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Candied fennel sponge cake


Original french name: Bras de Vénus, crème legere au fenouil confit
Place of origin: Roussillion, Southern France

A candied fennel sponge cake is a very light and delicious french dessert. It originates from Southern province of France, Roussillon. Generally,  in this fruit-growing area of France there is abundance of dessert recipes. Today’s one however is a bit unusual because the main ingredient in the cake is fennel which is a vegetable generally used for cooking salads or soups. People of Roussillon provence found an interesting way to make incredible desserts based on vegetables.

Locals of this area are familiar with the cultivation of apricots, peaches and cherries, apples and kiwi fruits, raspberries, wild strawberries and blueberries, persimmon and figs, citrus fruits and during late summer – grapes and almonds. Catalonia offers simple astonishing desserts with different incredible variations such as a goat milk cheese sprinkled with honey or eggplants as a dessert that is another surprise. In the classic version of this dish they are simply sliced, baked in the oven and served sprinkled with sugar. Roussillon is known of a whole variety of fine cakes, fritters and creams usually flavoured with orange flower water. The most famous is Catalan cream and candied fennel sponge cake.

I tried this cake for the first time being a bit sceptical about results but found it absolutely fabulous. The cake is very fresh and light and I was surprised how delicious it was. I definitely think this candied fennel sponge cake can be something special for the upcoming Mother’s Day.

Originally this fennel dessert looks like a sponge roll filled with a fennel cream. I suggest more simple version using a sponge base instead of baking a sponge roll. The taste and structure is pretty the same and the cooking time is much shorter. That is my little tip to make french cooking a bit simplier ;)

Ingredients for sponge

1 round or square sponge base weighting about 350g

Ingredients for candied fennel

2cups (500ml) water
1 1/2 cups (350g) sugar
1 fennel bulb, cut into small pieces

Ingredients for fennel cream

around 1 tablespoon gelatin (use amount following the recommendations)
4 tablespoon (50 ml) milk
3/4 cup (200ml) fennel juice (from 400g fennel)
1-2 tablespoons corn flour
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoon sugar
400ml cream, whipped


Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan and make a syrup. Rinse and clean the fennel, slice and cut into small pieces. Add to the boiling syrup and cook on a very low heat for about 45minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatin in cold water. Take an equivalent amount of gelatin to approximately 800ml of water. Bring the milk and fennel juice to a boil in a saucepan. Mix the corn flour with a little of water and add to the pan. Stir continuously over a gentle heat for a few minutes. Set aside.

Then beat together the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly and constantly add the fennel milk blending to maintain a smooth consistency and prevent curdling. Warm together carefully in a saucepan and thoroughly dissolve the gelatin in the mixture. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and leave to cool.

Gently mix the candied fennel into the whipped cream and carefully fold this into the fennel custard. Place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour until cold.

Cut the every sponge base into two or three if possible.  Select the best layer for the top and the bottom. Coat the base with the amount of chilled fennel cream that depends on the number of layers. The top layer should be sprinkle with only the custard sugar (before serving).

Place the sponge cake with the fennel cream in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight to allow the flavours to infuse. Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

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