Monday, May 16, 2016

Fennel Upside-Down Cake

 Have you ever cooked with fennel?
 I must admit, I'm just discovering it, lately. I've had it in a few dishes at restaurants from time to time, but have rarely ever used it in any of my home cooking and baking. It's fun to discover a new ingredient, dontcha think? I've had it sliced raw in salads and candied on top of desserts, but this recipe is the first time I've ever seen it in a cake. It's from Giada De Laurentis and it's just fabulous!
 First of all, I love that it's not your everyday average cake. It's a little unexpected and outside the box. Second, it was great to try a new recipe!! New ingredient, new recipe, always fun. And third, I love that it makes just a tiny cute little one layer cake. It's perfect for a small brunch or if you're just having a couple friends over for tea or a dinner/movie hang.
 I served it with raspberry sauce as the recipe suggests, (even though the sauce didn't make it into the photo), but this cake is so delicious, you don't even need the sauce if you're not a fan of raspberries. Actually, I liked the cake so much that I'm already thinking of trying the cake portion of the recipe without the fennel. Maybe I'll try it with another delicious candied something or even just plain. It has a lovely hint of lemon to go along with the hint of anise, and the two are just perfect together. Plus, the cake uses olive oil, (which is also a fun not-the-norm ingredient in a cake) and it makes it amazingly moist and delicious.
 So there you have it. New ingredient, new recipe, something different, all fabulous. DEFINITELY give this one a try the next time you're having a friend or two over for coffee.
I betcha they'll ask you for the recipe!

1/2 cup sugar
2 small or 1 large bulbs fennel, halved and sliced into 1/8-inch half moons
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing pan
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen or ground fennel seed

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Fennel fronds, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch cake pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

For the fennel: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in 3/4 cup water, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the fennel, salt, and lemon juice, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid is reduced by three-quarters, about 15 minutes. Spread the candied fennel evenly over the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Set aside to cool slightly.

For the cake: Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, olive oil, lemon zest, and fennel pollen. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter evenly over the candied fennel. Place in the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert the cake onto a plate to cool completely.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the raspberry jam, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons warm water. Sprinkle the cake with a few picked fennel fronds. Slice into wedges and serve with a spoonful of the sauce.

I don't know where Giada does her shopping, but I've never seen fennel pollen anywhere. TBH, I had never even heard of it as an ingredient (but I've read that it's very expensive). So I just used ground fennel seeds. Easy! I just used my mortar and pestle to grind them up, but you could also place the seeds on a cutting board and use the bottom of a heavy pan (like a cast iron skillet) to crush them up a bit.
 The next time I make this, I probably won't use as much fennel as I did. I bought some extra fennel because I wasn't sure how far it would go, but it turns out 2 small bulbs would have been fine. And I think I'll slice it a little smaller next time. It was a bit chewy, and I think the cake would have sliced a bit more easily if it had smaller pieces of fennel on top.

No comments: