Hi, I wanted to make a vanilla version of Nigella's My Mother-In-Law's Madeira Cake. How do I add in the vanilla beans and omit the lemon?
Nigella's My Mother-In-Law's Madeira Cake (from HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS) is flavoured with lemon zest and juice and this is quite a common flavouring for the cake. Sometimes also a combination of vanilla and lemon is used. If you are flavouring with vanilla then you can add vanilla extract, vanilla sugar or use the seeds from a vanilla pod (or bean).
Generally for baking we suggest using a natural vanilla extract, as this is an easy and cost effective way to add flavour. Avoid anything labelled as "vanilla flavouring" as this is usually a synthetic, manufactured flavouring. For this recipe we would suggest adding 2 teaspoons of extract to the creamed butter and sugar and beating it in briefly before you add the first egg. If you use vanilla sugar you can substitute part or all of the caster sugar with vanilla sugar, as long as the vanilla sugar has been made with a fine grained sugar and not a sugar with large crystals. You will need to judge how strong the vanilla sugar is in flavour and what proportion to use. If you use a vanilla pod then you need to split it open and scrape out all of the seeds from the centre. Add these seeds to the butter and sugar before creaming them together. Use the de-seeded pod to flavour caster sugar for vanilla sugar. However vanilla pods are expensive and have a slightly more delicate flavour, so we would suggest reserving the pod and its seeds for something requiring a lighter touch, such as a vanilla custard or a panna cotta, and using vanilla extract for the cake instead.