Orange Fennel Poppy Seed Cake


Okay, I know I just wrote about lemon pound cake, and even mentioned in that post about substitutions so that you could make this instead… so why am I devoting more time to this? Well, because Millie loves this cake. And it was magically created because I ran out of lemons and decided to get creative. And there might be some of you that don’t like lemon, and didn’t even bother to look at the lemon pound cake post, but will be curious about an orange cake. And of course there have been more tweaks making it even better. And did I mention fennel? Finally, I think this cake is so yummy that it deserves to be showcased. So there you have it.

Orange Fennel Poppy Seed Cake

(Adapted from Lauren Schaefer’s recipe)

  • 1 large navel orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, freshly ground
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered milk (optional)
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 fluid ounces) whole milk at room temperature
  • 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar (for the glaze)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Butter an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Line pan lengthwise with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on both sides.
  3. Using a Microplane (this is the fine grater that I normally use to grate Parmesan cheese), grate the zest of 1 large orange into your mixing bowl. Juice the orange and set aside.
  4. Grind the fennel seeds and set aside (I use a mortar and pestle).
  5. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter to your mixing bowl, and cream together with the zest on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. If you are using a stand mixer, you might need less than 5 minutes.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Continue to beat for another minute or two until the mixture is fluffy.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you want to go crazy, sift these ingredients together.
  8. Whisk the poppy seeds and ground fennel into the flour mixture.
  9. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine on low speed just until the flour is incorporated.
  10. Add the milk and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
  11. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix on low speed, yep, you got it, just until the flour is incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, swipe around the edge of the bowl quickly once or twice, making sure that everything is uniform and well mixed. Do not over-mix!
  12. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.
  13. Place in preheated 350° oven on middle rack and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. I like to rotate the pan at about 25 minutes into the baking. Start to test for doneness (is that a word?) at 40 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the center. Mine takes about 50 minutes, but all ovens are different. Toothpick should come out clean when cake is ready… might have a crumb or two on it, but no wet batter.
  14. While cake is baking, make the glaze by mixing 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar with 4 Tablespoons orange juice in a small sauce pan over low heat, mixing until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat as soon as the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
  15. When cake is done, place the cake (still in its pan) on a cooling rack and let cool for ten minutes. After ten minutes, poke holes into the top of the cake using a wooden skewer, and brush the cake top with almost all of the glaze. Be patient and just keep brushing the glaze onto the cake. Next, pull the cake out of the pan using the parchment paper and brush the sides of the cake with the remaining glaze. Place cake back in its pan and let it cool completely before serving. Enjoy!

Notes: I use Gold Medal all-purpose flour for this cake, since it has a lower protein content, making the cake nice and tender. The addition of the powdered milk adds a richness to the cake that is lovely, but you don’t have to add it if you don’t have any handy.


Prepare the pan.


Zest the orange.


Juice the orange.


Crush the fennel seeds.


Ready to mix zest, butter, and sugar.


Make sure it is nice and fluffy!


Add eggs one at a time.


Nice and fluffy again!


Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt (or you can whisk).


But I’m starting to believe that sifting makes a difference!


Add the poppy seeds and ground fennel.


Whisk together.


Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture.


Don’t over mix!! Mix on low until just blended.


Don’t forget to add and mix in the milk!


Then add the other half of the dry ingredients.


Put batter in prepared pan and smooth the top.


After cake has cooled for ten minutes, poke holes and glaze.


Brush the sides too.






This entry was posted in Comfort Food, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen!. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Orange Fennel Poppy Seed Cake

  1. Pingback: Lemon Pound Cake | and everything nice

  2. Fabulous cake! Moist and delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it! Thank you

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