Happy July! I hope you had a great Independence Day and that you’re ready for a new month of desserts and wine! This month, we’re going to talk about one of the most versatile desserts I know: vanilla cake (and cupcakes). This classic dessert is an important part of any baker’s repertoire because, while it’s great on its own, it can be turned into different flavors and combined with different fillings and frostings to become something entirely different. If you can successfully make a vanilla cake you can make hundreds, if not thousands of desserts.

Here are just a few ways you can transform vanilla cake:

  1. Add fruit juice or extract to the cake to change the flavor
  2. Add a filling to the cake, like jam, whipped cream, fruit, cookie dough, or ganache
  3. Add fruit juice or extract to the frosting to change the flavor
  4. Do 2 of these options at the same time (or all 3) to come up with something completely different

A few of my favorite combinations that all start with vanilla cake and vanilla frosting are lemon cake with raspberry filling and lemon frosting, vanilla cake with strawberry filling and vanilla frosting, and vanilla cake with cookies n’ cream frosting. To create these, you seriously only add one additional ingredient to the cake batter or frosting and turn it into something special. And you only need one recipe

Another wonderful thing about vanilla cake is that it pairs really well with wine! I absolutely love vanilla cake and vanilla frosting with Vermentino. Vermentino is similar to sauvignon blanc in terms of body and taste- light and refreshing with a mild citrus flavor. With the cake, the citrus and vanilla combine to produce a mellow, lightly sweet combination that is very smooth and pleasing. I hadn’t had Vermentino previously but it will definitely be part of my regular stock in the future, especially with vanilla desserts.

You can also try an off-dry white with citrus and vanilla flavors. I don’t recommend anything too heavy, like a dessert wine, because the body of the wine is going to overwhelm the delicate flavor and texture of the cake. A nice, light wine is a good option to match the vanilla cake. I had a Lobo e Falcao white wine with vanilla cupcakes and it was a really good combination. It was a touch more tart than the Vermentino, which was fun.

If you opt to change up the flavor of the cake or frosting or add a filling, you may need to change up the wine. The Vermentino and white blend are both nice and versatile so they might work, but it all depends on the flavors you choose. I am a big fan of sauvignon blanc or white Bordeaux with lemon or lime cake, or even an orange one. If you add a chocolate ganache, try a light red, since the ganache makes the cake a little more substantial.

Stay tuned next week for the best boxed cake mixes for those times you just don’t feel like measuring a lot. After that, we’ll have a round-up of fillings to change up the flavor and texture of your cakes and cupcakes. At the end of the month, I’ll show you how to turn one frosting recipe into five different flavors.

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