Too much vanilla won’t be a problem in most recipes. Vanilla is like garlic in that many people can tolerate a lot of it. It brings a rich, floral aroma and flavor to desserts and a range of other baked goods but cannot truly be described as pungent. That said, you may face issues if you have added far too much of it. This is especially likely if the vanilla is in extract form. The result can be bitterness from the alcohol component or – in the case of vanilla beans – a cloying perfume-like sweetness. If you have added too much vanilla to a dessert, here are a few ways to fix it:
If you have only gone over the required amount of vanilla by a small amount, a little extra sweetening can help. The sweetness complements the vanilla flavor and hides bitterness from the alcohol in an extract. Vanilla extract is only about 35 percent alcohol and baking will burn off most of it; however, you may still be able to taste some of it if you have a particularly sensitive palate. While you may not want to add extra sugar to a cake recipe, you can sweeten with honey or fruit.
One simple way to counteract an extremely concentrated flavor is to dilute it. In a recipe, this means adding more of all the other ingredients until the flavor is what you want it to be. You may have to double or triple the recipe to balance the extra vanilla flavor.
If you have enough of the other ingredients, this method can work every time; however, it might also involve a certain amount of waste since you will be preparing more food than you intended to at the start. Another way to do this is to halve the recipe with too much vanilla and add half of the ingredients to that, which will give you a full recipe.
Add other spices
You are more likely to notice the overly-strong vanilla flavor if there are no other flavors. Adding spices helps to mask and distract from an extreme vanilla flavor. Pungent spices like cinnamon and cloves should work best.
The mild bitterness of chocolate can effectively hide a strong vanilla flavor. Chocolate and vanilla also pair well, so much so that vanilla is included in most chocolate dessert recipes.
Use a contrasting flavor
One way to counteract excessive vanilla is to add a flavor that contrasts with it. Vanilla is typically used only in sweet dishes so a little salt might provide a savory counterbalance. Alternatively, something with a little tartness might provide a similar effect; try lime juice along with some zest. Depending on the recipe, you can add an ingredient that has a moderate bitterness like molasses.
If you have accidentally added too much vanilla to a cake batter or cookie dough, you may be able to hide it with a frosting that contains no vanilla. The sweetness and fat can dilute and distract from vanilla’s intensity.
Wait it out
If possible, let your batter or dough sit for a while. If you have used vanilla extract, much of its alcohol should evaporate so the bitterness from that shouldn’t be a problem.