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Sep 25, 2010 06:44 PM

Vanilla extract

What is the best vanilla extract for cakes?

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  1. I've probably tried most of the vanillas of the world, from great to indifferent, and for me the winner by far is pure Mexican vanilla. You can taste the orchids! The brand I prefer is called "Real Vanilla" bottled by Posa. This stuff is go great you could wear it as perfume! You can buy it here:

    I've been using it for years, and always had friends pick it up for me in Juarez, but the obscene drug war has pretty much shut down that resource for me. No way would I ask a friend to go to Juarez today!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Caroline1

      I adore Mexican vanilla, too. A friend brought me back world class vanilla, once, and I too wanted to just wear it as perfume. It was extraordinary - so, so fragrant compared to everything else that's crossed my path. I haven't found anything as good as that bottle, but I'm looking. In the mean time, I make a double strength extract for cookies and such.

      1. re: Caroline1

        Sadly, in Mexico there is no legal oversight on vanilla extract and therefore much of what you find labeled 'real' is actually alcohol, vanillin, and a coal tar derivative. Your best bet is to buy some vanilla beans and make your own. There are plenty of recipes to be found online. I haven't seen this particular brand yet, so can't comment on it specifically, but am dubious in general.

        1. re: dulce lover

          Close, but no cigar! SOME Mexican vanilla companies use coumarin in their product, but Posa does not and is one of the world's premium vanillas. Some Mexican vanilla makers register their product with the U.S. FDA and certify their products as coumarin free. The problem with coumarin is it can cause severe liver damage in humans. I've been using Posa vanilla (certified coumarin free) for a couple of decades and it is simply remarkable. Unfortunately, the drug war in Juarez, Mexico, has cut off my cheap supply, which costs a few dollars a pint there but is very difficult to find and rather expensive in the U.S.

          As a result, I'll probably be switching to this Mexican vanilla at the same U.S. prices, but no one will have to cross into a drug war to get it for me:

      2. Madécasse’s Madagascan Vanilla Extract is the best that I've come across. Good, pure flavor.

        You can get it online here:

        1 Reply
        1. re: ipsedixit

          yesterday's NY Times Dining section mentioned this baking set from Madécasse as a nice gift idea:

          i certainly wouldn't mind receiving it!

        2. The brand I use is from Costco - Kirkland brand. It comes in a large plastic bottle and it's about $6. It typically lasts me about 1 year.. but I bake often.

          1. By far, the best I have tried is the double strength vanilla at Penzey's. I'm lucky to live close to a store (I love just browsing all of their offerings) but they are also available for online ordering:

            To really kick up the vanilla flavoring, try the whole vanilla beans as well. For that, I prefer the Madagascar beans over the Mexican--they just seem to have a deeper, fuller vanilla flavor.

            2 Replies
            1. re: gaffk

              Even if you don't buy their vanilla, definitely sign up for their catalog. They have some great recipes every quarter.

              1. re: gaffk

                +1 on Penzey's double strength. Massey's Madagascar vanilla is also of excellent quality.

              2. I am lucky enough to live in a Southern California town with some great little Mom & Pop Mexican markets that sell wonderful vanillas and other spices, with the bonus that they are much more affordable than supermarket products and IMHO, taste better, too. I also received vanilla beans (in a beaker type thing, which was cool), from Penzeys, as a gift. In my opinion, the vanilla I made from the Penzeys beans, using 1/2 vodka and 1/2 rum, has been just as good as the Mexican vanillas. And it's gotten better as it's steeped. I don't bake very often (see separate thread where I am pleading to the Patron Saint of Baking for divine intervention), but I sure enjoy my home-brew vanilla when I do.