tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, Iโ€™m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

My mom never had an oven when I grew up. Except for tandoors (large outdoor ovens) ovens aren’t really a big kitchen tool/appliance. in India. But she likes cakes and would borrow this oven which was a large blue painted metal box that could sit on top of gas stove and act as an oven. You could bake anything in there and so she did. Then when microwaves came to homes, she decided that she would get herself a microwave oven and said she might bake with that. I don’t think that worked out too well because she got herself a countertop baking oven which she’s uses for everything. Though, I think she enjoys buying herself fresh cream cakes on the sly, so I’m not sure if she bakes a lot anymore. Me on the other hand, my oven needs to be lined with silicone sheets to keep it protected since it gets a lot of use.

Though good baking requires an oven that can heat effectively and maintain temperature consistently, I’m always on the hunt for good bakeware to bake my cakes so they don’t get burned easily. The darker the pan or even the cake for that matter (chocolate cakes) they will burn more easily because of this theory I remember from physics, Ferry’s dark body principle, the darker the body, the more heat it absorbs and things can burn. That’s a problem I’ve run into often with the darker non-stick pans, they’re less forgiving.

I prefer to use lighter colored baking pans for this very reason and the metal should be durable and not warp. And for these very reasons, I love the OXO 5-piece bakeware set Non-Stick Pro 5 Piece Set. OXO makes a lot of wonderful kitchen tools and this baking set is all you will ever need for most of your baking needs. My cakes brown more evenly and bake well in the pans. They’re easy to use and the clean up is a breeze!
Because I love this bakeware set, I’m giving away one of these beautiful and practical bakeware sets to one lucky reader. All you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me your favorite baking spice. Because of shipping purposes, the contest is open to legal US residents only and will end on March 7th at 12pm. I will announce and notify the reader then. Good luck and happy baking!!!

This layer cake is very easy and simple. It doesn’t require too much effort, I’m using leftover jam to make the layer and a vanilla bean to decorate the top so you can skip making frosting and all that jazz! Low effort layer “cakering”. I’ve used this lovely tahitian vanilla bean that I picked up from my local spice store, Oaktown Spice Shop along with Tellicherry black peppercorns. Pepper and vanilla are a match made in cake heaven and they pair deliciously well with the lingonberry jam. A hint of pepper goes along way in this cake and builds on each and every flavor used in this cake. 

NOTE: This giveaway has ended. The winner has been informed. 

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this cake;

  • You can use any type of vanilla bean, make sure it’s good quality so you get that lovely aroma and flavor. 
  • For the jam, I used leftovers from a jar of lingonberry that was sitting in my refrigerator. You can pretty much pair any berry type jam with the vanilla and pepper in this cake. I’d recommend avoiding some of the more fragrant fruit jams as they can overwhelm and mask the flavors in the cake.

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake | A Brown Table

tahitian vanilla bean and tellicherry black pepper jam cake

This recipe is adapted from
The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book

yields: two 9 inch layer cakes


1 cup whole milk at room temperature

6 large egg whites at room temperature

1 tahitian vanilla bean

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground tellicherry black pepper

2 1/4 cups ( 255.14gm) whole-wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 3/4 cup ( 347.28gm) superfine sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine grain salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped at room temperature + extra to grease pans

1 cup lingonberry jam or any other type of berry jam (raspberry etc)

1. Place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease two round 9 inch baking pans with butter and then line with parchment paper. Lightly flour each pan and keep aside until ready to use.

2. Lightly whisk the milk and egg whites in a small mixing bowl and keep aside. Using a paring knife, slit the vanilla bean in half across it’s length but keeping it still attached at the stalk. Scrape the seeds out of the pod and transfer the seeds to the liquid mixture along with the pepper. Mix and keep aside. Keep the vanilla bean pod aside.

3. Place the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until mixed. Then add 1 teaspoon of butter at a time and continue to mix until the mixture starts to resemble large crumbles. Add half of the milk-egg mixture to the batter and slowly increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until the batter becomes light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the remaining liquid to the batter. Beat until completely incorporated about 30 seconds. Stir with a silicone spatula and scrape the bottom of the bowl, to ensure all ingredients are combined. Divide equally and transfer the cake batter to the prepared cake pans. Place the reserved split vanilla bean on the surface of one cake. Transfer the pans to the oven and bake for at least 25 to 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking process. The cakes will be done when the surface is light golden and firm to touch. A knife or skewer when inserted should come out clean through the center of the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, remove and peel parchment paper and allow to cool completely before assembling about 2 hours.

4. Warm the jam in a microwave for about 20 seconds until slightly runny. To assemble the cake, place the cake without the vanilla bean on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread the jam in an even layer using an offset spatula. Then place the second cake with the vanilla bean on top of the jam layer. The cake is ready to serve. 

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to OXO for sponsoring this giveaway. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

37 Responses

  1. My favorite baking spice would have to be vanilla bean; everything about it is great and I love that you don’t need much for a strong impact!

  2. Hi, thanks for the recipe and the stunning pictures! Mu favorite baking spice is cardamom, I absolutely love it!

  3. Love the split vanilla bean on top of the cake! So creative – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. My favorite baking spice would be a tie between vanilla bean and cardamom. And love Oaktown Spice Shop – I only live a couple blocks away ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. The idea of baking in a stove top oven sounds pretty neat, but, yeah, I’d imagine there are challenges with that. I love the specks of vanilla bean in your beautiful cake! And the black pepper in the jam? I’m on board!

    My go-to baking spice is ground ginger. In my opinion, ginger makes everything better.

  5. My current baking spice obsession is ground fenugreek, imparting a faint nutty, maple-ish undertone. Love the whole vanilla bean as a garnish!

  6. The cake looks absolutely delicious, can’t wait to try it out. My favorite baking spice would be cinnamon.

  7. This looks so light and amazing. I love the vanilla pod that you have baked in the top of the cake. Vanilla pods can be quite fibrous, is it edible when baked?

    This is just a fantastic looking cake.

  8. I want to make this cake today! Yum! I love to use vanilla I mean whats better than Vanilla ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Your pictures are always inspiring. I have to say I love baking with cardamom and saffron the most!

  10. Beautiful and oh so yummy! I can’t get enough of fresh ground nutmeg in baking during the winter. It is the perfect compliment to many other baking spices.

  11. This is a really neat cake. My Favorite for baking is actually a flavor, I really don’t care for most spices, but o how I love lemon desserts!! Lemon poppyseed muffins, super moist lemon cake, & oh! lemon lavender shortbread <3

  12. I’m gonna give this a whirl at the weekend. I’m not the best of cooks but I’m learning. Practice makes perfect hey.
    My favourite spice has to be cinnamon.

  13. My favorite cooking spices are vanilla and cinnamon. (Though I have been working on expanding the spice palette of my baked goods like the wide variety I use in my stove top cooking.)

  14. I use Cinnamon more than anything other spice because it reduces the inflammation I get with my arthritis plus the aroma is very healing to the soul.

  15. Hi all, thank you and OXO for your recipe, comments and kitchen tips. My favorite spice is cinnamon! The flavor and aroma are so sweet and comforting. (I also love vanilla too..but the question was most favorite) Anyway, the recipe looks bombastic and I cannot wait to try it.

  16. As always I love the way spices combine in magical ways in these recipes- it is something that definitely separate your blog/recipes from the other cooks that I follow. I continue to be bowled over by the flavour combos. Can’t wait for my next hit!

  17. I’ve been using an awful amount of cinnamon lately, just can’t get enough! On most occasions I sneak in a bit of cayenne pepper, just love the combination and the bite it brings.

  18. That’s a tough one! I love baking and cooking with spices. I guess it would be either cardamom or cinnamon. If it was herbs- I would have to say lavender! The cake looks amazing!

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