Bitter Orange cake with candied fennel seeds

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked over to a friend’s place for coffee after school drop off. The promise of hot coffee, freshly baked cake by a good cook, all at 9.30am in the morning was too good to resist. On a freezing cold but bright and sunny Highlands morning we sat in her beautiful kitchen and nattered, drank coffee, watched Maggie play quietly in the warm and sunny house and ate cake.

And not just ANY cake, some of the BEST cake I have eaten in recent times. It was a spiritual cake moment in fact and I was desperate for the recipe to try and make it at home and of course share on the blog as I know it will be loved by so many.

You know what makes this cake SO good besides the taste? It’s SIMPLE. Literally 4 ingredients, no chopping, no faffing, it’s just simple and delicious like all my favourite recipes are. The bitter taste of the whole oranges in a moist cake and then with the creamy top with candied fennel seeds? It’s SPIRITUAL. And I HAD to make it a few days later because I literally could not stop thinking about it, plus we have a whole heap on the tree right now.

The recipe comes from Julia Ostro’s cookbook I have to say I have never heard of her before now but I instantly became a fan. You can check out the original recipe on her website here. I’ll definitely check out some of her other recipes because this is too good and TOO easy.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do/did I know it’s going to be on high rotation around these parts for years to come.

Julia Ostro’s Bitter orange & fennel seed cake

2 oranges (approximately 300g in total)
300g caster sugar
3 eggs
250ml extra virgin olive oil or a neutral vegetable oil
250g self raising flour


250g creme fraiche
50g icing sugar


1tbsp each of icing sugar and fennel seeds

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 20cm cake tin

1. Quarter the whole oranges and remove any seeds then throw into a food processor (whole with skin on) and blitz until it’s a puree and set aside

2. Into a large bowl throw in the eggs and caster sugar and mix until pale and thick

3. Then add in the olive oil and oranges and mix until combined

4. Sift in the flour and mix until combined then pour into the cake tin, place into the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few minutes when done and then turn out onto a rack and cool completely

5. While the cake cooks you can make the candied fennel seeds. I hope I did this right mine was more like a praline that I ended up smashing apart but in any case (the way my friend did it, or how mine came out) it is DELCIOUS. Into a bowl mix the fennel seeds with the icing sugar and then place into small pan over a medium to low heat until the icing sugar melts and turns a golden amber colour take off the heat and place onto a sheet of baking paper

6. To make the icing mix the creme fraiche with the icing sugar in a mixer until thick (don’t over beat it!) and ice when the cake has been cooled completely

7.  Ice the cake when cool and top with the candied fennel seeds.

The moisture and bitterness of the cake, the creamy top, the crunch of the fennel seeds leads to a SPIRITUAL CAKE MOMENT. You can hear the angels sing as you take that first bite I am sure of it.

[gmc_recipe 26849]

Have you had one of these kind of cake moments?
Got any recipes you’d like to share with us?
I really hope you guys make this cake, it’s worth it I promise and I know you will love it!


  1. It’s a wonderful cookbook. I have cooked every cake recipe multiple times. Love it and so easy

  2. This is so freaky!!! On Friday I was on oranges for my son’s rugby team, half of the orange quarters came home and your website was my go to search for a super easy ‘whole oranges’ cake recipe on Sunday!
    I luckily have lots of the pulp left over and now will try this! Thanks Beth!

  3. Going straight to the ‘to make list’

  4. Looks so good! On the must try list…I never met a cake I didn’t like 😉 Thanks for sharing! 😘😊

  5. Annabel Pittman says

    I’ll be giving this one a red hot crack this weekend. Sounds delish Beth – thanks for sharing!

  6. OMG – I’m at work and I want this SOOOOO bad right now!

  7. Read it. Cooked it. Iys all gone. So easy and so delicious. Please do a cookbook with all of the amazing recipes you have haha. I know so many would love it. Thank you. x

  8. Thanks Beth. Perfect time for orange cake, have baked it this morning and can’t wait to try some. Looks good and smells great. Puts a spring in my little CWA lady step.

  9. I have an excess of lemons so used them instead of oranges. The lemons were very juicy so I added more flour and a little less oil and the result was amazing. Definitely a “keeper” recipe.

  10. Had last 4 small oranges from our tree that were in need of a home. Such an easy bake. I have doubled wrapped and frozen it, will then thaw and decorate in a couple of weeks for my monthly Book Club. Am also going to give it a go using lemons (thanks Judi) as tree is heaving and there’s only so many G&T’s I can use them in!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  11. A truly fabulous cake Beth – thanks for sharing

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