I love vanilla and use it in practically everything I bake. Most of my cake recipes are from America and they call for vanilla extract. In Poland, recipes more often call for a vanilla flavoring which is in a concentrated oil. In addition, many of my Polish cake recipes call for vanilla sugar which you can buy or make.
Here’s how you can make vanilla extract and vanilla sugar yourself.
Vanilla extract is nothing more than vanilla and alcohol. Take one (or more) vanilla bean pods (about 7-10 zloty per bean pod), split it down the middle and place it in a bottle of vodka. Allow it to sit for a few weeks and shake the bottle every couple of days. Soon you will have dark brown, natural vanilla extract to use in your cake recipes. (The alcohol evaporates during the baking process.)
As you can see it was time for me to start another bottle of extract. I usually use about one small shot glass of vanilla (vodka) extract per cake. That’s about 1 tablespoon. One bottle of vanilla vodka extract is enough for a lot of cakes. Well, at least it should be enough, unless you subscribe to the philosophy of Chris’s School of Baking which is “One for me. One for the cake.” Maybe that’s why I enjoy baking so much. Hiccup!
Vanilla sugar is pretty much the same – a vanilla bean pod or two split down the middle and closed in a jar of sugar. Wait a few weeks, shake from time to time, and there you have it. The vanilla bean pod is potent enough that you can even use it after removing the beans for another recipe.