One-Bowl Glazed Vanilla Cake

Vanilla Cake l

Sports, sports, sport-ity sports…  this past weekend I watched you, live and in person, on Saturday. Then I watched you, live and in color, on Sunday.

And since hockey season is back in full effect, I’ll likely be watching you every night this week.

We must be in love!

New Cake Flour l

Watching you live was the business of fun in the sun with friends, cheering on record-setting greatness, and returning home perfumed by the lovely aroma of eau de hot dog. Watching you on TV was, well, you know what it was:  commercials to the left, commercials to the right, and a performance by Beyoncé so stellar that it apparently took down several electrical grids.

I think there may have been some football involved, too…

In order to combat all of this sports juice in which I’m currently covered, I decided that I needed to make a light and lovely little vanilla cake. Spend my week hanging out with a dessert that’s a little more Baby Spice to the Sporty Spice that was this past weekend.

(I will never stop expressing myself through ’90s references. And you can’t make me!)

New Mexican Vanilla l

I have recently made some changes to my baking regimen, namely to the ingredients that I use most frequently. I have started using Blue Bird flour exclusively for all of my baked goods and Mexican vanilla extract whenever a vanilla extract is needed. The point of me telling you this is not necessarily to endorse these particular products, but rather to share some thoughts with you on pantry development, which can be most important when engaging in the science (and art) of baking.

I began using Blue Bird flour in my fry bread dough, and quickly fell in love with its extremely powdery texture and the crumb that I found it yielded when I worked it into cakes and other breads. Blue Bird is milled by Cortez Milling Co., which uses a special proprietary sifting process to produce a finished flour that feels and bakes unlike any other; its high gluten content also makes it the flour of choice for preparing Navajo Fry Bread. Isn’t all-purpose flour simply all-purpose flour? The lesson I learned from Blue Bird is, in a word, no. Taking a moment to look at gluten and protein contents, as well as production processes (especially for small-batch flours) now helps me to select the most appropriate grain for my baking project du jour.

I began using Mexican vanilla for the same reason that I now only use Mexican canela, as opposed to store-bought Mexican cinnamon:  it’s taste is simply less aggressive, richer, sweeter, and in the case of the vanilla, slightly floral, which I personally enjoy. How would you describe the difference between dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate? You may prefer snacking on semi-sweet chocolate, but dark chocolate has a stronger taste of pure cacao, don’t you think? This is how I think of Mexican vanilla when compared to its vanilla cousins. A simple Google search will yield tons of information about vanilla selection and shopping; whichever you choose, vanilla will likely be one of the more expensive ingredients in your pantry. But tailoring your vanilla to your palate and project is an expense of both time and money that I think is well worth your while.

Again, these thoughts are not intended to serve as product endorsements, but rather as a way of thinking about shopping for and picking out ingredients for your baked goods, as I have found that making these few minor adjustments have yielded finished products that are far and away more advanced in terms of quality and flavor.

Messy Glaze l

But enough about that, let’s put some cake in our faces!

As you can see, this dessert is pretty messy, but I felt very feminine and dainty while I ate it:  the cake is lightly flavored with vanilla and honey, while the glaze boasts just a bit of canela and cardmom. Very ladylike.

And who am I kidding anyway? I’m going to have to rinse all of this sports juice off in a few days, I might as well cover myself in some sweet cake and glaze too.

Glazed Mexican Vanilla Cake

recipe adapted from Everyday With Rachel Ray magazine

For the cake:
1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract (As mentioned above, I used an extract of Mexican vanilla here, but you may use any type of vanilla that you have on hand.)

For the glaze:
2 c. confectioners’ sugar
5 tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. canela, ground (ground cinnamon may be substituted)
1/2 tsp. cardamom, ground

Preheat oven to 350°.

Whisk the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil, buttermilk, honey and vanilla, and slowly whisk together until smooth. Carefully transfer the batter to a parchment-lined 8″ x 8″ baking pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Meanwhile, wash out your cake batter bowl and fill with the confectioners’ sugar for the glaze (yes, this is a one bowl recipe, but you do have to use the bowl twice), whisking slightly just to aerate. Whisk in the canela and cardamom, then slowly whisk in the milk, mixing until the glaze is completely smooth.

Once the cake is baked, remove and set aside to cool for ten minutes before unmolding, topping with the glaze, slicing and serving.

YIELD:  9 large generously glazed pieces


  1. 19


    i LOVE one bowl easy recipes.
    I want this with hot coffee.
    For me, baking is a sport, AND shopping for the baking is a sport too!
    what did carrie from sex & the city say? “shopping is my cardio’.

  2. 17


    Oh wowza I’m totally loving that glaze! I’m totally intrigued about the Mexican vanilla and cinnamon! I’ve always used cassia… but I’m going to Penzey’s this week so I’m going to seek some out annnnnd then make this cake! :)

  3. 10

    Jen says

    What a great-looking cake! I’m interested in the flour–do you know what % protein it has? And with regard to the Mexican vanilla, is there a particular brand you like? I’ve always shied away from Mexican vanilla because of the coumarin thing, but I’d be interested to know what are reputable brands.

    • Meagan says

      Jen, here is what I know about protein in flour:

      Protein content in flour is one of the primary factors in determining the texture and consistency of the finished product: higher protein content will yield a chewier, crustier baked good, while lower protein content produces a softer, more tender baked good. All-purpose flour has an average protein content of 9-12%, cake flour has an average protein content of 5-8%, and Blue Bird flour has a protein content of 8%. Despite this, Blue Bird has a texture and a heft much closer to that of AP flour which, in my mind, makes it an ideal flour all-around.

      Regarding vanilla, Nielsen-Massey makes a Mexican blend, Blue Cattle Truck Mexican Vanilla is also quite lovely, but I am partial to Arizona Vanilla Company, for obvious reasons. :)

      I hope this helps!

  4. 9


    Who cares about being ladylike when there is cake involved?!?

    And let’s not get me going on the cinnamon talk. I could go on and on about the different varieties, the cheapness of that crap cassia variety and the deliciousness that is Vietnamese cinnamon. And Ceylon….oh, how I love thee. Now I’ve never had Canela though. I must seek this out STAT.

    Mexican vanilla….oy. I used to buy that stuff in huge gallon jugs when I lived in Arizona and drove to Tuscon. Haven’t foudn any up here in the frozen north though. Sigh.

  5. 8


    A one bowl cake- now that’s my kind of baking! Coincidently, I just visited a small Mexican Border town and picked up a huge jar of Vanilla. Now I just have to find the Blue Bird Flour. Do you think they sell it in smaller bags? I live in a very tiny space so don’t have much room for storage. Would love to make this as a Valentine’s Day cake for my husband :)

    • Meagan says

      Hi Amanda, five lb. bags are the smallest that Cortez offers – their sales went bonkers when they just recently started offering the 5 lb. and 10 lb. sizes. And although this flour is worth it, I know what you mean about storage space. It might seem like a strange gift, but I would recommend splurging on the 5 lb. bag and dividing it up into little storage containers that you can share with friends and family. Blue Bird is seriously amazing and everyone needs to have good flour on hand!

  6. 7


    OMG…this is totally a cake that I can get behind. Wait, I can get behind any freaking cake. Oh, and I am a devout believer in using mexican vanilla, and mexican vanilla only. I have been using it forever! Sooooo dang good!

    • Meagan says

      True that, sister. Unfortunately, I’m technically inept and still trying to figure out how to install one. Stay tuned…

  7. 4


    I am loving everything about this cake. It’s size, the flavors! The dark brown sugar, oil not butter for moistness, buttermilk! The whole thing is a huge YES!

    As for the flour…sounds like new flour is amazing stuff. Like regular flour but that’s been sifted or processed to a superfine consistency yet still has the gluten/protein content of AP and not of cake flour. There is something in most cake flours that I don’t like; a flavor and a texture that’s just too soft for me. Love your thoughts here!

    And question for you re canela. When I’m traveling and in grocery stores where everything is sold in Spanish and the jar says ‘canela’ on it, is that cinnamon? Or not? Because I’ve bought some, only to open it and it doesnt smell like cinnamon so havent used it. I try to research this on the internet and end up more confused, cassia, ceylon, canela…

    • Meagan says

      I totally agree with you regarding cake flour: I really don’t use it that often at all. This new flour that I’m working with has the superfine consistency, as you put it, of cake flour, but, and this is really hard to explain so please bear with me, it has the sort of heft in your hand and tackiness of AP flour. What I mean by that is that cake flour is almost too light to work with, in my opinion – there’s no substance there. And it does have a sort of strange flavor to it as well. Sort of alkaline and chalky? So for the textural reasons and the taste reasons, I choose not to work with cake flour. Which is why I totally fell in love with Blue Bird – the best of both worlds. And I’m lucky: if I had to pay to have it shipped, it wouldn’t be worth it, but since it is used so often on the reservations around here, I can find it in just about any market. If you happen to find yourself in a specialty market, check for it on the bottom shelf in the baking aisle – it comes in 5 lb. cotton sacks as shown in the picture above.

      Regarding canela, I’m attaching a comment that I appended on a previous post – I need to find a way to work it into a post since canela vs. cinnamon is one of the things that I am asked about most frequently. Long story short: while canela is the Spanish word for cinnamon, it also refers to a completely different type of cinnamon. Mexican cinnamon is Ceylon, almost all U.S.-bought and consumed cinnamon is Cassia. Below are some ways to visually distinguish.

      I hope this helps and thanks for the thoughtful comment, Averie!

      Canela is Mexican cinnamon. It’s not just cinnamon that comes from Mexico, it is actually a different type of cinnamon. Mexican cinnamon is of the Ceylon variety, while the overwhelming majority of cinnamon sold and consumed in the United States is of the Cassia variety.

      Cassia cinnamon originates from China and other parts of Southeast Asia. The sticks are typically rolled into a ‘double scroll’-type shape and they are quite hard, requiring some muscle to grind. Ceylon cinnamon originates from Sri Lanka, is much thinner and more brittle than Cassia, and the sticks are much more easily ground using a spice grinder or even a mortar and pestle. Ceylon sticks are most often rolled into a single tube like a cigar.

      I have been toasting and hand-grinding Mexican Ceylon cinnamon for a number of years now so I am much more accustomed to its taste as opposed to the taste of Cassia cinnamon. That said, I find the taste of the Cassia cinnamon that you would find in an American grocery store to be much more aggressive than Ceylon cinnamon from Mexico. At times, to be honest, Cassia cinnamon can even taste a little metallic to my palate – gross. So it’s probably no surprise that I recommend using Ceylon cinnamon instead of Cassia cinnamon if you can get your hands on it.

      While it might not be from Mexico, your local Penzey’s should stock both Ceylon and Cassia cinnamons. Give the Ceylon a try – you can lightly toast the sticks for just a few minutes in a dry pan and then grind to a fine powder. I think you’ll find that once you go Ceylon, you never go back to Cassia.

      I hope this helps!

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