When I found a recipe for a cake that featured candied fennel, I couldn’t believe it. I had just recently learned how to candy my own citrus peel (it’s only available to purchase in my area around Christmas and my boyfriend loves sweet bread cakes all year round) and the thought of candying fennel drove me nuts. I had to try it.
Recipe #7: Candied Fennel Upside Down Lemon Cake
The recipe itself proved to be quite simple, albeit a bit time-consuming. The hardest part was lining the cake pan with parchment paper and slicing the fennel super thin while keeping its fan-like shape intact. I had never eaten or made a pineapple upside down cake so I have real no basis for comparison.
What really sold this cake to my boyfriend Michael (my number one taste tester!) was the syrup poured over the candied fennel at the bottom of the cake pan. He gushed at how moist the top was (because the cake is flipped over) in amazement. He also was a huge fan of the candied fennel’s taste, where I, on the other hand, felt it had a little bit too much of a root taste. If I was to make this recipe again, I would have boiled the fennel two or three more times before candying it.
Candied Fennel Upside Down Lemon Cake
Adapted from the April 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine
For candied fennel:
1 small fennel bulb
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c water
Lemon peel cut into thick pieces.
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter at room temperature
3/4 c sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9 inch by 2 inch cake pan. Cut a disk of parchment paper the size of the bottom of your cake pan and place inside. Cut a two-inch strip of parchment paper and press against the sides of your cake pan (this method did not work for me, I did a bunch of little strips)
2. Remove fronds, and cut fennel in half. As thinly as you can, slice the fennel from top to bottom (or if you have a mandolin, use that! It would be much easier). Fennel should be fanned. Slice enough to arrange at the bottom of the cake pan. About 7-10 pieces.
3. Add fennel to a pan and cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and strain out fennel. Then, once again bring water to a boil (without fennel) then add sugar, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon peel, fennel seeds, and fennel slices. Boil until fennel is translucent and the liquid is syrupy. About 40 minutes.
4. With a fork, pull out pieces of fennel and arrange at bottom of cake pan. Make sure your syrup has boiled down to about 1/3 of a cup. If there is more, let it boil longer. Pour syrup over top of fennel pieces, sieving as desired.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
6. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in zest and lemon juice.
7. Add 1/3 of butter milk and thoroughly combine, then add 1/3 of flour and thoroughly combine. Repeat until all is added.
8. Gently spoon batter over the fennel/syrup and smooth. Bake until cake is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. 35-40 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes in pan, then reverse onto a plate.
Note: My cake definitely rose above the top of the pan, but my pan was a 1 inch tall cake pan…so I am assuming that is why! It proved to not be a problem because it fit perfectly into the dip of my plates.
Best served warm (but still tastes good days later!) with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Store wrapped in plastic.