I used to love that little pinch of fennel seed and rainbow-colored licorice candy as I paid the check at our favorite Indian restaurant. Rory Gilmore ruined it for me with her, well, I’ve posted it below for those willing to risk never being able to enjoy his or her little pinch again.
From The Gilmore Girls
Mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore discuss the progress of Rory’s date…
Lorelai: So the guy’s a dud?
Rory: Trevor’s fine, I’m moronic, I bring the conversation to a crashing halt every time I speak.
Lorelai: Where is he now?
Rory: In the bathroom, probably pondering my brilliant anecdote about urine mints…
Rory: You know, when people go to the bathroom and they don’t wash their hands and they come out and take a mint.
Lorelai: [gasp] Oh my God, I’ve been eating those mints for years!
(See what I mean?)
I love all things licorice, so I always looked forward to it. I suppose I could go out and buy myself a box of Good & Plenty, but I never have. And I never buy licorice either, don’t know why. My Dear Husband has a theory about time and place and the pleasure of serendipity. We didn’t grow up in the digital age, so if you missed the A Charlie Brown Christmas because you were naughty or because your mom talked too long at church on Wednesday night (ugh), it was over. Over. You had to wait a year to see it again. Today, you could pull out your DVD copy and watch it any night, and, sadly, it’s not quite as magical anymore for just this reason. Stumble on something, or wait for it, and it’s imbued with a little magic. So, even though I knew that I could always have that little pinch of candy every time we went out for Indian, it was still a taste I had to wait for, and one made special by time and place. My Dear Husband still throws back a handful at the little hostess desk, but I just can’t. (Did you read the scene? You know it’s true.) Well, I was sipping a little glass of sambuca recently, the Italian anise-flavored liqueur, thinking about how madly in love with licorice I really am, when it occurred to me to drown a pound cake in the stuff (not really). The beauty of the Indian candy is the pairing of the fennel seed with the licorice, so I decided to grind some fennel seed for the cake. Ooh, it’s good. (Little dance here.) Now I (and you) can enjoy a slice of this cake, which has its own little bit of magic: dreaming it up, making it myself, and remembering the seven years my now-all-grown-up Honey Girl and I watched Gilmore Girls together.
This pound cake recipe does not include a leavening agent, such as baking soda or baking powder, which acts to make cakes rise as they bake. Beating air into the butter and sugar creates volume, but it takes time. The butter and sugar will be nearly white when ready and very fluffy. This takes perhaps five to ten minutes depending on the power of your mixer.
Don’t be afraid to really poke this cake all over, and spoon the syrup over it very, very slowly so that it soaks in.
Inexpensive kitchen scales are available now at discount stores such as Target. If you’re on the fence about buying one, take the plunge. Whenever you have the option to weigh your ingredients for baking, your final product will be better. Totally worth the $20.00!
When I use my kitchen scale, I like to place a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper in the bowl. Lift two or three of the corners and easily transfer ingredients to your mixing bowl. No need to clean up between ingredients in the scale, too.
If you don’t want to bother making the sambuca syrup, just pour two shots of sambuca over each cake. Yummy, too, just a little stronger.
Fennel & Almond Pound Cake with Sambuca Syrup
Yield: two loaves
1 pound of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound of sugar
2 T. fennel seed, ground finely in a mortar and pestle or in a dedicated spice grinder
1 pound of eggs
a pinch of salt
2 t. almond extract
1 pound of all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Prepare two standard loaf pans by buttering them generously and dusting them with flour. (I use the butter wrappers to grease the pans.)
- In an electric mixer, cream the butter, the sugar, and the ground fennel seed on high speed until they are very light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl frequently.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between additions. Scrape down the bowl frequently.
- Add the almond extract and mix.
- Add the flour and salt and mix gently until it is just incorporated.
- Divide the batter into your two pans and bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick pressed into the center of a loaf comes out clean.
- While the cake bakes, stir up the syrup.
- Allow the cakes to cool slightly. Then remove them from their pans by running a knife around the edge and inverting the pan gently into your towel-covered hand. Place the cakes on a cooling rack over waxed paper or a paper bag.
- While the cakes are still warm, poke them all over with a toothpick or wooden skewer and pour the syrup slowly over the cakes.
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. water
4 shots sambuca
- Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a small saucepan.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sambuca.