What is your favorite almond extract and where do you buy it? I ran out of mine which I bought out of state and it was in a non commercial bottle.
How about favorite CLEAR vanilla extract? Does it make any difference since it's artificial? I use Wilton's but is there a better tasting one? Where do you get it and what is the price?
If i'm using clear vanilla i like the Watkins double strength. I normally use pure vanilla even though it makes the icing slightly off white its really not that noticeable and i think the pure tastes much better then the artificial. Almond i usually use Durkee.
I recently tried Silver Cloud Estates Almond Extract, and really loved it. Previously, I've used various grocery store brands (so-so), and Nielsen-Massey (also very good). Silver Cloud Estates has their own website, and offer a fairly large range of extracts, but they're not especially cheap. Nielsen Massey is also available widely online. I really really LOVE almond, so rather than just using almond extract, I have two recipes that I use for almond cake: one with ground almonds and almond extract, and the other with almond paste. Both are a little sticky so not always suitable for American-style layered and frosted cake (although they make great cupcakes), so it depends on what you're going for.
For vanilla, if you're looking for clear, your only option is using artificial. Some artificials are pretty good - Cooks Illustrated did a comparison of vanillas, and an artificial came in second.
I prefer not to use anything artificial in my baking, so I go with real vanilla extract or simply just vanilla beans - but my white buttercream is never "white white" because I also use all butter for it, so a little color from the vanilla isn't a big deal to me. I really like seeing the vanilla bean flecks from using vanilla beans instead of the extract.
My favorite vanilla is Neilsen Massey and Trader Joe's Madagascar Bourbon (the "bargain" of the bunch). I don't generally like supermarket brand vanilla, as I don't think it has much flavor.
I'm currently in the process of brewing my own vanilla extract by soaking beans in rotgut vodka - it's coming along nicely. It takes a couple months, and as I use my vanilla beans, I keep adding the scraped pods to the brew. You can buy vanilla beans reasonably priced online - 1/2 pound ranges from about $12 (on eBay) to about $30.
I read a long post about the real vanilla but after sending my dh to the supermarket and paying $13 for a small bottle I refuse to spend that much. If I ever have a real business and I actually make a profit maybe I'll consider it.
I buy my pure vanilla from the local restaurant supply store, and it usually runs some where in the neighborhood of $30 give or take for a quart. So it really doesn't have to be outrageously expensive