Lutiannas (Pear & Fennel Cupcakes with Anise Syrup and Candied Pears)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This particular cupcake is one I'm very fond of and one that just rings of Autumn. In fact, I'm enamored with it. Chopping fennel and pears into a cake was one of the best things I ever did in the kitchen. The taste is seriously out of this world. Even people who weren't fans of anise raved about this deliciously sweet and fragrant cupcakes.

The pears and fennel when cooked release all their sweetness, and when drizzled with some of the sweet anise simple syrup its just amazing. Still they needed something else to compliment it all, so to layer the flavors and let them shine even more I candied some pears and topped them on the cupcake with some of the fennel greens. It's a beautiful and ephemeral cupcake to the point that when it was served, no one spoke. Silence. All you could do was just focus on savoring every bite of this delightful little cake.

Lutianna, like Fojo and Bacon Goddess, is another character and inside joke from high school between Janelle and me. Lutianna was a Russian mad scientist who would torture people with a whip of mad science for fun; it's very funny, as demonstrated by the background of the image. Be sure to check out Janelle's website as you have her to thank for the awesome picture of Lutianna (click on it for full resolution). Also a special shout out to my new English MA buddies who hung out with me and helped me make the cupcake!Anywhose if you like fennel, even a little, take an hour out of your life and try these cupcakes. If you want something lighter, skip the candied pears and anise syrup. It'll make for a light and delicate tea cake that's sure to impress.

Lutiannas (Pear and Fennel Cupcakes)
Makes 12 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...

1 stick of butter, room temperature

1 cup of sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 cup of milk

1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder

good pinch of salt

2 pears, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, chopped into slivers (save the greens for presentation)

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

What You'll Do...

1) Preheat the over to 350 F. Beat the butter for about 2 minutes until well creamed. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.

2) Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 45 seconds each. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3) Combine flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder and sift together. Add some of the flour mixture, then some of the milk, alternating between dry-wet-dry and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix together until just combined.

4) Fold the pear and fennel into the batter. Scoop into cupcake papers until almost full.

5) Bake for about 15-18 minutes. Cupcakes will be dense, heavy, and moist. A toothpick should still come out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

6) Spoon on some of the star anise syrup and let it soak in for a few minutes (you can also give it a spoonful and let them sit overnight in the fridge to really soak in the syrup, for a taste where the flavors are a bit more intermarried and not so layered, your choice). Give it another spoonful or two and then place some of the caramelized pears on top. Garnish with sprigs from the fennel greens and serve.

Star Anise Syrup
What You'll Need...
1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
a few slices of fennel
2 star anise

What You'll Do...
Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar, fennel and anise. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat and scoop out the fennel and star anise. Let cool and put a spoonful onto the cooled cupcakes. (Leftovers can be used for sweetening a bit of pear or anise vodka on the rocks as a special treat for the baker-at-work.)

Candied Pears
What You'll Need...
1 tablespoon of butter

1/2 cup of sugar

2 pears cut into slices, peeled and cored

What You'll Do...
Melt the butter into a pan on high heat. Add the sugar and stir. Toss in the pears and stir. Keep under heat until the sugar turn a light tan color (we're taking in carry-over cooking into account). Place them on a greased baking sheet to cool. Be careful! The hot sugar burns like hell.

Similar Cupcakes
Port Royals (Chocolate Cupcakes with Star Anise Ganache and Candied Grapefruit)
Late Autumn Cupcakes (Pear & Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache)


  1. I have spent the best part of this evening reading your blog. What a hoot!! I will definatly be making cupcakes this week. I'll let you know how I get on!
    I have added you on my site, I think I will be back for second helpings tomorrow night!laugolpf

  2. I would never have thought about mixing pears and fennel in a dessert, but your pix look beautiful!

  3. Pear and fennel, I am totally intrigued and don't know what else to say. I can't even begin to imagine what they would taste like.

  4. That combination sounds really intriguing. I think I will try this for my next dinner party!

  5. Genious combination of flavors. Wow! I love the things you come up with. :)

  6. Fennel cupcakes - awesome! I do enjoy the "strange" combination! You have my interest!

  7. Your kitchen must of smelled beautiful with the syrup cooking on the stove top. All you need now are leaves rustling in the background. Great cupcakes Garrett!

  8. I hate fennel but I just might have to give these a try - such are your powers of persuasion!

  9. Pears and fennel are fabulous - what a gorgeous idea for a cupcake. I roast them together with pork, and I must try this sweet version of the pairing!

  10. I love anise and I love pears. And I love cupcakes. So I guess I am putting these on my To Do list.


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