From Fluffy Cupcakes to Decadent Pies, These 25 Vanilla Desserts Are Anything but Boring

Are you the type of person who looks at the entire ice cream menu and chooses vanilla over rocky road, cookies and cream or strawberry every single time? Us too. In fact, we think vanilla is underrated. It’s subtle, sweet and makes absolutely everything taste better, from fluffy cupcakes to tender cookies and silky panna cotta. To prove are point, we’ve gathered up the best vanilla desserts that are anything but boring. (Wait until you try the birthday-cake pie.)

We Taste-Tested 9 of the Best Vanilla Ice-Cream Brands & Graded Them from ‘Passable’ to ‘Ate the Whole Pint’

vanilla desserts vanilla bean icebox cookies recipe
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

1. Vanilla Bean Icebox Cookies

The beauty of these simple cookies (other than that they taste amazing) is that the dough can be made ahead of time, stashed in the freezer and baked whenever a craving strikes.

vanilla desserts vanilla bean thumbprint cookies dulce de leche recipe
The Cookie Book

2. Vanilla Bean Thumbprint Cookies With Dulce De Leche

Cool party trick: Gently simmer a can of sweetened condensed milk and it’ll turn into dulce de leche. That’s the filling for these delicate thumbprint cookies—yum.

vanilla desserts ultimate white cake recipe
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Erin McDowell

3. The Ultimate White Cake

This simple two-layer cake is pretty enough for a special occasion, but not so fancy or huge that it couldn’t be made just because (which is what we’re doing tonight).

vanilla desserts homemade vanilla pudding recipe
A Cookie Named Desire

4. Homemade Vanilla Pudding

It’s like the pudding cups of your childhood lunches, only a thousand times better.

vanilla desserts vanilla pound cake recipe
A Classic Twist

5. Vanilla Pound Cake

Think of this simple, buttery cake as a blank slate for toppings. You could add berries, whipped cream, ice cream…or all three.

vanilla desserts vanilla cupcakes recipe
Grandbaby Cakes

6. Vanilla Cupcakes

There’s something about a cupcake that makes us want to squeal with delight. These are no exception.

vanilla desserts sweet vanilla bean biscotti recipe
Sally’s Baking Addiction

7. Sweet Vanilla Bean Biscotti

The melted white chocolate is creamy and sweet but won’t overwhelm the delicate vanilla flavor.

vanilla desserts soft and fluffy sugar cookies recipe
Spoon Fork Bacon

8. Soft And Fluffy Sugar Cookies With Vanilla Frosting

You know those fluffy, frosted cookies they sell in packs at the store? These are the homemade version.

vanilla desserts vanilla bean cinnamon buns recipe
Broma Bakery

9. Vanilla Bean Cinnamon Buns

We’re powerless against a vanilla-bean-flecked frosting. (The secret trick is to use vanilla paste instead of extract.)

vanilla desserts vanilla milkshake recipe
A Cookie Named Desire

10. Vanilla Milkshake

A cold, creamy vanilla milkshake is a very beautiful thing. The key to the best texture is to use more ice cream than milk (but you knew that).

vanilla desserts vanilla sheet cake recipe
Sally’s Baking Addiction

11. Vanilla Sheet Cake

This one will never go out of style.

vanilla desserts simple vanilla bean panna cotta recipe
Spoon Fork Bacon

12. Simple Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Panna cotta gives off fancy restaurant vibes, but it’s so simple to make at home and pairs with any flavor of topping.

vanilla desserts smoky vanilla bourbon pretzels recipe
How Sweet Eats

13. Smoky Vanilla Bourbon Pretzels

They look like plain old pretzels, but one bite and you’ll know they’re way more special than that. (Good luck stopping at just one.)

vanilla desserts philadelphia style ice cream recipe
So Much Food

14. Philadelphia-style Ice Cream

Philly ice cream is eggless, so the vanilla flavor can really shine through.

vanilla desserts the best vanilla cake recipe
Sally’s Baking Addiction

15. The Best Vanilla Cake

It’s tender, fluffy, buttery, moist and extra flavorful. So yeah, it really is the best.

vanilla desserts vanilla creme brulee recipe
Snixy Kitchen

16. Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Now is your chance to break out your blow torch (and if you don’t have one, to splurge).

vanilla desserts vanilla mug cake recipe
A Cookie Named Desire

17. Vanilla Mug Cake

When you need a treat and you need it now, this mug cake will do the trick. It’s ready to eat in, like, five minutes.

vanilla desserts very vanilla cupcakes recipe
Sally’s Baking Addiction

18. Very Vanilla Cupcakes

They’re sooo much better than the kind from a box, thanks to that real vanilla bean in the frosting.

vanilla desserts watercolor doughnuts recipe
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

19. Watercolor Doughnuts

The frosting is a feast for your eyes and the sweet vanilla flavor is a feast for your tastebuds.

vanilla desserts homemade marshmallows recipe
Also the Crumbs Please

20. Homemade Marshmallows

If you’ve never had a homemade marshmallow, you’re in a for a treat. They’re fluffier, softer and more vanilla-y than any store-bought puff could ever be.

vanilla desserts vanilla buttermilk pie recipe
Grandbaby Cakes

21. Vanilla Buttermilk Pie

This silky, tangy Southern pie is a classic for a reason: It doesn’t rely on seasonal ingredients, so you can make it all year.

vanilla desserts no bake vanilla cake bites recipe
Minimalist Baker

22. No-bake Vanilla Cake Bites

Bonus, they’re made with only six ingredients and are (shhh) actually good for you.

vanilla desserts vanilla new york cheesecake recipe
Grandbaby Cakes

23. Vanilla New York Cheesecake

You can make a cheesecake better than any restaurant, promise.

vanilla desserts birthday cake pie recipe
Mark Weinberg/The Book on Pie

24. Birthday-cake Pie

Whose birthday is it? Well, no one’s…but who cares?

vanilla desserts 3 ingredient ice cream recipe
Photo/Styling: Katherine Gillen

25. 3-ingredient Ice Cream

At its core, this no-churn wonder requires just heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk. The sprinkles are optional, but the vanilla is not.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...