I was asked by a friend (the one who also reminded me about the refrigerator cake – we called it zebra cake) if I was going to put this up. I found the recipe in The Boston Globe magazine – it is from the Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge and I have been making it for years. I make it as a welcome to the neighborhood cake, a sorry you-don’t feel-well cake, an all-around great dessert. I call it Vanilla Bread – maybe I should rename Brownies as Chocolate Bread.
Vanilla Bean Bread, Cake or Loaves
3 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
2½ cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into the sugar and left for a few days*)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped*
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1¾ cups sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped*
Heat the oven to 325°. Generously butter two 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pans.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a mixer, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean seeds to the mixture along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.
Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat with a few turns of the paddle until it is just smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold the batter from the bottom of the bowl into the mixture to make sure it’s well blended.
Divide the batter between the pans. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, turn the pans around, and continue baking for 25–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out almost clean. Cool for 10 minutes (on a rack). Remove the bread from the pans and return them to the rack.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the vanilla beans and stir so the seeds disperse. Remove from the heat.
Place the cakes on the rack over a piece of wax paper. Brush generously all over—tops, bottoms, and sides—with the syrup. Brush with more syrup as they cool. Cool completely and slice. Sometimes I use the paper pans (Sur la Table has a good variety of sizes) and just coat the top of the cake with the vanilla syrup.