Only the best natural vanilla for you
The quality of our ingredients is vitally important at The Gift of Cake so we only use the best natural vanilla. Vanilla is used to flavour ice-cream, cakes, chocolate and other desserts. But how much do you know about vanilla?
It’s a fascinating and versatile ingredient. Derived from a climbing orchid vine that produces long dangling green pods about the size of runner beans. The Aztecs (in what we now call Mexico) cultivated the vines and valued their special flavour. Europe’s love affair with vanilla started when Spanish conquistadors brought back plants to Europe in the 1520’s.
A huge amount of work goes into providing vanilla and it’s worth sparing a thought for the efforts of the hundreds of people in the supply chain. For a start, pollinating the flowers is a very labour intensive process, literally done by hand for every flower. After harvesting, the pods are dried in the sun and they turn into long, black, thin and wrinkled pods which contain thousands of tiny black seeds. These provide the unique sweet fragrance and smooth flavour we all know so well. The drying process is long and arduous, needing a lot of care to ensure the quality of the final cured pods and seeds.
The world’s expert at growing and curing vanilla is Madagascar. It accounts for about 40% of the world crop and it’s the best. Other major producers are Madagascar’s neighboring islands in the Indian Ocean, along with Indonesia, Tahiti and Mexico.
But beware, it is estimated that 95% of the vanilla flavouring in the food industry uses artificial vanilla flavour. The synthetic product is made from a by-product of the wood pulp industry. That’s not a very appetizing thought. Real vanilla is difficult to produce in volume so it is highly prized and expensive. It’s the second most expensive spice after saffron.
Rest assured, at The Gift of Cake we only use REAL vanilla for our cakes and it comes from the finest Madagascar vanilla pods. We’ve worked with a few vanilla suppliers over the years and have now found the best. Littlepod are based just down the road from us, in Exeter, Devon and supply the most delicious natural vanilla. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook and support their #CampaignForRealVanilla
Like us, Littlepod have the environment at the forefront of their operation. “We strive to ensure that every aspect of what we’re involved in, from pod picking to package recycling, is as sustainable, ethical and conscientious as possible.”
If all businesses do their bit to help the beautiful world we live in, collectively, we can make a big difference to the future of this planet.
Natural vanilla is used in many of the recipes at The Gift of Cake, but the most classic and timeless cake that uses this beautiful ingredient is our Sublime Victoria Sponge Cake.
Made with real butter, free-range eggs, quality jam, local milk and, of course, the best quality Madagascan natural vanilla, this cake is simple, but sublime. Be sure to store your cake in an air tight container in a cool place. Don’t keep it in the fridge or it’s delicate sponge will dry out in no time.
Want to make a Victoria Sponge cake of your own? Head over to our Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe blog post and have a go yourself. Make sure you pop along to Littlepod for your natural vanilla paste.
We’d love to see your creations and hear about your baking successes (or fails!) so head over to our Instagram and Facebook accounts and show us what you’ve done.