While “vanilla” is often used as a synonym for plain or boring, the flavor of this complex spice is anything but. Sweet, floral, and delicately spicy, we love using vanilla to flavor everything from ice cream to cookies to custards. We’ve rounded up our favorite vanilla dessert recipes.
Many vanilla desserts start with vanilla extract. It seems like a mysterious ingredient that you have to buy, but making your own is incredibly easy so long as you have patience. Mix vanilla beans with vodka and dark rum and store in a cool, dark place. In four to six months you’ll have the best vanilla extract you’ve ever tasted.
Forget chocolate—when it comes to ice cream, we’re on team vanilla. There’s something incredibly soothing about a creamy serving of vanilla ice cream. Our simple vanilla ice cream base from pastry chef Tracy Obolsky serves as a base for all sorts of flavors, but is satisfying on its own. Topping it with strawberries macerated in Grand Marnier makes for a boozy, sophisticated sundae.
Soft serve ice cream is a beloved treat, but it’s nearly impossible to make at home. If you don’t have access to a soft serve machine, we have a secret trick: blending store-bought vanilla ice cream and whipped cream in a stand mixer produces a remarkable similar product.
Vanilla is the perfect flavoring for a rich-but-delicate custard. Our vanilla-rum custard is a decadent dessert. Our favorite custard is a classic crème brûlée. While some recipes tell you to caramelize it under the broiler, an inexpensive kitchen blowtorch is a more reliable way to get a shattering crust.
Find all of these recipes and more in our collection of vanilla desserts.