vanilla & cinnamon extracts – make your own

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i am personally not a huge DIY-er. i am not crafty, as as much as my mom sweetly says “honey you can do it”, i honestly have no desire to be.  if my husband were a part of this conversation, he would tell you the infamous first-year-of-marriage farm table story, where i begged him to let us buy this old farm table for me to refurbish. it sat on our back porch in north carolina for A WHOLE YEAR without being touched. when we moved, we had to throw it off the balcony into a dumpster because of all the wasps nests that had set up shop all over it… ::sheepish grin::
hey, i was busy with other things. like figuring out how to be a wife.

but there is one exception to my not being crafty: vanilla and cinnamon extracts.
i decided earlier this year to try it, probably because that meant i could source and buy cute little bottles and print out these really cool labels for them (being the design nerd that i am, this got me really excited). and aside from the obvious reason that it’s way cheaper, i like that you can control the flavor.

wondering where you might use the lovely-sounding cinnamon extract?
try this glorious, crumbly cinnamon coffee cake.

vanilla extract
makes one cup/8 ounces of extract


3-4 vanilla beans

1 cup/8 ounces medium- to high-quality vodka, bourbon, or brandy (**see note below**)


1. clean & dry a small, 8 ounce kerr/mason jar or bottle – set aside.

2. using a sharp knife (if you have one, a bird’s beak paring knife works like a dream) cut the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, exposing all of the inside but not cutting all the way through the bean. cut in half or into 3 pieces and put into jar or bottle and (using a funnel for a bottle) top with vodka or brandy. make sure the beans are completely submerged in the alcohol. give it a good shake.

3. allow extract to sit for 8 weeks in a cool & dark spot, shaking the jar(s) every few days or so.

cinnamon extract

makes one cup/8 ounces of extract


4 cinnamon sticks

1 cup/8 ounces medium- to high-quality vodka


1. clean & dry a small, 8 ounce kerr/mason jar.

2. place cinnamon sticks in jar and pour vodka over the sticks. make sure the sticks are completely submerged in the alcohol. give it a good shake.

3. allow extract to sit for 8 weeks in a cool & dark spot, shaking the jar(s) every few days or so.

– after making a jar, i usually put a post-it note on the outside with the date that i made the extract. then after the 8 week period, i put on a nice sticker label.
– for vanilla extract: using vodka will create a cleaner extract, without much extra flavoring besides the vanilla itself; and using brandy or bourbon will create lots of rich character. (brandy and vodka are my 2 preferred extract alcohols.)
– after the 8 weeks and once you start using your extract, make sure to give the jar a good shake before using each time, to combine and in case anything has settled to the bottom.
– if you want to make more than one 8 ounce bottle, below i’ve done some multiplication for you:
2 cups of extract = 16 ounces = 1 pint = 6 vanilla beans (or 8 cinnamon sticks)
4 cups of extract = 32 ounces = 2 pints = 1 quart = 12 vanilla beans (or 16 cinnamon sticks)
– if you are looking for cute bottles or vanilla beans, beanilla is a great website. also, amazon sells good quality vanilla beans.
– which vanilla bean to use for your extract? if you want bold and smoky, go for a mexican bean. if you are wanting rich and creamy, use madagascar beans. if you want a chocolate-cherry/floral aroma, buy a tahitian bean.
– when you’ve used all of the extract, you can just add 1-2 new fresh vanilla beans (or 1-2 cinnamon sticks) and refill the jar with alcohol, shake, and let sit 8 weeks. how economical is that?!

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helpful resources:  joy the bakerspoonforkbacon, and beanilla.

gingersnap cupcakes with vanilla bean cinnamon buttercream

these cupcakes are to-die-for, y’all.
they also rivaled little she for top billing at her first birthday party.
i made the mistake last time of making them in mini cupcake cups instead of the standard size.
read: i ate way more than my share of these babies. dude, i was fighting people off most of the party.

gingersnap cupcakes with vanilla bean cinnamon buttercream


1 stick softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons molasses
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup gingersnap cookies, ground very fine in a food processor
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds removed (if you’re unable to find vanilla bean, check out the vanilla bean tip here)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


1. preheat the oven to 350.  in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  add in eggs & molasses until well combined.

2. in a large bowl combine the flour, ground gingersnap cookies, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  add half to wet ingredients, then add half of milk and vanilla, ending with remaining dry ingredients and milk/vanilla (mixes a lot more thoroughly this way).

3. scoop batter into a cupcake tin (i line mine with paper cups) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center.  remove and let cool completely.

4. to make frosting, beat softened butter and powdered sugar in mixing bowl until smooth. then slowly add milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in to get a smooth thick frosting.  when cupcakes have cooled, spread frosting over the tops of the cupcakes and serve.

makes 12 cupcakes
recipe via picky palate