If you've never made financiers, these small French cakes should make their way into your baking rotation. These petite cakes don't show up in bakeries quite as often as many better-known French pastries , but they're sure to be a favorite once you give them a try.
Financiers are traditionally baked to a golden color in small, rectangular molds, resembling a bar of gold — hence their name.
I don't have a dedicated financier pan — and you don't need one, either, because they taste just as good baked in mini muffin pans. Be sure to butter the tins well, both to help caramelize the outside and to ensure that the cakes pop out easily after baking.
Should you decide to invest in a dedicated financier pan down the road, you'll simply have to adjust the baking time for this recipe by a minute or two, depending on the dimensions of that pan.
Financiers' flavor comes from brown butter and almonds
Browning the butter
The two main flavoring components in financiers are brown butter and almonds. To brown the butter, cook it in a pan over medium heat until it bubbles and begins to turn golden brown. As it cooks, the butter will take on a beautifully nutty aroma.
I recommend cooking it on medium or medium-low heat the first time you do it, just to ensure that the butter doesn't accidentally burn as it cooks.
Using ground almonds
Almonds not only provide a lot of flavor for this cake, they provide much of the texture, as well. Ground almonds — also known as almond meal or almond flour — give the cake a dense crumb and a tender texture. Plus, ground almonds can bring a lovely color to your bake.
However, products labeled "almond flour" are sometimes made with blanched almonds, so the resulting powder is off-white and has no hint of almond skins, but there is no official difference between the two product labels.
Either product (as labeled) can be used in this recipe, so long as it has a fine texture: It should resemble sand more closely than chopped nuts.
Measuring and mixing your financier batter
Once you have your brown butter and almonds, assemble the rest of the ingredients: flour, powdered sugar and egg whites.
Powdered sugar may seem like an odd ingredient, since it's seen more often in frosting than in cake batter. The powdered sugar almost dissolves in the batter, helping to create a densely-textured cake.
To measure it, spoon the powdered sugar into your measuring cup and level it off with a knife. Don't worry about lumps in the sugar, as all you'll sift all the dry ingredients together.
These cakes use a lot of egg whites, and it's easy to over-mix the batter. Over-mixed cakes can be too airy, with a sponge cake–like texture and top that rises well over the top of your pan. Having over-mixed my share of cakes, I can tell you that they'll still be tasty, but they're much better if they're mixed a bit less aggressively. As a result, I recommend mixing this cake batter entirely by hand. The batter is not thick and only takes a couple of minutes to put together, even without an electric mixer.
The muffin tins should be filled no more than ¾ full. Otherwise, the cakes may overflow the pan regardless of how vigorously you've mixed, which will create treats that resemble small muffins instead of financiers.
How to serve and store financiers
Financiers can be served as soon as they've cooled to room temperature. They should have a crisp outer edge — particularly on the top of the cake — and a tender, slightly fluffy interior.
The basic recipe is a relatively plain (even though it is delicious!), so you can adapt it by mixing in a handful of chopped nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit pieces. Serve them with tea or coffee, or plate them with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
Leftover financiers should be stored in an airtight container, where they should remain fresh for at least two days after baking. The leftover cakes may lose a little bit of crispness, but the flavor of the browned butter will deepen as the cakes sit, making them seem even nuttier and more delicious than they started out.
- ½ cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup almond meal or almond flour
- 1¾ cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 24 cup mini muffin tin (or two 12-cup mini muffin tins).
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, until the butter bubbles and begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly and stop the cooking. Allow butter to cool for about 5 minutes while you prepare the rest of the batter.
In a large bowl, sift together almond meal, powdered sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in egg whites and almond extract. Whisk until just combined.
Pour the brown butter into the almond batter, whisking until a smooth batter comes together and no streaks of butter are visible. Divide evenly into prepared pan, filling each no more than ¾ full.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cakes are golden brown around the edges and the centers spring back when lightly pressed. Allow cakes to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.