This month, the Master Baker challenge focused on vanilla, one of my favorite flavors. But the real challenge was finding a baked item that really featured the vanilla flavor, not just one that used it as a background component. I searched quite a few cookbooks in my collection as well as recipes from various websites, and ended up with a recipe from my current cookbook favorite, Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan: Rum-drenched Vanilla Cakes. I changed the recipe slightly, so it should accurately be named, Vanilla-drenched Vanilla Cake. It's the most vanilla-y cake I've ever tasted and will certainly go on my list of favorites.
Thanks to Nikki at Crazy Delicious Food for creating this tasty event.
Vanilla-drenched (aka Rum-drenched) Vanilla Cake
(adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours)
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup and 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 moist vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved *
3 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 tablespoons dark rum (adds depth to the cake without imparting an alcoholic flavor)
7 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
leftover vanilla bean plus half of another
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Butter an 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5-inch loaf pan; line with parchment paper; lightly butter the parchment paper, and flour the exposed ends of the loaf pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
Put the sugar and vanilla bean pulp into a large bowl, and, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and thoroughly mixed with the vanilla seeds. Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the cream, followed by the rum. Continuing with the whisk (or switching to a large rubber spatula), gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes (it took 70 for mine) or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. After the cake has been in the oven for 30 minutes, check the color and tent it if it is browning too quickly.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for about 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in the vanilla beans. Let cool. Remove beans when ready to use.
When the cake is finished, transfer it to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold cake and place the rack on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and using a skewer, cake-tester, or sharp knife, poke holes all over the cake. Brush the cake all over with the vanilla syrup, working slowly so the cake soaks it up. Let the cake cool to room temperature.
When the cake is completely cooled, you can wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit overnight to develop the flavor.
* If you prefer to use vanilla extract, add 3/4 tablespoon when you whisk in the eggs.
If you have Dorie's book, the recipe can be found on page 226. There you can see all the other variations.