Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vanilla is for Lovers

So here we are...but a few days away from Valentine's Day and I am guessing you are in one of two camps. You are like me and LOVE Valentine's Day. You look forward to surprises and small gifts and tokens of love. Or, you think it is a stupid Hallmark holiday.

If you are like me then buckle up, cause I got some dandies for you. And, well if you are the latter of the two then this post is not for you...but it is probably for your girlfriend or wife, so you should still read it!

Last weekend my mom and I had a fun baking day and tried out a few vanilla inspired recipes for Valentine's Day coming up. And while we did get distracted on occasion by things like me getting to try her new mascara, which was freaking awesome, or just laughing and giggling about life, we did manage to produce some pretty great treats!

First up, Vanilla Sparking Wine Pound Cake. This came from my Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which by the way is just about my favorite magazine. Oh, how the times have changed.......

It was light and airy with hints of vanilla. Not to heavy, not too extravagant....just right.

Vanilla Sparkling Wine Pound Cake
from BB&G recipe


  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sparkling wine or milk ( I opted for Champagne)
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup safflower or canola oil
  • 5 cold eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe Sparkling Wine Glaze, recipe below


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan; set aside. In large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift mixture; set aside. Stir together sparkling wine and sour cream; set aside.

2. In large mixing bowl beat sugar, melted butter, and oil with electric mixer until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla extract. Beat on medium to high 3 to 5 minutes or until thicker and lighter in color. Add one-third the flour mixture; beat on low just until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add half the wine mixture; beat just until combined. Repeat with one-third the flour mixture, the remaining wine mixture, and remaining flour mixture. With rubber spatula scrape batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 15 minutes. Turn out on rack; cool completely. Drizzle with Sparkling Wine Glaze. Makes 16 servings.

4. Sparkling Wine Glaze: In small bowl combine 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp. sparkling wine. Stir in additional wine, 1 tsp. at a time, to reach drizzling consistency.

Here is my yummy batter

Getting ready to bake....
And the finished product!

Once we were done with the pound cake we moved on to the drinks! The drinks might explain a few of the ever-so-slight errors we made in our last dish, the French Vanilla Coffee Cake. But first....the Vanilla Mint Cordials.

So before I even tell you about the Cordials, you need some background. While my mom is not a heavy drinker by any means, she can handle her drinks. She likes to sip (and I really do just mean sip) vodka and tequila if that gives you any indication to the heartiness of her palate. Me on the other hand...well I am a wine and beer girl. No hard alcohol for me, even in small quantities like my mom. So I think this drink was a bit of a let down for both of us. It was too sweet for her, and still too strong for me. Don't get me wrong though...we still drank it!

But hey, if you fall somewhere between the two of us...this might just be the drink for you!

Vanilla-Mint Cordials

from Oprah Magazine

  • 1/2 cup
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 6 ounces vanilla vodka
  • 2 ounces clear creme de menthe liqueur
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla powder (we totally skipped this as WHO has vanilla powder!??!)
1 bunch fresh mint


1. Coarsely chop mint leaves, reserving a few whole sprigs for garnish (optional).

2. Make a mint syrup by mixing 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small pot over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, and bring to a boil; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add mint. Cool completely. Strain, discarding mint.

3. Add ice water to 4 cordial glasses. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, then add vanilla vodka, liqueur, and 2 ounces mint syrup; shake well.

4. Pour remaining syrup on a small plate; mix 1/3 cup sugar with vanilla powder on another. Drain ice water from glasses. Dip rims in syrup, then in vanilla sugar to coat. Strain cocktail into glasses, and garnish each with mint sprigs (if using).

Hey, it's still pretty to look at!

And finally....the most amazing thing you will ever make in your life....the Vanilla Coffee Cake. Yes, I would use the word sinful here...maybe even is just that amazing! is where some of the before-mentioned "errors" come into play. We down right nailed the coffee cake! No one could have made one better. But....the creme anglaise that is supposed to go with it....well....that turned out to be a huge mess.

Don't worry though...the cake is so good, it stands on it's own. I promise!

Vanilla Coffee Cake with Creme Anglaise
adapted from Oprah Magazine

  • 2 Tbsp. finely ground vanilla coffee
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter , softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp.
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 2 large egg yolks , at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup half-and-half

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 1 (8" x 4") loaf pan; set aside. Combine coffee, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside.

2. Add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add 1 cup sugar until blended, scraping down the sides. Increase to high, and beat for 2 minutes. Reduce to low, and add eggs one at a time, then beat in 2 tablespoons vanilla extract.

3. With mixer on low, alternately add coffee-flour mixture and sour cream to bowl in several parts (ending with dry mixture) until smooth and blended.

4. Spoon into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around edges to loosen cake and invert onto a plate. Cool completely.

5. Make crème anglaise by whisking 1/4 cup sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl until combined. Prepare an ice bath by placing a medium bowl in a shallow bowl of ice water; set aside. Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds; add seeds and pod to a saucepan with half-and-half. Cook on low until small bubbles form around rim, 3 to 5 minutes.

6. Whisk half of hot half-and-half into sugar-egg mixture in a thin stream, then pour mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until sauce has thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Immediately strain sauce into bowl of prepared ice bath to stop the cooking (discard pod). Add 1 teaspoon extract; stir to combine. Serve right away or refrigerate until chilled.

7. Cut cake into thick slices or cubes. Pour crème anglaise on top, or pass it around in a bowl as a dipping sauce.

Here I am, mixing away...

Adding dry ingredients to the wet ingredients....

Mmm....sneaking a taste!
Warning: Do NOT try the batter before you bake it. You are likely to eat all of the batter until you are sick because it tastes so good....but it's also totally worth it!

Yes, very bored with all the stirring that went on for the Creme Anglaise ( probably should have paid more attention as I think this is the moment where I lost the creme anglaise)

I also want to apologize for the one and only photo of the Vanilla Coffee Cake. It's just that it was sooo good....this is the best picture I managed to get. And shame on you if you don't make it. There, I've said my piece.

Last Bite: So there you have it....a few delightful, Valentine-inspired dishes for you and your loved ones! Or, a few great treats to try with your mom on a fun Saturday afternoon.

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