Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fennel Seed & Orange Cakes

It's funny to remember what a fussy child I was. I hardly ate anything, believing that I didn't like most things without even really trying them, and my Mum gave up pretty early on trying to push me to try new things. But then I moved to Sydney to live with my brother, and very quickly learnt that if I didn't want to starve, I would have to eat whatever he made for me.
Thanks to my brother, I rejoice in the discovery of a unique, exciting flavour on my tastebuds, strong ones that would have made me wrinkle my nose when I was younger. It probably has something to do with getting older and getting less sensitive tastebuds I suppose. One of those flavours that I'm slowly learning to love is the anise/liquorice flavour. Star anise is one of my absolute favourite ingredients to add to any meat dishes, and I'm starting to be obsessed with fennel and aniseed. On our food tour of Surry Hills a while back, I randomly picked up some colourful sugar-coated fennel seeds at the Indian grocery store. These are usually used like breath mints after a meal (and apparently fennel seeds help to aid digestion) and I love them. And being me, I couldn't look at the beautiful colours of the coated fennel seeds without thinking, 'Cupcake decorations!".
So here's something a little different. I used a moist french yoghurt cake recipe that I tested out a long time ago on this blog, but paired it with an orange buttercream rather than a marmalade glaze. The addition of fennel seeds in the batter infuses it with a very light, fragrant aroma of anise, not the least bit overpowering. Even if you don't like liquorice, you will like these. I've had this recipe waiting in the sidelines for a while, I made it for my brother's birthday but then all the hectic Christmas baking came straight after it. I mucked up the buttercream slightly when I made it for him, but have since improved it. But it seems appropriate to try something new on my brother, since he's the one who taught me to get over my silly fears.

Fennel Seed & Orange Cupcakes
(adapted from this Dorie Greenspan recipe)
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal (can replace with another 1/2 cup plain flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flavorless oil, such canola or safflower (I used about 2 tbsp less of this)
1 tsp fennel seeds
For the buttercream:
125g unsalted butter, softened slightly
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1 tbsp sugar-coated (or regular) fennel seeds to sprinkle on top (available at Indian grocery stores)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic.
Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisking vigorously until the mixture is very well blended. Still whisking, add the dry ingredients, then switch to a large rubber spatula and fold in the oil. You'll have a thick, smooth batter with a slight sheen. Spoon batter into a lined cupcake tray, filling it about 3/4 full.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.
Beat butter at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Sift icing sugar into bowl, then beat in orange juice.
Pipe or spoon on to top of cakes and then sprinkle a pinch of candied fennel seeds on top. Can be stored for several days in an airtight container.
Print Friendly and PDF Pin It


  1. oh how cute you managed to use them in a cupcake recipe :O)

    whenver i bake with yogurt my cakes turn out sooo moist & rich and knowing that it makes it semi-healthy is a thumbs up too hehe

  2. What a gorgeous idea. I've often be intrigued by these fennel seeds but using them as cupcake decorations is genius :)

  3. YUM!!!! Im going to bake these beauties. The french yoghurt cakes sound so moist and scrumptious. You pair them with any flavour of buttercream. Steph you are a wonder! Love the colours.

  4. That is so unusual (the fennel seeds, that is). The moist yoghurt cake looks like it turned out really well, too.

  5. I love sugar coated fennel seeds but never thought to use them as a topping - that does sound like a great combination. I love how you used yoghurt too - you can eat as much as you want without feeling guilty.

  6. That sounds so different and delicious! And so cute!

  7. oh my, they sound, read, and look delicious!

  8. Ooh ooh the tops of the cakes look so good, begging to be eaten. Very interesting flavour combo too. I'm not a fan of licorice, but can handle anise/fennel in small doses. I think I would like this. Plus the first bite is with the eye, right?

  9. Hehe I have a packet of those fennel seeds I bought to decorate cupcakes with too! Did you get those on the Surry Hills tour from that fab Indian store? :D Love those Robert Gordon cupcake cases too :)

  10. haha liquorice is the mark of maturity! liking it gives you bragging rights at parties

    nice cupcakes:)

  11. these cupcakes are gorgeous! the sugar coated fennel seeds make them nice and pretty :)

  12. Wow they look great - what a wonderful flavour combination! Yoghurt is great in cakes, it keeps them so deliciously moist :) Nice work on the novel decoration!

  13. They look really fluffy and oh so yummy! And I love the cupcake papercases... and the frosting.. and the pretty toppings!!!

  14. Betty - Heehee I was always going to use them in a cupcake recipe, they were begging for it! Haha I'm not sure these are too healthy, but the yoghurt does make you feel a little better about it ;)

    Helen - Thank you! I love these fennel seeds, and the colour of them is just so pretty :)

    Kate - You should try making the marmalade glaze ones that are in the original recipe. They are divine!

    Belle - Thanks! It was super moist, I love making yoghurt cakes!

    Trissa - Fennel seeds are one of my new favourites! The flavour is so interesting. Haha well the buttercream is still kinda naughty, but oh well!

    Brittany - Thank you so much!

    Reemski - Haha thank you :) Glad you like the sound/idea/look of them!

    Conor - Yes, it's a pity I stuffed up the buttercream when I first made them! Haha exactly!

    Lorraine - Yup, got those on the tour :) Been dying to use them! Oh I picked those up from EI, one of those dangerous impulse purchases :)

    grace - haha YES! my palate is all grown up now :D Thanks!

    panda - Thank you! I love those fennel seeds now!

    Ladybird - I agree, yoghurt is such a great thing for cakes, sour cream too! Thanks!

    Trisha - Thank you! The cases are pretty but I had to use two because they were so thin the grease leaked through!

  15. I LOVE those sugar coated fennel seeds. You get them with your bill at the Nepalese Kitchen, my sister would always steal the leftovers - didn't know you could buy them in Surry Hills. Your cakes look great.

  16. How great are they?? Yeah I think you can get them at most indian grocers. :D thanks!


Comments are moderated and will be published ASAP. If you are viewing this on your phone, you might have to click the Preview button before posting your comment for it to work. People who comment make my day! ♥