Vanilla Bean Cake

by Shawnda on January 15, 2008

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Brownies

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cake

Standing at the counter with two dozen ice creams in front of me, my mind whirled. Did I want pumpkin ice cream or maybe gingerbread? Oooh, blackberry cobbler ice cream – my favorite childhood dessert! Nope, wait – I can’t ignore the Estrogen combo: dark chocolate ice cream, served over a warm brownie, with fudgey chocolate sauce. There’s Fluffernutter! Mmmm, Cake Batter Swirl. Raspberry truffle [insert Homer Simpson girgly noise here]. The selection was dizzying.

In an effort to buy myself just a little more time before ordering dessert, I turned to my now-husband on one of our earlier dates and said, “You go first.”

“I’ll take Vanilla Bean,” he responded. Immediately. Well that back-fired on me. I’d only bought myself half a second. My next thought wasn’t of the flavor I would eventually decide upon, it was of his choice: There were more than 20 flavors of ice cream in front of us and he chose Vanilla. I was disappointed, not for his “lack of adventure,” but because who wants to steal a bite of their date’s vanilla ice cream?

[Hanging my head in shame]

I did. I internally pouted about my “second choice” ice cream being the very unexotic “plain vanilla” but I enjoyed every single stolen bite.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cake with Marshmallow Fondant

I’ve recently made several cakes, some for fun, some for experience, some for profit, but all for enjoyment. My favorite flavor by far has been a Tahitian Vanilla Bean cake. A moist “plain vanilla” cake studded with tiny flecks of vanilla bean – could “plain” get any better?

Vanilla Bean Cake/Cupcakes

Moist vanilla cake studded with pretty flecks of vanilla beans.


  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temp
  • 2 tsp-1 Tbsp vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line two 8-inch square pans or 9-inch round pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Split and scrape the vanilla pod into the butter, discard pod (or reserve for another use). Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.
  3. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an off-set spatula. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top a couple of times to burst any air bubbles and allowing the batter to settle. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.
  5. Cupcakes take ~18-20 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely in the pans before removing the cakes and frosting.


Yields: 2 layer cake or ~28 cupcakes

Adapted from Moist Yellow Cake

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes


{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

1 peabody January 15, 2008 at 3:09 am

I love vanilla. I just made a vanilla bean chiffon cake.
Your cake looks very cute.


2 Katie January 15, 2008 at 7:28 am

Um, freaking WOW!!! Vanilla bean is my FAVORITE flavor. Boo to people who think it’s plain. This certainly proves otherwise!


3 brilynn January 15, 2008 at 9:33 am

Using real vanilla beans make such a difference, beautiful cake!


4 Kate January 15, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Tahitian vanilla bean is anything but “vanilla”


5 Cheryl January 16, 2008 at 8:58 am

The cake is simply gorgeous. You are an amazing decorater. I love that you can actually see the specs in the cake. I must try this.


6 emma January 16, 2008 at 10:18 am

Nice cake! I can totally relate to deciding on a flavor when there’s soo much to choose from. All in the name of adventure I guess.


7 Bev January 16, 2008 at 11:18 am

wow that cake is amazing! you clever thing you!


8 Amanda January 16, 2008 at 12:22 pm

What a beautiful cake! And it looks soooo yummy!


9 Amanda January 16, 2008 at 12:24 pm

By the way, what kind of icing did you use?


10 foodiebride January 16, 2008 at 12:40 pm


Amanda – I used vanilla buttercream to frost and fill the cake, and then covered the cake in Marshmallow Fondant.


11 katy January 16, 2008 at 3:47 pm

oh my god, those specks of vanilla in the cake are incredible! i must be going nuts but i can almost smell it!


12 ashley January 16, 2008 at 11:11 pm

your cake looks beautiful! It looks delicious!


13 katie January 17, 2008 at 2:23 pm

A really good vanilla is about the best there is! And it rarely disappoints like other, lesser flavors with bigger names often do. Sorry, I’m with the hubs on this one… Although it does pair well with a really good dark chocolate…..
Gorgeous cake!


14 Caitlin January 17, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Now I actually know what to do with the vanilla beans that I bought. I was too afraid to use them in anything they wouldn’t be the star ingredient in, and this looks like a winner!


15 Annie January 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Okay, I looked at this post yesterday afternoon, took a nap and literally dreamed about it while I was asleep. I have since thought about it several more times. Looks like I’ll be making this soon! Now I just have to find vanilla beans! Your cake is truly gorgeous.


16 Emiline January 18, 2008 at 12:10 am

Oh, what a beautiful cake! If only I could get my hands on a Tahitian vanilla bean.

*Sigh* Maybe someday.

I never know what flavor to pick at the ice cream counter, either. I’m quite the fan of cookie dough. Same goes for Starbucks. I hate when the baristas are staring at me, and waiting. I just blurt out, “Tall coffee, please.” When what I really want is some elaborate latte.


17 Shannon January 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Do you have a recipe for your fondant? I moved out of my house with a gorgeous marble slab, perfect for fondant work and now I’ve nothing to roll fondant out on. So sad :-(



18 Wendy January 19, 2008 at 2:15 am

I’m making the cake for my best friend’s wedding later this year. Need to start practising as I’m no baker! Your beautiful cake has just inspired me to begin. :)


19 Chris January 19, 2008 at 3:03 pm

This is a beautiful cake! I have been wanting to practice with fondant – just haven’t gotten off my butt to do so. Like Wendy, you’ve inspired me. I with Shannon – do ou have a findant recipe you use? Glenna posted one a while back. I have to go pull up the bookmark.


20 Marci January 20, 2008 at 9:00 am

Did you buy or make the icing and fondant? That cake looks amazing. I think I will try making it, but I have never made fondant, so some tips would be appreciated. Thanks.


21 foodiebride January 20, 2008 at 9:41 am

Thanks, guys!

Marci – I made the frosting and fondant. The frosting is a vanilla buttercream.

Shannon/Chris/Marci – I’ll post the recipe for marshmallow fondant soon. I have to make another batch this week and wanted to add some procedural pictures.


22 Gretchen Noelle January 21, 2008 at 9:59 pm

Simply. Gorgeous.
I have cake decorating envy right now.


23 Renea January 22, 2008 at 10:29 pm

That is absolutely beautiful! You’re so talented. Vanilla is my favorite cake!


24 ruhama January 25, 2008 at 9:13 am

I made this cake with ‘regular’ vanilla bean and frosted it with chocolate (which did diminish the vanillaness of the cake, but it was still very yummy) for a friend’s birthday. Everyone raved about it, and apparently my friend’s 2 year old licked his plate clean–literally licked it! :D

Thanks for sharing this recipe.


25 foodiebride January 25, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Ruhama – Glad your friends liked it! It really is some good cake :)


26 kellypea January 25, 2008 at 5:08 pm

What an absolutely gorgeous cake. And I think little specks of vanilla are a reminder that I’m going to love the flavor of what I’m about to eat!


27 Aimee February 15, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Super cute cake…and I’ve been wondering how to use up my vanilla beans. Thanks!


28 Kate February 15, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Vanilla is never, ever “plain.” It’s a deep, rich and complex marvel which I adore. Try baking anything “plain” without it and you’ll see what plain “really” is. BREAD! Not that bread isn’t delicious of course. I agree — your now husband knew the pure taste of pleasure with vanilla bean ice cream. That’s what I order, as well, and honestly — I often judge an ice cream vendor by their vanilla. If they can’t do that right, I don’t care about any of the other flavors.


29 Erin February 16, 2008 at 7:14 am

Well it looks like it’s vanilla bean week on the food blogs ;) that cake is gorgeous. DId you take a class? Please tell me you took a class and that you didn’t just inherently know how to decorate a cake like that.


30 RecipeGirl February 16, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Wow, that’s pretty!! Looks delicious too :)


31 Alejandra February 16, 2008 at 1:46 pm

I’m so in love with vanilla beans–you’re cake is beautiful! It’s all about those gorgeous little specks…


32 Morgan February 21, 2008 at 4:23 am

I made this today for my dad’s birthday, as he requested just a nice “plain” vanilla cake. Well this did not disapoint and packs quite the vanilla punch- but in a good way. I paired it with vanilla butter icing and blackberry sorbetto. The sorbetto overpowered the nice flavour of the cake a bit so I ended up eating most of mine plain but it was still a nice pairing when had together.

I’ll make this again for sure!


33 Karen February 28, 2008 at 8:32 am

What is the texture of the cake? Here is my question: I am considering making this cake using one of those 3-D, standup pans from Wilton. (Long story involving my daughter’s upcoming fifth birthday party.) Does it have enough structure to be a lamb cake decorated as a cheetah? Thanks!


34 foodiebride February 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Karen – it’s a “light and fluffy” cake. Very light and fluffy. I noticed some settling in a cake (torted, 4 layers) covered in fondant and decorated pretty heavily with fondant accents. I wouldn’t use this recipe for a cake under a similar amount of weight.


35 Anne May 19, 2008 at 3:29 pm

I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to tell you I made this cake a few days ago for a birthday and it was wonderful! I paired it with a lemon buttercream frosting and lavender filling. Everyone loved it!


36 Carrie August 6, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Thank you for sharing this recipe, I made this and it was a hit!


37 Yvette March 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I just have to tell you, I tried this recipe for my son and daughter-in-laws baby shower cake and it was a huge hit! I love vanilla. I love the simplicity of it. I altered your recipe slightly by adding 2 Tahitian vanilla beans instead of 1. Fantastic! I also covered it in an Italian Buttercream frosting, flavored with tahitian vanilla. This is my favorite recipe for frosting because it is light and fluffy and not too sweet. Oh my goodness, it put the cake over the top! And just to add a little color, I put a thin layer of raspberry filling between the layers along with a layer of the the frosting. I have to say, this cake was to die for. Thanks for the great recipe. I will be making this again. Oh and by the way, I also tried your strawberry cake recipe (my daughter-in-law loves strawberry cake). I used this for the top layer of the baby shower cake and it too was fantastic. You rock!


38 Kari June 4, 2009 at 12:06 am

I made this cake for my husband’s birthday. He loves VANILLA! So I was happy to find the recipe. It came out great, but I felt that the cooking time was too long, I kept it in 38 minutes and I should have pulled it out around 34 minutes or so. Other than that great recipe and the best tasting cake batter I have EVER had!


39 Kat September 3, 2009 at 10:07 pm

I made this cake last night. UNBELIEVABLE!!! I had plain vanilla beans (I got like 10 from Costco for $6!) and plain old pure vanilla extract, and it still turned out amazing. I also didn’t make any frosting, just didn’t have the time last night. I can only imagine how it would taste using tahitian vanilla AND icing! It was extremely moist, even after it sat out on my counter all night. The vanilla was gentle and yet intoxicating. I went to the website you recommend for organic vanilla and they appear to be out of everything right now, but I will check back. Thanks for the recipe and the vanilla info. This was my first time here, and I think I will be baking up a lot of your recipes!


40 Miss High Heels February 10, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Vanilla anything is my secret weapon to giving ordinary cakes an extra little something. Your vanilla cake looks and sounds delicious. Must try this recipe asap!


41 Constance March 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Hello, I am assuming I can use 2 9-inch round cakepans and then I would have some extra batter? So then I guess I would cook it for a shorter time? or a different temp?


42 foodiebride March 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Constance – nope, I wouldn’t change the temp. Just divide the batter between your two pans. I always start checking my cakes earlier than stated time since the recipe authors probably don’t have my exact oven.


43 omnislash March 13, 2010 at 4:23 am

I made this for my daughters 8th birthday, it was wonderful! Now that I have made the leap, I can never go back to store bought cake mixes. It was so much better, thank you for sharing the recipe.


44 Shannon June 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Delicious. Made these as cupcakes for a graduation party- did the trial run tonight and they came out perfect. The cake is so light and airy- almost like a homemade angel food cake. They don’t even need icing! Thank you!


45 carrie August 23, 2010 at 9:09 am

I’d love to make this cake for my wedding in 2 weeks (eek)Rather than 2 pans, can I use one large springform? What would you recommend the baking time be? Thanks so much. Can’t wait to try it!


46 foodiebride August 23, 2010 at 10:36 am

Carrie – Congrats! Since it’s a standard yield recipe, you could double the recipe and bake it in a 10-inch pan. You’ll want to use a heating core or something similar (I always use a greased flower nail, point end up). I’d bake at 350 and check on it after 45-50 minutes. Likely, you’ll need at least another 20 minutes or so but you’ll be able to adjust the remaining baking time by how it’s baking in your oven at that point.


47 Tara October 2, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Thank you so much for this recipe! I couldn’t find Tahitian Vanilla Bean, so I used vanilla bean paste instead (still has those black flecks that I love!) and halving the recipe is perfect for 18 cupcakes. I used a Swiss Buttercream icing (also with vanilla bean paste, I’m addicted to it!) and my Mom (who I baked the cupcakes for) actually swooned and said it was the best cake she had ever tasted! I love this recipe, so moist, so vanilla-y – just to die for! I’m making these cupcakes again today for a potluck, I hope they turn out as amazing as they did last time. Thank you a zillion times, this recipe is fantastic!


48 Juliana October 27, 2010 at 5:59 am

Hi! I made this cake two days ago, I couldn’t find Tahitian Vanilla Bean but did find one for Uganda (it said that it had sweet flavor) and Madagascar Vanilla extract. I followed all of the instructions exept that I only left it 30 min on the oven. I let it cool and then frosted with vanilla buttercream icing, however when I tried the cake it was a bit dry, what can I do to make it moist again next time I make it? ( Also I left a piece outside on the counter and when I tried it next morning it tasted bitter, how can I stored it so that it the cake it’s not too cold and hard to cut for being in the fridge? (I also made a strawberry filling so I thought it was necessary to keep it in a cool place))
Thank you!


49 Lyn November 4, 2010 at 5:14 pm

@Juliana – I found it to be a bit dry as well. I suggest reducing the beating time for how long you cream the sugar with the butter. Other than that – not much other air gets beat into the batter and making that adjustment worked well for me!


50 Gwenevere April 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm

The batter was so good. I’m on a special diet due to my sons allergies (i’m nursing) so while I’m cooking and baking, I’m only allowed tiny tiny tiny tastes to make sure I’ve got it right…I couldn’t stop “tasting” this is so good.


51 Erin H. December 13, 2011 at 10:06 am

Can you Do this as a 9 x 13 cake? If so, what would be baking time. Call me lazy, but I am not creative with doing the layers. LOL! I usually adjust all my cakes to a 9 x 13. What are your thoughts?
And can you put the recipe to the frosting you used, on here?


52 foodiebride December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

You could, sure. The baking time will likely be the same or at least very close. Take a peek at it 10 minutes early and then judge it from there.

Here’s the recipe for the frosting.


53 Erin H. December 13, 2011 at 10:22 am

Thanks so much! Can’t wait to try it!


54 Demitra March 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Hi, I am thinking about using this recipe for a wedding cake too. (1) how did your cakes turn out for the wedding Carrie and Wendy (2) did using the spring form pans with the heated core work and (3) is it sturdy enough to hold fondant, mousse filling and buttercream, but still moist and fluffy?

I can’t wait to try it!!!!!!!!!


55 foodiebride March 11, 2012 at 7:06 pm

It’s perfectly sturdy enough to hold filling+frosting+fondant, I’ve made it that way several times. It’s a very, very good cake :)


56 Leslie March 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm

This recipe looks yummy, I can’t wait to try it!! It may just be my lack of experience, but what is the exact measurement for the vanilla extract? I read it as being any where from 2 tsp – 1 Tbsp. Is that based on preference or does using less or more alter the flavor in any way? Thanks!


57 foodiebride March 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Use a full tablespoon, you won’t be sorry :)


58 Tanya March 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Hi, I’m attempting to make this for my friends wedding & I am slightly confused with the directions. I get everything up to the addition of the eggs then ?? Will I have what’s in the mixer plus my dry ingredients plus another bowl for the buttermilk & vanilla? Thanks for your help!! :)


59 foodiebride March 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Yes – the butter-sugar-egg mixture in the mixer, the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the vanilla-buttermilk in another.


60 Sarah April 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Hi, I am planning on making this tomorrow but I dont have time to go out and buy vanilla beans- is there an alternative for them? I have vanilla extract on hand but not sure if it will do the job.


61 foodiebride April 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm

You can use 1 Tbsp vanilla extract and eliminate the vanilla bean.


62 Leslie April 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I’ve decided to make this for a birthday party, and I was reading your note to use 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract and eliminate the vanilla bean – is it too much to do both? A whole Tbsp of vanilla and vanilla bean? And am I reading the amount for baking powder as 1 Tbsp? I’ve never used that much in a recipe before and just wanted to make sure. Thanks!


63 Kelli April 23, 2012 at 7:06 am

My family loves this cake. Do you think it will work for a 3 tier wedding cake covered in buttercream and fondant?


64 foodiebride April 23, 2012 at 7:45 am



65 Simone May 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm

firstly i love vanilla nothing plain there. secondly i tried the recipe, made some cupcakes with it and an 8″ cake but when the cakes came out and cooled they dropped and i was so disappointed cause the immense flavour was so there and the texture…amazing. i dont think i over beat it…could you help?


66 Janet July 12, 2012 at 10:21 am

Love your site and recipes, I am looking for a recipe for a peach cake. The bride can not have cinnamon and looking at your Vanilla cake and your Fresh Strawberry cake I was hoping I could adapt one for peaches. Do you think that would work or do you have a recipe for a Fresh Peach Cake from scratch?


67 foodiebride July 12, 2012 at 10:34 am

What about the “Peach Queen” cake:
You could choose to eliminate the pecans folded into the cake. I haven’t specifically made the strawberry cake with peaches – although I really want to now! – but I know the base recipe adapts to blackberry cake with no problems and a couple others have used it for a blueberry cake, too.


68 Janet July 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

Thanks, I will give both a try and see which one my taste testers like the best.


69 Jeri January 28, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Sorry if I missed this in a earlier post or response, but will you share where you get Tahitian vanilla beans from? Is amazon a good place to purchase quality beans? Thank you!


70 foodiebride January 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Amazon! The sellers I use are Beanilla Vanilla and JR Mushrooms. Both have been excellent suppliers.


71 Jeri January 28, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Thank you! You and your blog are awesome!


72 Tiffany Bass February 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Most amazing cake ever!!! I tried out your recipe, and will from now on ALWAYS make this vanilla bean cake recipe. As a matter of fact, Im making it for my daughters 1st birthday party…. :)


73 Judy Beaudin April 10, 2013 at 6:47 pm

using 2, 9 inch round cakes pans, the batter overflowed and made a mess!


74 verr December 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm



75 Holly March 26, 2014 at 12:48 pm

This recipe looks AMAZING! I’m planning on using it for my sisters bday cake. I had a question for you though…. the sizes I am going to make are a 9″ with a 5 ” stacked on top- both layers covered in fondant- I noticed you said that this cake is very light and fluffy and you noticed a bit of “settling” when you made a 4 layer. Do you think I will have that same issues with just stacking a 5″ on top of a 9″? Thanks so much! Cake looks gorgeous!


76 Shawnda March 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Definitely use the dowel-and-cardboard-circle method to support the top layer so you don’t get any settling or sinking.


77 Crystal July 19, 2014 at 2:46 am

Okay- I have made this cake exactly twice and BOTH times it was gobbled up. And the funny thing is, is I made it for my toddler daughter’s birthday, but I saw adults taking seconds and even thirds!!!
I know I should leave GREAT ENOUGH alone, but wanted to ask you about a couple of different tweaks I’d like to try. First, I’d like to try Butter Vanilla instead of vanilla extract. And the second is I’d like to replace half the sugar with applesauce. I have replaced sugar with applesauce in other recipes under the guidance of: replace half and decrease other liquids by 1/4 cup. My question, though, is what step do I add the applesauce? Seems like if I treated the applesauce like the sugar, it would turn the butter funny- so maybe do the sugar, eggs, start the flour mixture and then add the applesauce with the wet mixture? Or am I totally off base??
Thanks in advance!


78 Crystal July 26, 2014 at 4:52 pm

First- I did two separate batches because I wanted to fill two 10 inch square pans. The first batch I added the applesauce when I added the sugar, and the second batch, I added the applesauce along with (well, before the buttermilk) so alternating with the dry mixture. It didn’t seem to affect the batter one way or another. It did, however, affect the overall cake :( messed with the fluffiness- the cake was really dense and heavy. The taste was just okay. I didn’t have time to rebake, so we had leftovers this time around.


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