Substitutes for Vanilla in Cake

Vanilla extract is a staple ingredient in most cake recipes. Its distinct and delightful flavor profile elevates the taste of any cake. However, it’s not uncommon to run out of vanilla extract in the middle of baking.

In such cases, many home bakers are left wondering what to do. Fear not, as we have got you covered with some of the best substitutes for vanilla in cake that can enhance the taste of your cake and save the day!

What are the best substitutes for vanilla in cake?

Almond extract : Almond extract is a great substitute for vanilla extract, as it has a similar aroma and flavor profile. However, it’s a bit stronger than vanilla extract, so it’s important to use it sparingly. If the recipe calls for one teaspoon of vanilla extract, use only half a teaspoon of almond extract. Using too much almond extract can result in a bitter taste.

Maple syrup : Maple syrup can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract in cakes that require a sweet, earthy flavor. The caramel-like notes of the syrup can add depth and richness to the cake. It’s important to note that using maple syrup may change the color of the cake to a darker shade.

Citrus zest : Citrus zest, such as lemon, orange, or lime, can be used as a substitute for vanilla extract. The zest provides a tangy and refreshing flavor that can be used to enhance a cake’s sweetness. Add the zest of one lemon or one orange for every teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Cinnamon : Cinnamon is a great substitute for vanilla extract in cakes that require a warm, spicy flavor. It provides a subtle sweetness and a distinct aroma that can add depth to the cake. Use half a teaspoon of cinnamon for every teaspoon of vanilla extract.


Can I use vanilla essence instead of vanilla extract?

Vanilla essence is a synthetic version of vanilla extract and does not have the same flavor profile. It’s best to use one of the substitutes mentioned above rather than vanilla essence.

Can I leave out vanilla extract altogether?

Yes, you can leave out vanilla extract altogether if you do not have any substitutes on hand. However, keep in mind that the cake may not have the same depth of flavor as it would with vanilla extract or one of the substitutes.


Running out of vanilla extract can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to ruin your cake. Using the above substitutes can add a unique flavor profile and depth to your cake. Whether it’s the earthy sweetness of maple syrup or the tangy zest of citrus, these substitutes can bring out the best in your cake. So next time you run out of vanilla extract, fear not and experiment with these amazing substitutes for vanilla in cake.

I'm Jennifer Tirrell, a self-taught baker, and founder of CakeRe. As an experienced baker and recipe publisher, I have spent over a decade working in the kitchen and have tried and tested countless baking tools and products. From classic cakes to creative twists, I've got you covered. So grab your apron and let's get baking!

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