I think vanilla is underrated. When most people think of vanilla they think 'plain', 'boring', 'common'... and I must admit that's what I used to think too. Vanilla flavoured desserts never really seem to excite me. Until I discovered that the vanilla I thought was boring all along was flavoured with vanilla essence. Vanilla essence is basically the least flavourful of all the forms of vanilla. It's commercially modified so while it does flavour your sweets and make it smell nice, it really does lack that special oomph.
I didn't really understand the difference good/pure vanilla made until my patisserie course early this year when we cooked all our desserts with vanilla bean paste. Of course the richest flavour would come from using vanilla pods and scraping out the beans, but if you don't have that available or don't want to spend the extra cash, vanilla bean paste is just as good (in my humble taste bud's opinion).
Vanilla bean flavouring really turns desserts into something special, they give it a sweet, fresh smell and make it taste simply deletable. Vanilla will no longer be 'plain' or 'boring'! :)
Don't get me wrong, I'm not turning my nose up at chocolate (I love chocolate!). I'm simply saying, give vanilla a go :) Vanilla bean anyways... I challenge you to use vanilla bean paste instead of essence in your next baking adventure and really taste the difference :)
It's interesting how chocolate mud is my most popular flavour (i guess because there is just something about a decadent chocolate cake that makes people feel a bit naughty for indulging... and plus, hardly anyone ever turns down chocolate!) but when people come for cake tastings, my vanilla bean cake always steals the show.
Last weekend I made and delivered my first wedding cake - in vanilla bean flavour of course! The lovely Elva contacted me, her sister was getting married and she was so kind to be helping her sister plan the cake. They were unsure of the colours of the cake initially, but after debating over colour swatches and a bit of brainstorming, they decided to go with a deep pink and light pink for the base with silver ribbon detail. Simple but very pretty :)
The cake gods must have been smiling down on me when I delivered it. It was the most hassle free + traffic free delivery ever! It was however, a bit hard explaining to the staff at the Chinese restaurant in my very (and I mean VERY) broken Mandarin about how to cut the cake. In the end, with a lot of stuttering, hand signaling and a few people translating bits and pieces, we all understood each other.
The couple bought their own topper and it was a sweet finishing touch. Congratulations to the happy couple and I hope they have years and years of sweetness ahead of them :)