Best Vanilla for Coffee, Cakes
Let’s talk vanilla powder!
Vanilla powder is used as a substitute for vanilla extract (or for whole vanilla beans or paste) for beverages like coffee and smoothies and for baking, especially white cakes.
Why powder instead of extract? Well, extract is almost always alcohol-based . . . and some folks don’t like the alcohol-y taste, especially for items that are not baked (think beverages). That’s because when you bake a cake or cookie with vanilla extract, the alcohol cooks off . . . leaving just the vanilla taste. Not so with beverages, where vanilla extract can change the flavor (and not in a good way).
Vanilla extract is the cheapest way to infuse vanilla flavor—but as we just discussed, it does have its drawbacks.
Vanilla beans are nice, but pricey and labor-intensive (you have to scrape the vanilla beans to get the vanilla flavor).
Vanilla paste is another alternative (we actually did an article on this as well), but some folks don’t like the added sugar in vanilla paste.
So that leaves us back to vanilla powder.
Important take-home message: there are TWO ways vanilla powder is made.
The first is using vanilla extract and a sugar base—either dextrose (a simple sugar, often made from corn) or maltodextrin (which is a thickener). The result is a white vanilla sugary powder, which is handy if you want to use it in a white cake recipe. White vanilla powder is less expensive and easily dissolves in liquids (thanks to the sugar base), but sometimes has an aftertaste.
The second way of making vanilla powder is to simply grind up vanilla beans—since these are dark brown in color, the resulting vanilla powder has a dark hue. This is great for baking other cakes/cookies that aren’t white . . . or for smoothies. On the downside, this darker vanilla powder is more pricey and doesn’t really dissolve in liquids (like coffee).
There will be a quiz on this next Tuesday.
After trying out several vanilla powder brands, we think Cook’s Pure Vanilla Powder is the best bet for coffee AND white cake recipes. Here’s why:
What We Liked
• Smells wonderful!
• Great in coffee and hot cocoa, as it easily dissolves.
• No GMO’s.
What Needs Work
• Sometimes leave an aftertaste. We didn’t notice this, but we know some folks report the aftertaste is noticeable.
• Dextrose is corn-based sugar. So if you are avoiding this type of corn-based sugar, this isn’t the best vanilla powder for you.
• Not great for folks on sugar-restricted diets. That’s because Cook’s Pure Vanilla Powder is basically vanilla sugar. If you need a sugar-free vanilla powder, we’d suggest our next recommendation.