A Summer of Strawberry Cake (September)



Welcome to the fifth and final month in my Summer of Strawberry Cake series. The strawberry plant I got in May has long ceased fruit production but my craving for cake has not. I’ve already posted about Maple Balsamic Roasted Strawberry CakeStrawberry Mango Shortcake, Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake and Strawberry & Apricot Almost Japanese Cheesecake so I figured it’s time to go big and bold. Or rather, bigger and bolder.

Hello Strawberry & Candied Fennel Cake.  I’ve been waiting for you 

I may not be enthusiastic about my birthday but I’m pretty great at other people’s, I must say. I conceptualized this cake months ago for my mother’s birthday and have been patiently awaiting September to serve her this crazy confection.


And I’m super happy to say it was worth the wait.

As the only person in my family that likes anise and licorice, I figured my mother would enjoy a fennel-flavored birthday cake.  Although I had never cooked with fennel before, I knew it had a similar flavor profile so I didn’t think I would be so taken with this cake.

This sweet, fruity, creamy cake with a touch of warmth from the candied fennel.

Oh fennel, like the popular girl inevitably falling for the bespectacled shy guy in a high school movie, you’ve won me over.

I like the look of the candied fennel on top so this version is like a candied fennel upside-down cake. However if you want these chewy tidbits of flavor sprinkled throughout your cake, go for it!

Fennel is super versatile so if you need an entrée to go with your candied fennel cake or desserts just aren’t your thing, check some of my other fennel recipes. Pork Chops with Apples & Fennel or Fennel Frond Soup, anyone?

Or you can forgo dinner in favor of more desserts with Candied Fennel Ginger Snaps.

Can you tell I’ve been on a fennel kick lately? 


Border Dessert 3






Recipe Type: Dessert

Bake Time: 25 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

With a golden sponge freckled with candied fennel and brushed with fennel simple syrup, sandwiching whipped cream and fresh strawberries, I wouldn’t be surprised if this luscious confection became a frequently requested birthday cake.


Cake Ingredients

11/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Orange, zested
Optional:1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

Filling Ingredients

1 cup heavy cream
3 to 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup strawberries, chopped

Candied Fennel Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
Half of one large fennel bulb, sliced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Candied Fennel & Simple Syrup Instructions

  1. Slice half of a large fennel bulb into 1/4” pieces or whatever size “tidbits” you’d like in your cake. (For reference, store bought candied lemon and orange peel tends to be 1/4” squares)
  2. Slice half the stalks in 1/8” to 1/4” crescents. Reserve the remaining fennel and fronds for other recipes or a second cake!
  3. In a saucepan, dissolve sugar in water, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the fennel, salt and lemon juice.
  5. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Stirring occasionally, allow the liquid to reduce by half. This will take 15 to 20 minutes depending on how gentle of a simmer you’re using.
  7. Remove the chopped fennel from the pot. Sprinkle in a single layer in a greased 7 X 11″ glass pan and allow to cool.
  8. Pour the cooking liquid into a glass jar and set aside to cool.
    Optional: Suspend a few fennel fronds in the simple syrup for decoration.

Cake Instructions

  1. Beat sugar with room temperature eggs on high speed until light and fluffy. The mixture should be pale yellow and have reached the ribbon stage. (When the beater is lifted, the batter should hold a ribbon as it drips from the beater.)
  2. Reduce to medium speed and add lemon juice and orange zest.
  3. Add vanilla extract and slowly pour the melted, cooled butter down the side of the bowl.
  4. Slowly fold in sifted flour, salt, baking powder and optional fennel seeds. Do not overfold or else you’ll decrease the volume of the beaten eggs.
  5. Pour the batter into the baking dish atop the fennel, like an upside-down cake.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.
  7. Allow the cake to cool for at least 15 minutes then brush what is now the top (i.e. the side with the candied fennel) with fennel simple syrup.
  8. Allow the cake to continue cooling until it will no longer melt the whipped cream. (You can continue brushing the cake with simple syrup if you’d like more moisture and sweetness.)
  9. Slice the cake in half so you have two 5 1/2 X 7″ pieces.
  10. Spoon a layer of whipped cream, a layer of chopped strawberries and another layer of whipped cream onto one piece of the cake. Gently top with the remaining piece of candied fennel cake. Decorate with whipped cream, strawberries and/or fennel fronds. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated to enjoy within the next few days.

Whipped Cream Instructions

  1. In a chilled glass bowl, whip heavy cream on low or medium speed until it begins to thicken. (Lower speeds will prevent the cream from warming as quickly so you’ll end up with a more stable finished product.)
  2. Slowly add powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat at medium or medium-high speed until it reaches the medium peak stage.

Pairs Well With


* Double the recipe for a larger cake and bake two individual layers. Yum.

* Are you confused? Is it because you smell savory food while cooking the fennel?
Not to worry, my friend and I both agreed the smell of candying fennel is reminiscent of some sort of Chinese dish. Neither of us could identify what it was but it was definitely savory— like a Chinese soup or chicken dish.
Weird, but true.

* If you can’t finish the cake in a few days (what willpower!), serve slices with the leftover fennel simple syrup. The syrup will refresh the cake and keep it from getting too dry.

* Looking for extra credit? Toss some candied fennel into the whipped cream. The cake will now have a fluffy, fruity and chewy filling.

* To recreate the Strawberry & Candied Fennel Cake photographed above, pipe a central mound of whipped cream on the cake and add a fennel frond sprig.


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