Is the fruit of the orchid plant which grows in the form of a bean pod, these pods are almost black in colour.  Vanilla orchids are commonly grown in tropical climates, Mexico, Indonesia and Mauritius with a majority supply coming from Magagasgar.  Both the pod and the seeds it contains are widely used in cooking.  Here at the café we love to use vanilla in crème brulee, rice pudding, and vanilla sponge.

1. Vanilla Sugar

Simple, pop a vanilla pod into some nice sugar and leave to infuse for 2/3 weeks. Store in an airtight jar.  The sugar has lots of uses, sprinkle into a mug of hot chocolate, dust cakes and biscuits with it or use in general baking.

2. Baked Lemon & Vanilla Cheesecake

This is a baked cheesecake which requires slow cooking.  The cheesecake may crack once removed form the oven, this is fine, it just adds character to the dessert

You will need

  • Tin – 1 round 9inch loose bottom tin
  • Oven 140c / 280f / Gas 1


  • 250g/9oz digestive biscuits (we sometimes mix digestive with ameretti Biscuits to give a slightly different taste)
  • 80g/3oz butter
  • 500g/1 lb 2 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 200g/7oz cream cheese
  • 150g/5 ½ oz golden caster sugar
  • 3 large free range eggs
  • 1 egg yolk (the whites can be frozen and eventually made into a pavlova)
  • 3 unwaxed lemons – zest of 3 juice of 2
  • 150ml/5floz double cream (a 142ml carton will do)
  • ½ teaspoon of good vanilla extract
  • Zest of one orange, finely chopped or finely grated
  • Dash of orange blossom water to taste


  • Melt the butter in a saucepan, whilst that is melting crush the biscuits to a fine powder (this can be done in a food processor or by hand with a plastic bag with no holes and a rolling pin!)
  • Tip the biscuits into the butter and stir to mix.
  • Press the biscuits into the base of the tin and freeze until the filling is ready.
  • Put the mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and the extra yolk into a food processor.  Using the beater attachment mix until thoroughly combined. Then add the lemon and orange zest. Turn the mixer onto a slow setting and then add the cream, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Taste.  I like to add a little orange blossom water at this stage, so if you do want to then add it now.
  • Prepare the tin.
  • Wrap tin foil tightly around the tin covering the sides and bottom with one whole piece to ensure that water from the bain marie does not seep in.
  • Pour the cheesecake mixture into the hardened crumb base and smooth over.
  • To prepare the bain marie, choose a suitable sized deep tray and pour in enough boiling water to come about a third of the way up the sides of the cheesecake tin.
  • Place the cheesecake in the bain marie and slide into the oven and bake for around 60 minutes max.  Switch off the oven at this stage and leave the cheesecake in there to cool.  It should have a slightly colored top.
  • When the cake is cold very carefully remove from the tin.
  • This is a rich cheesecake; a thin slice is often enough.  If you are feeling more generous then it should serve 10.
  • Serve with fresh cream and gorgeous raspberries.