Costa Rican Inspired Vanilla Cake

Technically I have travelled outside of the country. I have vague memories of visiting El Salvador as a child. But vacationing in Costa Rica was the first time I got to experience it as an adult. It was SO cool to learn a little bit about the culture out there. We did tourist attractions in which we met other Americans and realized that being able to speak Spanish was a big plus. We had a day of adventure in Buena Vista in which we did zip-lining, which they call a canopy tour. We also did horseback riding and chilled in natural hot springs after slathering in volcanic mud.

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Our adventure day included lunch. The food was great, very similar to what I usually eat; chicken, rice and beans. What was different was the dessert! It was a slice of yellow cake sitting in a sweet, red sauce. I was so full, but I ate the whole thing and some of Enrique’s because it was SO good. At first bite, it reminded me of a pumpkin pie. I was wondering, “What is that??” and then I saw a whole clove in the middle. The clove gave it that wonderful spice taste that I’ve never had in our desserts. I asked the waitress what it was and she said, “Queque de vainilla,” which is simply vanilla cake. Normally I would say “pastel de vainilla” in Spanish, so that was already a difference I noticed in the dialect. The next day, at our hotel, I had another piece of cake. It had that same kick of spice, even though I didn’t see any actual cloves in this piece. But I knew when I got home, I needed to try and replicate it. It took me some time, but I found a recipe that had similar ingredients. I changed it up, in hopes that it would taste like the ones I had tried.

I have to say, it looked a little different, but it tasted pretty similar! The only difference was mine was a little more dense, while the ones I tried were more spongy. I will try less baking powder next time and see how the consistency is. Anyhow, I am very pleased with the result! I love that it includes my favorite spices of cloves and cinnamon. It has been so hot here in Fontana and I am so ready for autumn and fall inspired desserts!


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbs whole cloves
  • 2 tbs vanilla extract
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Cherry juice


  1. Mix 1/4 cup vegetable oil with 4 tbs butter on stir speed of stand mixer.
  2. Add 1 cup sugar and 2 eggs.
  3. While still mixing, add 2 cups flour, 2 tbs baking powder and 1/2 cup milk.
  4. Add cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla extract.
  5. Dice up about 5 maraschino cherries and add to the mixture.
  6. Pour mixture into 8 x 8 baking pan.
  7. Bake in 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.


8. Let cool.


9. Cut into squares.

10. Pour 2 tbs of cherry juice and place piece of cake on top.


11. Add whipped cream and a cherry.


12. Add a cup of coffee and enjoy!

The coffee out there is so delicious! I usually take my coffee with lots of creamer. In Costa Rica, I could have it black because it was so flavorful on its own. We brought some back as souvenirs and everyone loved it!




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