My fiancé has been asking me to make this cake ever since I obtained Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet years ago. The recipe in the book is called dark aniseed cake, but I substituted the aniseed for fennel seeds as suggested in the recipe, hence the different name of dark fennel seed cake. I stuck to the recipe for pretty much everything else, and ended up with one of the most surprising, delicious cakes I’ve had in some time.
There were a few new ideas for me to grapple with in this cake – especially using spelt flour and baking with fennel seeds – and I also had to use a round tin instead of a square one as stated in the recipe, because my square tin wasn’t deep enough. So, there was plenty that could have gone wrong (especially as it calls for ale, which meant I had to drink what I didn’t use…)!
Happily, the only thing that went wrong was the consistency of the icing (made with orange zest and juice), which was a bit too runny and slopped over the sides rather messily, hence the lack of a photo of the entire cake. But runny icing really doesn’t matter when you have a delicious cake that manages to combine the liquorice flavours of fennel seeds and treacle with the fruitiness of prunes and orange, topped off with the comforting heft of the spelt flour.
We honestly couldn’t stop eating this cake. It’s such a good autumn cake thanks to the spicy flavours, but it’s a world away from your normal ginger or fruit cake. I would really recommend this recipe if you love autumnal flavours in your baking, but want to try something a little bit different!