Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Anise Tea Cake and French Anise Candy (Anis de l`Abbaye de Flavigny)

A few day ago, a very good friend of mine and godmother to one of my children returned from a trip to Burgundy and brought me back three lovely oval tins filled with delicious pastilles from Flavigny, called Anis de l´Abbaye de Flavigny. The story of the Anis de Flavigny dates back to the rise of the pastilles in the mid 1500s in Europe as sugar became more readily available. The most basic definition of a pastille is “a kernel of something coated with sugar". It can be a natural almond, like Jordan Almonds, or an anise seed, like Anis de Flavigny.

The pastille was often the work of a pharmacist or herbalist, not a confectioner. They started with seeds or herbs that were prescribed for various medical reasons like fever, then coated them with sugar syrup, tossed them in a pan and repeated the process until layer upon layer was built up. The most talented pharmacists made beautiful pastilles that looked like shimmering opalescent spheres and were kept as if they were treasures as well, inside ornate boxes, often locked by the lady of the household.

Les Anis de Flavigny probably has one of the longest histories of a candy, as the Town of Flavigny may have been making these pastilles since Roman times. To this day, these pastilles are manufactured by confectioners in those largely unchanged traditions. Each pastille takes fifteen days to make. They still start with a single anis seed and then a sugar syrup is poured over it, tumbled until dry then repeated dozens of times. The first, Anis de Flavigny packages were long cardboard tubes. When Jean Troubat launched the sale of his Anis in vending machines in the 1950s, he needed a solid box that could fall from the machines. This is how the first metal tin, at first round, then oval, appeared. Today, you will also find these cute “tasting sachets” in cafés, hotels and restaurants.

Les Anis de Flavigny come in ten different natural flavors: anise, of course, but also blackcurrant, lemon, orange blossom, ginger, tangerine, mint, liquorice, rose and violet, all rather classic and with an charmingly old world.

Dedicated to its origins, Anis de Flavigny operates from a former Benedictine abbey in the beautiful French village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, Burgundy.

The gorgeous tins tell a little story as two lonesome young people pine in solitude, then meet, share their candies and their affection.

There are naturally flavored Mint Pastilles with a wonderful refreshing mint flavor that is not too strong but just right…

…and then there are the delicately flavored floral Violet Pastilles that are made according to a 9th century recipe…

…and then the very famous Anise Pastilles that are also one hundred percent naturally flavored.

Since we love the flavor of anise seeds, I let myself be inspired by these delicious anise candies and decided to bake two wonderful and easy Anise Tea Cakes. The cakes smelled absolutely wonderful while baking. They are flavored with anise seeds, are baked in  specialty baking pans and are what we call “dry cakes" that is, they are perfect for dipping in a cup of tea. And while the delicate flavor of the anise seeds permeates these cakes, it is by no means overpowering.

Please note that you can either serve the cake while still warm and fresh from the oven or you wait until it cools down, slice it and dry the slices at low temperature in the oven, much like biscotti or rusks. That way, they will keep for quite some time if stored in a dry place and make wonderful gifts for that person in your life that enjoys the delcate flavor of anise.

If you prefer another taste like vanilla, you can substitute the anise seeds with natural vanilla sugar instead.

Anise Tea Cakes
(Teekuchen mit Anis)

Ingredients for the Cakes
(this recipe will yield two cakes)
  • a bit of unsalted butter for greasing the two loaf pans
  • 5 eggs (L), free range or organic if possible
  • 250 grams (8.8 ounces/1.2 cups) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 250 grams (8.8 ounces/2 cups) AP (plain) flour, plus some extra for dusting the pan
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • one pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp anise seeds
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (organic if possible)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Equipment: needed
  • two 30. 5 cm (12 inch) so-called  half round loaf pans (Rehrücken Backform)*

Preparation of the Cakes
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. Lightly butter and flour two loaf pans, shaking out the excess.
  3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat together eggs and sugar at high speed until tripled in volume and thick enough to form a ribbon, 5 to 8  minutes.
  4. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and anise seeds.
  5. Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture in 3 batches, folding in each batch. 
  6. Gently stir in lemon zest and juice.
  7. Immediately pour the batter into the two loaf pans and smooth the tops.
  8. Bake until top is golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. 
  9. Cool loaves about 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks and cool for about 30 minutes more.
  10. If you prefer to “double-bake” your cake slices, you can do so by drying them in the oven at low temperature until they reach the crispness that you like – a bit like Biscotti.
  11. Decrease oven temperature to 120 degrees Celsius (250 degrees Fahrenheit).
  12. Trim the ends of the loaves and cut loaf crosswise into 1.3 cm (0.5 inch) thick slices. 
  13. Bake on a baking sheet until undersides are golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn over and bake until undersides are golden brown, about another 20 to 30 minutes more
  14. NOTE: loaves can be baked (but not sliced) 2 days ahead and kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature or frozen 1 month.

These are cakes that I baked in two of my a special baking pans that look like long loaf pans curved in a half-moon shape with evenly spaced grooves across the width, and a flat section down the center, known as a “Half Round Loaf Pan” (Rehrücken Backform)*. But these cakes can easily be made in  regular loaf pans as well or you could try to find these baking pan in German or Austrian specialty stores or online. The baking pans are made from different materials such as stoneware, aluminium or non-stick.

Many thanks to my lovely and dear friend who thought about me while vacationing in wonderful Burgundy, France and brought me back these wonderful Anise, Violet and Mint Pastilles and inspired some nice Wednesday afternoon baking followed by a wonderful Afternoon Tea!


  1. Hello Andrea! What a sweet gift from a sweet friend. I loved looking at those beautiful tins and learning about the history of those candies. I didn't know anything about it before I came here! And these lovely tea cakes are just perfect. I am especially fond of that little blue flowers on your serving plate. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Monet, thank you for the lovely comment - to us these tins have an unbeatable old world charm and the pastilles are just so delicious, I am really fond of the anise and violet ones but they are all good. And I love that cake platter with the cute forget-me-nots design too, it is a vintage one that I bought a few weeks ago.

  2. Those little tins are adorable and your cakes sound perfect for relaxing with a cup of tea.

    1. Thank you, Chris, these cakes are a bit different, they are really good "dunking cakes" that are wonderful with a cup of tea, no butter in the batter makes them light and the perfect snacking cake.

  3. A little bit of beauty in the day makes such a difference and I always find it at your blog! really lovely and I'm sure that anise cake is delicious :)
    Mary x

    1. Mary, thank you so much for the wonderful comment. It is wonderful to read that you enjoy my blog posts as I was certainly looking to make this post look as pretty as possible.

  4. Those tins are so pretty and decorative! A lovely post - thanks for sharing the information with us!

    1. Beth, thank you for your lovely comment - the story behing the designs on the tins was just too cute not to pass it on.

  5. I'm in love with the packaging of the mint tin! So cute and beautiful! You should open up a cafe for us to hang out the afternoon. You have great eyes for cute and adorable things to decorate your cafe, and of course you make excellent desserts like this Anise Cake!

    1. Nami, I love your comment, of course, not much would make me a happier person than having a small café and welcome you all as my guests! Now you made my day!

  6. Oh I do need to get out more! Such beautiful little sweets, I probably can't find them in my smallish Utah town! Your loaf is beautiful--I have never baked with anise, like I said I need to get out more. But thanks to your lovely posts I feel like I do get out. Thank you for enriching my life.

    1. Cindy, you are such a kind person, thanks for the wonderful comment! When my dear friend handed my these pastilles and looked at the designs and the first thing that came to my mind was that I had to do a blog post on these cute tins and their history.

  7. I love the candy tins and how some of them tell a little story. The cake looks beautiful too!

    1. Thank you, Trishie, the tins will used by my daughter for earings and stuff once we have finished enjoying them. They are really keepsake items!

  8. Growing up I used to eat mint pastilles all the time. I love the tins! And the story of how these pastilles came to be. The cake is gorgeous Andrea! I really need to bake with anise seeds more.

    1. Thanks so much, Paula, aren´t these the cutest candy tins ever - my very favorite ones are the anise pastilles, I have always loved anis and I go crazy for fennel and the cake recipe is not overpowering, just right and the smell is fantatsic while baking! I know you would enjoy these dunked in a good cup of tea or lattè.

  9. What lovely cakes...and the teeny flower garnishes are beautiful! I adore those tins, cute and collectable. Have a great weekend, Andrea!

    1. Liz, thanks so much - we adore those tins and the girls collect them.

  10. Hi! How beautiful those tiny candy tins! The cake looks gorgeous and, as you've said, perfect to go with a cup of tea.

    You asked if I'ld be moving to Germany on my blog, and yes, I'm staying one semester in München next year, as an ERASMUS student! I'm very happy for that and I'm enjoying very much studying German and getting to know more about the German culture.
    Sorry for not having translated some of my posts, but I'll work on it this weekend. I found it nice that you tried to figure out some of the Portuguese text :) If you'ld really like to understand some Portuguese I'ld be glad to help ;) As for me, maybe someday I'll try writting a full post in German!
    And most of all, thank you for your kind comments!

    Have a nice weekend! Herzliche grüße aus Porto :)

    1. Inês, lucky you!!! Being an ERASMUS student is quite an honor and I am very happy for you! You will love Munich, I am sure, it is a beautiful city with tons of incredibly good restaurants, ice cream parlors, coffee shops and restaurants, museums, theatres, etc. etc. And you should write a post in German, by all means! If you happen to need a bit of help, do not hesitate to let me know!

      Liebe Grüße aus dem regnerischen Bonn,

  11. These sounds very intriguing Andrea, I've never baked with Anise Seeds before, but I have a pack sitting in my cupboard. I think I may of found something to use them for.

    1. Thank you, Laura, baking with anise seeds is interesting and delicious and certainly different - you would be surprised at how wonderful these cakes smell while baking and how well they keep.

  12. These candies were everywhere when I was a kid.
    I have to look harder now.
    The violet is an unusual, but lovely flavour, esp if you're Middle Eastern like me and used
    to floral flavours in sweets!

    This cake is on my list, doll!