Growing up my mother had the biggest bottle of imitation vanilla extract I swear God created. And I HATED it! It tasted…fake. However that’s all we could afford. Sure it would give stuff vanilla flavor but it never tasted like really deep vanilla. Then one year someone had given my mother a bottle of actual pure vanilla extract. OMG people you would have thought this person gave her the winning lottery numbers. Once you have something made with pure vanilla you will never EVER go back to that imitation stuff. However I agree, the pure stuff is expensive. But if you can afford it, make your own as it drastically cuts down the cost! Check out my post here on how to make your own!
Often I get asked what’s the difference between these things and more importantly does it make that much of a difference? The answer is it depends. It honestly depends on the application and your expected outcome. If you want super intense over-the-top vanilla flavor go with an oil or emulsion. If you don’t want to alter the color of your item go with either the extract or the oil. This is more so for frostings or white cake.
Emulsions – The main difference between emulsions and extracts are that the emulsions are water based and not alcohol based. I personally believe emulsions are by far superior to extracts. When emulsions are used in baking they are subjected to high heat, obviously. That being said the flavor will not bake out. What you end up with is a more flavorful baked good; more vanilla, more chocolate and so forth.
Oils – Oils or better known as “Candy Oils” are not an oil at all. Actually it’s an extract however it’s concentrated and undiluted. This means a little (and we’re talking a little) goes a long, LONG way! These are more used in candy making as these will flavor chocolate. I tend to use oils when I want a high concentrated flavor – super lemony cake, triple vanilla pound cake and so forth.
These are some of my favorite baking oils and emulsions that I personally use and recommend