Vanilla Bean Cake Bars

January 25, 2011

The bars that went into the oven and came out as a cake. Despite my love of dark chocolate, peanut butter, and lemons (no particular order there), every now and then I get vanilla cravings. Vanilla has such a pure, laid-back simplicity to it, that I find it a refreshing change from all the fussy, high-maintenance holiday desserts. The softness and ease of this vanilla cake felt like slipping on a favourite pair of blue jeans...if they can slip on after those holiday desserts. I still have my tree up (no, it's not real.) It has to be taken down, but I hate how naked and sparse the room will feel until Spring. Hear that, Winter? I just said the 'S' word. Take a hint.

I skipped this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie recipe for nutty chocolatey swirly sour cream bundt cake *phew*. It sounds delicious, but bundt cakes are so big and...bundty. Even when I make the mini-me's, I still seem to have too much to know what to do with. For the recipe, please visit Jennifer, of Cooking for Comfort. Meanwhile, I hope you will accept this cake/bar as my TWD recipe substitution. It's vanilla to the power of 3. Vanilla bean, pure vanilla extract, and vanilla chips. So anyone who may think that vanilla is boring, really needs to try this!

Vanilla Bean Cake (adapted from Betty Crocker)Print

Cake ingredients
1/2 cup (that's 1-stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into Tablespoon-sized pieces
1 2/3 cup of vanilla chips (10oz bag) or you can use white chocolate chips if you can't find any vanilla.
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 of a vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs, at room temperature

Frosting ingredients
1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
1-2 Tablespoons of milk
3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 of a vanilla bean (or 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 13x9-inch pan with foil. Grease the foil, and lightly flour the entire pan. Tap out the excess and set the pan aside.
Place the pieces of butter and vanilla chips into a 2-quart saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth. Don't worry if it curdles. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and vanilla bean. If you've never used a vanilla bean before, it's quite easy to extract the seeds/pulp. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice down the middle of the vanilla bean. Gently pry it open and, using the dull side of a knife, scrape the seeds out and into the flour mixture. Pour the melted chips/butter mixture over the dry ingredients. Mix until all the streaks of flour have disappeared. Add the vanilla extract and salt. One by one, add the eggs, mixing well after each addition.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.
Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, combine the confectioners sugar and 1 Tablespoon of milk. Stir together enough to moisten the sugar (this will prevent it from going all over when you start beating it.) Add the softened butter and vanilla bean/extract. Beat on low until combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting becomes spreadable. If it's too stiff, gradually add the remaining Tablespoon of milk.
Frost the cooled cake. Using the foil, carefully lift the cake out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice into squares or rectangles.

Makes about 25-30 servings


  1. Delicious looking! Perfect with a cup of tea.



  2. I love, love, love vanilla, so this sounds like the perfect cake to me. It looks perfect, and like the kind of thing I wouldn't be able to stay away from. And don't you love kitchen alchemy, when your bars magically become cake? I feel the same way about bundtyness, so I went a different direction too. But Valerie, we really need to talk about that Christmas tree...

  3. Vanilla chips sound wonderful, but I haven't seen them anywhere. I'll have to put my vanilla radar on alert! I'm with you on the purity of vanilla. These bars sound like a wonderful treat!

  4. Wow! I am so glad I found your blog and subscribed! This looks fantastic! After reading your short list of favorite flavors, I'm pretty sure we're related ;) I can't wait to make this sometime soon! Yum.

  5. Ooh, these look so nice, Valerie! I love vanilla's simplicity too-it's an amazing flavor if one thinks on it a bit (smile). Oh, and we can never eat a whole bundt cake either!
    p.s. I'm taking a little break from blogging, as you may have noticed. So forgive me if I'm late to comment lately:)

  6. Vanilla bean is for sure my all time favorite flavor. I have a recipe of vanilla bean bars somewhere that I love but I need to try this one too! I'm sure they will accept the substitution with something so wonderful :)

  7. I randomly crave vanilla sometimes too, it's the weirdest thing. The bars look goos, but that icing! Oh my!


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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