Financiers (French Almond and Butter Mini Cakes)

This was one of earliest recipes on my blog. Some time in 2011. It seems an eternity…. The photograph screamed for an update, so when I made another batch last week, I took new photographs and thought I’d write about the financiers once more. I took this decision also because I have recently read on a blog that financiers were time-consuming and nothing really special in taste. I found this really surprising and wondered if fussy difficult recipes were circulating among food bloggers…. I didn’t look into the details of this blogger’s recipe but mine, coming from a more than reliable French source (Leçons de cuisine de l’école Ritz-Escoffier ), is all but difficult to the point where I knew it by heart after maybe only three baking sessions! Actually, it takes about fifteen minutes to prepare the batter (no electric mixer, no kneading, no rolling), there are only five ingredients  and it takes only 15-20 minutes to bake. As for the “nothing really special”, it’s of course a question of personal taste, but even though I crave sweets very rarely these days, I find financiers quite exceptional: they might look like ordinary little sponge cakes, but they are much more sophisticated. They contain hardly any flour, but lots of powdered almonds instead, a generous amount of browned “hazelnut” butter, egg whites… they are incredibly light and literally melt in one’s mouth. I hope I have convinced you to try them at least once!

Contrary to what most people think, at the beginning financiers didn’t have a gold ingot shape, but they had an oval form. Produced since the Middle Ages by the French nuns of the Visitation of Mary, they were not called financiers and had an oval form. Then, for a certain time they were forgotten and around 1890, Lasne, a Parisian confectioner, revived the recipe. Since his shop was close to the stock market and financiers were his regular clients, he named the cakes “financiers” and transformed their form into the one recalling a gold ingot, probably thinking they appealed more to his clients. I find the muffin shape cuter than the lingot, so I always prepare financiers in muffin forms.

TIPS/WARNING: Do not even try to use a different flour (for example wholemeal) or sugar replacement (and never brown sugar!) or skipping the butter…. It will result in vaguely almond-tasting muffins. I have made financiers at least 50 times in recent years (my husband is a big fan and they are quick to make…) and I was once faced with a shortage of each of these: white sugar or white flour or butter. Every time the result was awful. The only thing this recipe stands well is cutting down on sugar’s amount and this is what I’ve been doing since the beginning because we don’t like too much sugar.

I have posted also a financiers with raspberry recipe here. I think raspberries taste wodnerful with almonds, but I guess you can add any fresh fruits you like (but not too many, otherwise the cakes might get soggy!).

Some pastry chefs make pistachio financiers, but I’ve never tried this variation, so I’m not sure if one adds the same amount of powdered pistachio…

If you don’t find powdered almonds (or they are very expensive), buy ground white (peeled) almonds and sift them through a sieve. This is what I always do (then you can use the remaining ground bigger bits of almonds in other less delicate sweets).

BEWARE! You might be convinced (I was too!) that something labelled as “almond flour” would be perfect here… I have recently noticed online products labelled in English as “almond flour” are in reality ground almonds… For this recipe you must use almonds powdered to a point where they resemble almost wheat flour, so if you realise you have coarser product (which frankly should be labelled as almond meal or simply ground almonds), sieve it.

Click here for some ideas of using the remaining egg yolks.

Preparation: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients (6 muffin shaped financiers or 12 mini-muffin shaped):

50 g powdered almonds (not ground but powdered; see the TIP & “BEWARE” above)

70 g caster sugar (I sometimes add 60 g sugar only, but it depends on your sweetness level preferences)

50 g butter

2 egg whites

1 heaped tablespoon white wheat flour

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Prepare the “beurre noisette” (lit. hazelnut butter): heat the butter in a pan on a low heat and observe the milk solids, which will separate at the bottom. When they become light brown (hazelnut colour), put the pan aside.

In the meantime combine the egg whites, the sugar, the almond powder, the pinch of salt and the flour in a big bowl. Add gradually the butter, mixing with a spoon (no need to use a mixer or a food processor!).

Pour the mixture into greased – with butter – muffin forms (or other small cakes forms) 2/3 of their height.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until light to medium golden.

Let them cool down before taking out of the forms.


18 Replies to “Financiers (French Almond and Butter Mini Cakes)”

  1. I’m so glad you didn’t use the ‘traditional’ ingot shape cause I have enough problems affording a 2nd madeleine pan (got my mini on a sale which has not been repeated) so I used mini muffin tins for the other half of the dough.

    PS: I think lingot d’or is the french term while ‘ingot’ is the english one. “)

    1. I think the taste is the same as long as the cakes are not too big… even mini muffin forms I use produce a very similar texture. (Thank you so much for the correction! I’ve just repaired my error.)

      1. An understandable problem when you are multi-lingual like you are. I just have to deal in English. 🙂

        By the way, the financier look delicious … light and tender. I’ve been having a madeleine craving but these financiers might be a better idea. Does separating the whites and folding them in at the end make them fluffier?

        1. Thank you for the kind words… They are surprisingly light really in texture and for me they are much much easier than madeleines (which in the case of my recipe require a long refrigeration in order to rise properly). I think I never pay attention when I add the whites, but I’ve never tried at the end 😉 I usually make the whole mixture while the butter browns in a pan, so butter goes last into the bowl, not the whites. (By the way, a friend once told me beaten whites might make pastry drier, so I wouldn’t risk for example beating the whites here…).

        2. Actually, now that I think financiers aren’t really fluffy… they are soft and mouth-melting but I wouldn’t say fluffy…

  2. Fantastic photo!

    I’m not active in the blogsphere though I happened to see your blog post. I’m so happy to reconnect.
    My husband and I made the trip to Paris last year. We (I) would love to make another trip…it would be great if the trip includes Switzerland.
    Anyway, your food presentation is amazing!

    1. So nice to hear from you again! I miss your posts 🙁 I hope you have spent a wonderful time in Paris! Yes, please come to Switzerland! I live in the French-speaking part though (west), close to the French border, so if you ever go to the Lyon area in France, I’m not far ! It would be wonderful to see you! If you ever intend to come to Switzerland, let me know!
      Thank you so much for the compliments (I think the main star is this cute Japanese plate with my beloved renkon !).

  3. Okay, first off, how lovely is that dish! The warm brown/orange hue of your financiers looks gorgeous set against the blue. I’ve certainly seen many financiers in the food blogging world but I have never made them myself and I must say the process you propose here sounds very straightforward (yay!) — love the idea of an almond based batter – that’s frankly what attracts me the most and the convenience of using muffin tins is genius.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! You are so generous and kind… I bought this plate in Tokyo (two, one for me and one for my husband) and I love them! Financiers is the easiest French pastry I know (apart from quatre-quarts, which unfortunately has become complicated on US blogs where people don’t have scales… one weighs the eggs, then adds the equal weight of butter, sugar and flour and…it always works, not matter how many eggs are used). I rarely eat them, but my husband could have them every day 😉 so I bake them quite often.
      I have never tried using uniquely powdered almonds (I always add 1 tablespoon of wheat flour) so I’m not sure if it wouldn’t destroy the texture… but maybe it could work?

  4. OK – so I know you provided a great warning, but I have a question. You mention almond powder. Is this the same as almond flour? I have a half bag of almond flour in the pantry and not sure what to do with it. Hopefully, you’ll come back and tell me they are one in the same. 🙂 These look so buttery and moist. I’d love to have one or two with my morning tea and them again with my afternoon tea. Great photo! Thanks for bringing an older recipe back.

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment! Powdered almonds are simply very finely ground almonds… so I guess it’s the same as flour. Wow! I wish I had a big bag of it! (Here I can only buy ground almonds, so I sift them and keep the powdery part for financiers…). I hope you will try this simple recipe and it will work. It’s so so rewarding! Let me know if you have any questions. ( I know my posts aren’t always clear…

      1. Actually your post are always very clear, but the terminology used in your part of the world is, at times, different from mine. 🙂 thanks for the info! I’ll try the almond flour.

        1. Thank you, MJ…. I’m not sure if the terminology I use isn’t my own invention/bad translation 🙂
          Anyway, good luck! and let me know if you have the slightest doubt! I’ve made financiers three times in two last weeks… my husband asks for them all the time!

        2. Dear MJ, I have just updated the post adding a warning about “almond flour”. I hope yours is really flour-like and not coarse…

  5. This is one of your recipes that drew me into your beautiful blog, I just loved the back story! If I recall correctly, I made them shortly after I read your blog! I have a dear friend who thinks anything with more than three ingredients is too time consuming and complicated! Not to worry, there are enough of us who love a delicious and soulful recipe like this, thank you for introducing us to it..

    1. Eva, thank you so much for such kind words and compliments! I also know people who think in general baking is complicated and who buy those awful “cake mixes”. In the case of financiers I didn’t look at the details but I suspect the recipe was over-fussy (and I don’t think the blogger invented it but the author of the source cookery book… it reminds me of the French quatre quarts/pound cake, where one weighs any amount of eggs and then adds the same weight of each flour, melted butter and sugar; I’ve seen it so many times online with complicated steps, strange amounts of ingredients one will never learn by heart, etc.. Why???

  6. Oh, I must retouche many of my photos back when i started blogging. I do it but with very slow rhythm! Your financiers look absolutely mouthwatering!

    1. Thank you, Katerina. I do it very rarely, but it’s always a good occasion to repost some forgotten recipes…

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