Sambuca Cake (Aniseed and Fennel Cake)

For My Dad’s birthday we went out for a lovely lunch, but no Birthday is complete with out cake, so I decided to incorporate my Dad’s favourite flavours into a cake. My Dad has a sweet tooth, painfully sweet, like me. We can eat dessert all day long and chocolate, it never needs to end. There’s always room in the pudding pouch.

But, my Dad’s favourite flavours are aniseed and fennel, aside from aniseed balls you get very little sweet things with these flavours in the UK. In Spain however there are lots, whenever I am near a deli or Whole Foods I pick him up some Torta Anis – his favourite!

Recently at Putney Bake Club, Emma made an amazing absinthe cake, as soon as I tasted it I knew my Dad would love it! So that was the cake, settled.


I didn’t want to have to buy a huge bottle of Absinthe, but it seemed like the only choice, over the course of a Friday night and Saturday I scoured all the supermarkets and corner shops in Surbiton and Putney but didn’t find any! A quick google infomred me that Sambuca  also has an aniseed flavour and less alcoholic too!


Here’s my recipe from Sambuca cake, adapted from Emma’s Absinthe Cake

Total Time: 1 hour

Number of servings: 2

See Detailed Nutrition Info on



  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 50 g pistachios
  • 1. tsp baking powder
  • 60 g unsalted butter
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 20 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 30ml Sambuca
  • 1 orange (zest and juice)
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • Buttercream

  • 40 g butter
  • 75 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp Sambuca


  1. Heat oven to 175°C.
  2. Grease and line your tins.
  3. Finely grind spices in a pestle and mortar. Roughly chop nuts.
  4. Beat butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat again.
  5. In a second bowl combine the spices, pistachios, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into the wet mixture until well combined. it should be quite stiff as we are about to add more liquid.
  6. Add zest, juice, milk and sambuca. Mix well. The batter should be smooth, but not very runny.
  7. Bake 25 mins for 2 person cake or 40 mins for single cake. Allow to cool in the tin on a cooling rack.
  8. Whilst it cools, make your buttercream by beating the butter until light, add the icing sugar and then add the sambuca.
  9. Once completely cool, remove cake from tin and spread or pipe over your buttercream. I decorated mine with a star anise as a hint towards the flavour

Serves two. Double to bake in a 8″ cake tin. I baked mine in my tala heart shaped tin and had enough left over for David (The artist formally known as Mr Riverside) and I to have the two little loaves to test that you can see above!


I didn’t tell my Dad what was in it, he came out with lots of random guesses of the surprise ingredient including ‘almond’ and was thoroughly shocked when I told him, the cake he was munching had a fair whack of sambuca in it!

Have you made any cakes with booze in? Any other suggestions of aniseedy things I can make for my Dad?

The beautiful Charlie made this recipe into 20 cupcakes by doubling the recipe, here are her pictures. As you can see if you want a more cupcake style frosting you may want to triple the quantities I use. Charlie made the cupcakes for her Sambuca loving Dad and I suggested she brushed the cupcakes with some neat booze as they came out of the oven to ramp up the flavour – she said it made them very grown-up but very delicious!

IMG_7797 IMG_7798


    • riversidebaking says:

      uhoh! I have similar feeling about Jager. I think my Dad’s guesses are testament to the fact it doesn’t taste like booze and it certainly doesn’t have that awful throat-burning-ness 😉 X

  1. Sophia says:

    I used to hate anything with anise and/or fennel but have recently fallen head over heels with that flavour combination. I have a number of recipes on my blog that your dad might like:

    Fennel and White Chocolate Truffles (

    Anise Oat Kipferl (

    Fresh Peach and Fennel Tarts (

    White Chocolate & Fennel Oreos (

    Fennel Brownies (

    Let me know if you give any of the recipes a try!

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