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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Traditional French Fluffy Almond Sponge Cake - Financier aux amandes

A financier is another one of those things that I had heard of, but never actually seen or tasted before I made it myself.  I had heard of chefs making financiers, whatever that was, and people made it sound so delicious, but I was skeptical.  I like the nice, moist style of cakes that I would argue that we Americans do better than Europeans.  The European sponge-y style of say, the genoise, or the panetela is just not my thing.  Dry, airy sponge cakes will never be my fancy, no matter how much fat they pack into them.  Financiers, however, are different.  How did I know?  I looked at the ratio of fat to dry ingredients, as well as the absence of egg yolks, which was awesome.  The high percentage of yolks is what creates the dry sponge cake texture that I typically try to avoid in my kitchen.

After looking at a few yummy recipes in my Desserts Festifs cookbook by Sylvie Ait-Alie that I ordered on Amazon France (thank you, global marketplace), I decided that a financier actually looked like the perfect dessert endeavor for my weekend.  I did not, however, opt to use a recipe from this book, as these are fancier cakes that use financiers as the base.  I just wanted to try the basic financier first to ensure that I would like it before I made a more fanciful creation down the road.

After Googling some recipes in French, this is a translation of the recipe I used.  The result was the perfect, dainty little cake with a beautiful golden crust, and an other-worldy soft and fluffy interior.  The texture reminds me more of a moist chiffon cake than a sponge cake, although technique-wise, it is a sponge.  Because of all of the egg whites, there is no need for leavening, and the almond and brown butter provide enough flavor that vanilla is unnecessary.  This cake is characterized by a light almond flavor and a nutty background flavor, thanks to the brown butter.  Simple, easy-to-make, and delightful, this cake is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your next brunch, tea party, or elegant shower.  Take advantage and take it to the next level using a variety cute mini brioche pans, mini loaf pans, or diamond shaped mini loaf pans for added elegance.

Financier aux amandes


50g white AP flour
50g almond flour*
130g powdered sugar

4 egg whites
70g butter

*You can make this yourself using chopped skin-on almonds, chopped blanched almonds, or slivered almonds ground into a uniform flour in the blender, coffee grinder, or food processor.  Simply sift and re-process any chunks that do not pass through the strainer.

1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease pans well with shortening.

2. Chop butter into pieces and melt in a small sauce pot over medium-low to medium heat.  Allow to continue boiling until a light golden brown color is achieved.  Swirl the pan occasionally throughout this process.  If any bits form at the bottom of the pan, be sure to strain them out well.

3. Using a fork or a whisk, blend together the AP flour, almond flour, and powdered sugar.  Set aside.

4. Beat in egg whites with an electric mixer until well-blended.

5. Once butter is browned, allow to cool slightly before using electric mixer to incorporate into batter.

6. Bake cakes for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the edges and cake begins to separate from the sides of pan.  Cake is done once it passes spring test, but you may brown further, if desired.

7. Remove cake from pan immediately after baking and allow to cool.  This is not the type of cake that you want to taste while hot, as it will taste eggy.  This taste will dissipate once the cake has cooled.  Cool completely and enjoy :).

I think next time I will add in some lemon zest and almond flavoring to create a bolder flavor, as the cake already tastes like vanilla.  The cake has a simple tastiness to it, as is.

add some lemon zest, add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, add 1/2 tsp almond extract, add a combination of extracts, drop sliced almonds over the top of each cake before baking, top with sweetened fresh berries before baking

References: --video recipe

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