Candied Fennel Upside-Down Cake with Citrus Chocolate Pudding

Recipe courtesy of Chef Emily Ellyn,

This orange scented upside-down cake topped with candied fennel and bathed in a golden citrus syrup is accompanied by a dollop of rich chocolate pudding, topped with toasted fennel sesame seed brittle and garnished with burnt orange ash.  Prepare your taste buds for a decadent journey of nostalgic delight that will tug on apron strings and heartstrings.

Serves:  10


Yield:  (1) 9-inch round cake

Candied fennel ingredients:

1 small fennel bulb, sliced into 1/4 -inch thick pieces or shredded fine (Finer cut yields easier slicing when serving)

1 cup white sugar

2 oranges, zested and juiced

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds

Cake ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground annatto seed

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup white granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure orange extract

¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk

Pudding ingredients:

2 cups whole milk

1 cup white granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon pure orange extract (or zest of 1 orange)

½ teaspoon ground chili pepper (optional)

Brittle ingredients:

1 cup white granulated sugar

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup sesame seeds, toasted

½ cup whole fennel seeds, toasted

*Optional substitutes of seeds:

candied fennel seed

crystalized fennel

candied orange, minced

candied plum, minced

candied ginger, minced

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg


2 each oranges for Orange Ash, see recipes below (optional)

Fresh Origins’ Crystalized Fennel Flower (optional)


Prepare cake pan. Lightly oil a 9-by 2-inch round cake pan and line bottom with a large round of parchment paper and line side with a 2-inch-wide strip around inside of pan to cover pleats, then lightly oil.

Make candied fennel:

In a medium sized saucepot add all candied fennel ingredients and cook until fennel is tender and translucent and the liquid is syrupy, about 40 minutes. If you have more than 1/3 cup syrup, boil to reduce; if less, add water. Lift fennel slices out with a fork and arrange decoratively in bottom of cake pan. Cool syrup slightly, then pour over fennel through a fine-mesh sieve.

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

In medium-sized bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground annatto seed and salt.

Cream together orange extract, butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, and mixing until just combined. Gently spoon batter over topping and distribute evenly.

Bake until cake is golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate and continue to cool.

For Pudding:

Add 1 ½ cups of the milk, sugar, salt and the chocolate broken into pieces in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, cornstarch, eggs and egg yolks in a bowl. Gradually whisk the hot milk into egg mixture. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat whisking constantly, until the pudding comes to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and continue whisking until thick, about 2 or 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and whisk in orange extract and chili powder, reserve to side for service.

For Brittle:

Line sheet tray with parchment paper and spray with cooking oil.

Stir together sugar, ½ cup water and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until sugar begins to melt and turn golden, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has melted and mixture turns golden amber, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a glass or metal bowl, mix the seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in seed mixture. Working quickly, mix until incorporated and quickly pour over parchment paper and use an offset spatula to spread to a ¼-inch thickness.

Let cool and break into pieces, reserve for service.

For Orange Ash:

Roast two juiced oranges for six hours until they turn into a charcoal mass. Pulse in food processor until pulverized to dust.

Serve a large piece of Candied Fennel Upside Down Cake on a dollop of Chocolate Pudding and garnishing with fennel sesame brittle, orange ash and crystalized fennel flower.