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'What’s for Dessert?' You'll want to try this olive oil and fennel cake from dessert expert Claire Saffitz

Claire, author and star of YouTube’s Dessert Person, shares tips for easy baking. Plus, Amity tries Claire’s cheese blintz on the show. #newdaynw

SEATTLE — Former senior editor at Bon Appetit and world-renowned author, recipe developer, and video host Claire Saffitz focuses on the sweet side of life in her new book "What's for Dessert?"

She joined the show to talk about the book and share a recipe for one of her simple loaf cakes!

Fennel & Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries

Kalustyan's in Manhattan is one of the most fascinating and impressive spice and specialty food stores anywhere. I stop by whenever I'm in the neighborhood, often just to browse, and usually end up buying several things I never knew I needed. One item I make a point of buying there is saunf mukhwas, or Indian candy-coated fennel seeds. They're used as a palate cleanser, breath freshener, and digestive aid, but I just like nibbling on them for their heady mix of sweet, floral, and licorice-y flavors. That combination is what inspired this olive oil loaf cake. Just ¼ teaspoon chopped fennel seeds, sizzled in olive oil, perfumes the entire cake. It's interesting, which is not always a high compliment when it comes to dessert, but in this case, the brightening addition of blackberries and lemon steers it into highly snackable territory.

MAKES 1 LOAF | DIFFICULTY: 1 (Very Easy) | ACTIVE TIME: 30 minutes | TOTAL TIME: 2 hours, plus time to cool | SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:
Metal loaf pan (4½ × 8½ inches, measured across the top), hand mixer


  • Olive oil for the pan
  • ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (4.1 oz / 117 g)
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 ⅔ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (8.2 oz / 233g)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅔ cup plus 1 tablespoon plain whole-milk (not Greek) yogurt (6.2 oz / 175g)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs (3.5 oz / 100g), at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 oz / 200g)
  • 6 ounces (170g) fresh or frozen (but not thawed) blackberries, halved 
  • crosswise if large (about 1½ cups)
  • ¾ cup confectioners' sugar (2.9 oz / 83g), sifted if lumpy


PREHEAT THE OVEN AND PREPARE THE PAN: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 4½ × 8½-inch metal loaf pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Line the bottom and two longer sides with a piece of parchment paper, leaving an overhang of an inch or two on each side. Oil the parchment paper, then set the pan aside.
MAKE THE FENNEL OIL: In a small saucepan, combine ½ cup (4 oz / 112g) of the olive oil and the fennel seeds and heat over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the seeds begin to sizzle and the mixture is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest (it will immediately sizzle and sputter, then subside). Set the saucepan aside and let the oil infuse with the fennel and lemon as it cools.
MIX THE DRY INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1⅔ cups (7.9 oz / 225g) of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and baking soda to combine. Set aside.
MIX THE WET INGREDIENTS: In a separate medium bowl, whisk together ⅔ cup (5.6 oz / 160g) of the yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and the vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
BEAT THE EGGS AND SUGAR, THEN STREAM IN THE INFUSED OIL: In a separate large bowl, with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and granulated sugar on medium-low speed until the eggs are broken up, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light, thick, and mousse-y, about 3 minutes. Beating constantly, very gradually stream in the cooled infused olive oil mixture, pausing to scrape in all the seeds and zest, and continue to beat just until the mixture is smooth and emulsified.
MAKE THE BATTER: Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add about one-third of the dry ingredients and mix just until the flour disappears. Add half of the wet ingredients and mix just until combined, then add the remaining dry ingredients in two additions, alternating with the remaining wet ingredients, and mix just until the last trace of flour disappears. Switch to a flexible spatula and fold the mixture several times, thoroughly scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, to make sure the batter is evenly mixed.
ADD THE BLACKBERIES: Set aside 2 whole blackberries for the glaze, then toss the remaining blackberries in the remaining 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl until evenly coated (this will help prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom of the cake). Add the coated berries to the batter ad fold gently until the berries are distributed, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
BAKE: Bake the cake until the surface is golden brown, risen, and split and a cake tester or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then use a paring knife or a small offset spatula to cut down between the cake and the pan along the shorter sides. Use the parchment overhang to lift out the loaf and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
MAKE THE GLAZE: While the cake is cooling, place the 2 reserved blackberries in a medium bowl and crush them thoroughly with the back of a spoon to release their juices. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon olive oil and whisk to combine. Add the confectioners' sugar and whisk until the glaze is lump-free and fluid. Pour the glaze over the top of the cooled cake and let it sit until the glazes set, at least 15 minutes.


Can I...

Make it ahead? Yes. The cake, covered and stored at room temperature, will keep for up to 4 days but is best served on the first or second day while the glaze is fresh.

Use a stand mixer instead of a hand mixer? Yes. Combine the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and proceed with the recipe as written, switching to the paddle after streaming in the infused olive oil.

Bake this in a different pan? Yes. You can bake the cake in a 9-inch round cake pan lined with a silicone or parchment round and brushed with oil. Start checking for doneness around 35 minutes.

Recipe from "What's for Dessert" by Claire Saffitz.

Making Claire Saffitz' cheese blintz 

Amity makes Claire's tasty sweet cheese blintzes from her new book "What's for Dessert."

Segment Producer Suzie Wiley. Watch New Day Northwest at 11 a.m. weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.

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