor become infused in the liquid creating vanilla extract.

Some vanilla manufacturers use cold extraction techniques which does take longer to produce but keeps more of the full flavor intact. While other producers use heat in their process. Cold extracted vanilla, like Neilsen-Massey, is typically more expensive but is also seen as higher quality and fuller in flavor.

It is actually quite easy to make your own homemade vanilla extract by soaking split vanilla beans in vodka or bourbon. This also greatly reduces the price!


Vanilla extract and vanilla flavor are both made with real vanilla beans. The difference between the two is that vanilla flavor is not made with alcohol and therefore cannot be labeled as an extract.

There is a common belief that vanilla flavor is made from a beaver secretion called Castoreum. However, this is not entirely true. While this secretion is seen as safe by the FDA, it is actually quite difficult to acquire and is typically only used in a very small selection of perfumes and is not typically used in vanilla flavoring.

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The types of vanilla products available for baking go far beyond vanilla extract. Here are a few of the most popular products and the best uses for each.

What is baking vanilla for?

Baking vanilla for is the process of using vanilla beans soaked in alcohol to create extracts. There are many different types of vanilla extract, which vary based on the flavor profile they offer. Baking Vanilla is used in many desserts as a flavoring, such as cheesecakes, cookies and cakes. Baking Vanilla can be used to make alcoholic drinks at home by infusing vodka or bourbon with extracts.

Vanilla Extract comes from true vanilla beans that have been dried and then infused with alcohol to create a concentrated vanilla flavoring food product. Use a light hand when using this product and take care to not use more than ½ teaspoon per cake or cupcake if you want it to taste true (1 tsp per package).

Is Watkins baking vanilla pure vanilla?

Yes, Watkins pure vanilla is corn-based vanilla bean extract that is made from the finest Madagascar vanilla beans. It is extremely creamy and has a rich aroma that enables it to be used in many different recipes. It can be used as a substitute for dark extract in many desserts and baked goods.

How do you use baking vanilla?

Baking Vanilla can be used in many recipes because of its rich flavor, but it is important to remember that it should only be used in small amounts (1 tsp per package). It is also important to note that Watkins pure vanilla does not have a strong alcohol flavor and can be used when you want the dessert to taste true (1 tsp per package).

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What’s the difference between baking vanilla and pure vanilla?

There is a difference between baking vanilla and pure vanilla. Vanilla extract is made with true vanilla beans that are soaked in alcohol, while pure vanilla can be made from either powder or bean extracts of the real thing.

What is the cooking process for making homemade extract?

To make your own homemade extract, you will need to soak whole or half vanilla beans in vodka or bourbon for several months until the liquid has become flavored with the natural essence of the beans.

How many extracts can I make at once?

You should only make homemade extract in small quantities because it is a concentrated product and will dry out. It is important to be careful using this product because there is no alcohol in the vanilla extract, so the more you use the more vanilla taste will be diminished. The flavor can vary depending on what type of bean it is, but a general rule of thumb for baking recipes to use about ½ tsp. per cupcake or cake. This works for most types of recipes whether you are making cupcakes, cakes or bars. For cookies and brownies, use 1 tsp per 20 cookies or brownies or ¼ tsp. per cookie or brownie mix per cupcake recipe.

Can I use pure vanilla instead of vanilla extract?

Pure vanilla is a pure vanilla flavor that comes in either powder or bean form. Pure vanilla can be used in recipes that call for vanilla extract. It is important to use pure vanilla in small amounts because it is extremely concentrated, so you need to use about ½ tsp. for every cupcake or cake recipe you are making.

Can I mix baking and pure vanilla together?

Mixing baking with pure vanilla is not usually recommended because of the difference in consistency. Baking has a thicker consistency than pure vanilla does so you need to keep this in mind when using this option of extract.

If you are looking to try a new, go-to vanilla, then go with the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Vanilla Extract. It has been a family recipe since the 1860s and is one of the most cherished extracts out there. You will feel like you are baking in Europe with this vanilla around! If you want to save a few bucks, then grab some Watkins Pure Vanilla. Even though it is made from an extract and not real bean, it still has an excellent flavor profile that will work well in your baked goods.