The Ingredient You Should Always Pair With Vanilla In Desserts

Vanilla is one of those beloved ingredients that are indispensable when it comes to making desserts. Everything from a simple whipped cream to a decadent chocolate cake is elevated by the presence of a little vanilla. The vanilla bean is a long, darkly colored pod filled with small seeds that provide the spicy-sweet flavor we all love. It can be distilled into an extract or removed freshly from the pod. However you decide to use it, vanilla should always be paired with another great spice — cardamom.

A member of the ginger family, cardamom is a triangular pod with small, spicy seeds on the inside. Prominent in Indian cooking, cardamom is split into two categories, black and green. Black cardamom is a bolder and spicier cardamom with larger dark pods and is typically reserved for savory dishes. Green cardamom is sweeter, with more floral and citrusy notes. The ground cardamom you find in the spice aisle of the grocery store is typically of the green variety and has a wide range of uses. It also happens to pair incredibly well with vanilla.

Ways to add cardamom to desserts

The beautiful thing about the cardamom and vanilla pairing is that they are each perfectly suited to the same kinds of ingredients. Fruits like blueberries, blackberries, apples, stone fruits, lemons, limes, and oranges, along with spices like ginger and cinnamon all become elevated with the additions of cardamom and vanilla. Therefore, adding it to any kind of vanilla dessert, whether an apple pie, stone fruit galette, blueberry crumble, or ginger cake, will bring a nice, ginger-fennel warmth to the dessert.

Far from only using ground cardamom, you could also make cardamom and vanilla syrup by simmering whole green cardamom pods and a vanilla bean together with water and sugar. The infusion will be a concentrated, sweet, and spicy concoction that can elevate everything from a bowl of vanilla ice cream to a cup of coffee to whipped cream or even French toast. There is honestly nothing vanilla-based that will not benefit from a dose of cardamom. It is just sweet enough to blend in but has the gingery floral kick to be noticed. It's a great spice for a variety of uses.