Everything you need to know about French financiers, the elegant tiny cakes you can serve for tea or dessert, or make as a delicious edible gift. Includes several flavor variation ideas!
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French financiers have long been at the top of my list of go-to desserts. I love them with all my heart because, despite their fancy name and elegant appearance, they’re super easy to make (if you can make muffins, you can make financiers!), and they’re extremely versatile: you can make them with any type of nut and garnish them with any fresh or roasted fruits, dried fruits or citrus zest, or even chocolate chips. What’s more, you can (and should) make financier batter in advance as it will keep in the fridge for a few days—all of which makes French financiers the ultimate stress-free dessert.
I’ve shared many financier recipes in the past, but it occurred to me I’d never done a deep dive into a classic French financier recipe. This post gathers all my tips for making this delightful tiny French cake from scratch.
Financiers are rich, tiny cakes made with almond flour, brown butter, and egg whites. Usually baked in small molds, financiers are traditionally rectangular in shape, but they’re also often made in round molds, such as the ones in a mini-muffin pan.
French financiers are traditionally made in small, rectangular molds, which makes them resemble tiny gold bars. This classic presentation is what gave the mignardise its name.
But rest assured: you do not need a financier pan to make French financiers. I wouldn’t want that to stop you from making this delicious treat! I actually have a financier pan and I never use it. I much prefer using simple muffin pans and mini-muffin pans.
When using muffin pans, I strongly recommend lining the cups with parchment paper liners, which you can get in regular and mini sizes. Unless your pans are non-stick and brand new, you should always line muffin cups. Financiers are likely to stick even to a thoroughly buttered pan because their batter is very sticky. Save yourself the trouble and simply use parchment paper liners for easy, breezy unmolding.
French financiers are made with staple ingredients that you may already have on hand:
The one financier ingredient that requires careful sourcing is nuts. You can either purchase nut flour (finely ground nuts) or whole nuts that you will grind yourself (refer to the instructions below).
The easiest nut flour to find is almond flour, but pecan flour and hazelnut flour are also common. Nut flours are generally more expensive than whole nuts, though. Both can be purchased in bulk, which makes them more affordable. Always make sure to keep nuts (ground or not) refrigerated in an airtight container. Nuts can turn rancid quickly at room temperature, and because they tend to be expensive, it’s best to prevent waste. Do not store nuts in the freezer as the harsh conditions of a home freezer will damage the nuts.
If you have raw nuts on hand, it’s best to toast them before grinding them to make financiers. This will make them more flavorful. See my tips for roasting nuts below.
Classic French financiers are traditionally made with powdered sugar (also called confectioners’ sugar.) I prefer using a combination of granulated sugar and brown sugar: I find this duo provides the best texture and flavor. You can replace the granulated sugar by an equal amount of cane sugar or granulated maple sugar to contribute different flavor profiles to your financiers.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Spread the nuts over a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, shaking the sheet once during the process. Keep a close eye on the nuts while they are roasting to avoid burning them.
Nuts are ready when they release their lovely aroma. Trust your nose because a change in color may not be discernible! Let toasted nuts cool completely before storing them in an airtight container or using them in financiers.
The easiest way to grind nuts is to add them to a food processor along with the flour. This will ensure the nuts grind evenly and don’t turn to butter. Simply combine the nuts and flour and process until finely ground. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to make sure the nuts grind evenly.
One central flavor component of classic French financiers is brown butter (beurre noisette, in French). Brown butter is made by melting butter in a saucepan, then letting it simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until its water evaporates and milk solids caramelize. Brown butter is easy to make (see my tips below) and incredibly aromatic. It gives financiers a truly special flavor.
Rest assured, though: if you’re in a hurry, you can skip the browning step and simply use melted butter. In fact, I often skip browning butter when I make financiers with ingredients that have a strong flavor, such as cranberries or lemon zest. The aroma of these ingredients can overshadow the nutty flavor of brown butter, so it’s not worth the extra step.
Place the diced butter in a small stainless steel saucepan. A stainless steel saucepan makes the color of the butter more conspicuous, which will help you know when it’s ready to pull off the heat. Set over medium heat and stir until the butter is completely melted. Keep simmering over medium-low heat, swirling the pot from time to time. As the water evaporates, the butter will bubble up. This may prevent you from properly seeing what color the butter is, so, from time to time, simply lift the saucepan off the heat and gently swirl it for a few seconds until the bubbles recede, check whether the butter has started browning, then put it back on the heat if the butter is not ready.
Brown butter is ready when the milk solids at the bottom of the pot turn golden brown and the concoction gives off a deliciously nutty aroma. When it does, remove the butter from the heat, pour it in a small bowl, and let cool completely. (The whole process should take about 5 minutes.)
Brown butter is an essential ingredient in French financiers. Browning butter is an effortless French technique that turns regular butter into an incredibly aromatic, sophisticated ingredient you can use in savory and sweet dishes. Learn how to make it by watching my short how-to video!
Yes, you can! In fact, French financiers are the make-ahead dessert of your dreams. You can stir financier batter together, then refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Financiers are at their very best when freshly baked, or ideally eaten within 48 hours.
One of the joys of freshly baked financiers is the contrast between the crunchy edges and the buttery rich interior. After 24 hours in an airtight container, the texture of French financiers loses that contrast—they become more uniformly tender in texture—but they do remain delicious.
The fact that you can refrigerate financier batter for several days allows you to bake as many financiers as you need and enjoy them fresh, always.
The freezing and thawing process can soften French financiers a bit. If you bake financiers in advance and freeze them, make sure to store them in heavy-duty freezer bags for a maximum of 1 month. Thaw the financiers in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for 30 minutes.
To return thawed French financiers to their freshly baked texture, reheat them in a 325°F (160°C) oven for 6 to 8 minutes, then let them cool to room temperature before serving.
Classic, brown butter French financiers are pretty perfect bites. But to switch things up, you can substitute any ground nut for the almonds at a 1:1 ratio. Hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts all create outstanding financiers.
You can also easily add a layer of flavor by incorporating a generous amount of grated lemon or orange zest to financier batter. Make sure to carefully scrub citrus fruits before you use them (using unsprayed, organic citrus fruits is best), and use a Microplane to grate the citrus zest very finely. Add 2 tbsp (30 ml) of finely grated citrus zest to the financier batter for the best flavor (that’s about 2 lemons, or 1 orange.)
Get creative with toppings: You can top financiers with an almost infinite array of ingredients and produce different results with a single batch of batter. For example, you could whip up a batch of classic French financier batter, scoop it into prepared cups, and top them with 3 or 4 different fruits (raspberries, blueberries, and cherries, for example) and easily create a stunning array of treats without breaking a sweat.
Once you get the hang of making classic financier batter, you can let your imagination go wild and basically make them with any nut and garnish them with any and every fruit. During the holidays, I even like to make a breathtaking financier cake!
Get inspired! Here are perfect flavor combinations for French financiers:
If you want to make a French financier cake, make sure to refer to my recipe for Black Sesame and Chocolate Financier Cake, which provides advice about pans and extra tips to create a financier cake that will remain moist for days.
I sure do. Here are links to the other financier recipes that live on my blog:
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