French tea cake flavored with anise seed

This egg-rich cake, dotted with anise seed, is easy and quick to make. A friend served it to me recently, and it is loaded with flavor. I discovered when buying the seed for this cake that fennel and anise seeds are different. Although both have a similar, licoricy kind of flavor, the fennel seeds are much larger and prettier. I tried both, and didn’t notice much difference in the flavor. The fennel seeds may be a bit more attractive is all I can say. Your preference.

Anise seed is used a lot in French cooking. It makes for the distinctive flavor in the liqueur called Pernod or Pastis. The French add 1 to 1 ½ ounces Pastis or Pernod to a highball glass and serve it with a pitcher of ice cold mineral water, so the drinker can dilute the liqueur to their liking. Alternatively, they pour the liqueur directly over a glassful of ice. When water or ice is added, the drink turns milky.

That’s because the oils in anise seed contain terpenes, which become soluble in solutions that contain 30% alcohol. The liqueur is 49-50% alcohol. So when water dilutes the liquid, the terpenes dissolve and turn the drink cloudy.

The crisp fennel bulb is eaten as a vegetable, and a very good one, at that. I like it grilled on the barbecue.

Licorice, on the other hand, is a completely different thing. A sweet sap is derived from the root of the licorice plant and is used medicinally or more commonly to make licorice candy (which I really dislike…). This anise-seed cake, though, is thoroughly delicious!

Catherine’s Gateau à l’Anis

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons anise or fennel seeds
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour
  1. Set the oven to 350F.
  2. Measure out all your ingredients.
  3. Prepare a cake pan 8 x 8 inches square. Oil the bottom and sides with a bit of paper towel, then cut a square of parchment paper to sit neatly in the bottom of the pan. Oil the paper once it is in place.
  4. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, until the color changes to a pale cream, about 3 or 4 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients except the flour and blend well with the hand mixer, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add the flour a little at a time and fold it in gently into the batter with a large spoon. I use a wide, slotted spoon.
  7. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until a toothpick pressed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. The top forms a thin golden crust and the cake rises in the middle.
  8. The cake is best if not overdone. It should be moist and dense with flavor.
  9. Cool the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Then slide a knife around the edges and invert the cake onto a plate. Use your serving platter, placed against the bottom of the cake, to turn it right side up. Cut into squares and enjoy.


Anise and fennel seeds are rich in many nutrients and boast a wide array of health benefits. They have anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and may fight stomach ulcers, keep blood sugar levels in check, and reduce symptoms of depression and menopause. Both anise and fennel seeds have high amounts of vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.

A tablespoon of anise seed provides up to 30% of the daily requirement for iron. Iron keeps your blood healthy and reduces your risk of iron deficiency anemia. The same amount of fennel provides 6% of the daily iron requirement.

So, there are many good reasons besides deliciousness for you to make this cake – what are you waiting for? Tie on an apron and get cracking.

Bon appétite!

What's cookin' with you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: