Almond cakes, such as financiers (which are technically tiny cakes, but I made a big one), are a tradition in my family. Our familial almond cake is denser than the above cake, with larger almond chunks, and less sweetness. It’s baked for birthdays and has a hint of icing on it. Growing up, I requested pies and cheesecakes as my birthday cakes – I had something against the austerity of our cake. But now, with my more refined palate, I have grown to love almond cakes in any form. And this cake competes with our familial cake as my favorite cake for celebrations.
I’ve made this cake before. In fact, I’ve chronicled making it before on this blog, when I tried to make a gluten free version of it. It didn’t work.
This time, I accepted the gluten (I love gluten) and also added two new elements to the cake. The first was a hint of rosewater, added at the end, to round out the flavors in the cake. The second was some blackberries, added to the cake just before it baked. The result? One of the best cakes I’ve made in recent years.
This cake has always been one of my favorites. Why? Well for one, the flavors in this cake are always outstanding. The browned butter, the warm spice (you can use anyone you like best, I normally go for cardamom), the rich almonds, all combine perfectly to form a moist and not too sweet cake.
And secondly (or for two?), I love that it’s adaptable to any circumstance. For a special occasion, you can serve it with whipped cream or ice cream or perhaps a fruit compote. For something more simple, you can turn it into mini muffins for people to grab at and graze on throughout the day. It’s a tea cake, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a glass of port or sherry, it transports well, and it’s good for up to 4 days after baking. Have I mentioned it’s also not that hard to make?
So here’s what I recommend – make this cake. Make it often and use it often. Maybe it will now become your family’s go to bday cake. I know they’d be happy with it.
Cardamom Brown Butter Financier
Adapted from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle
5 ounces almond meal or flour (from 1 cup/ 5 ounces blanched almonds)
70 g Flour or 1/2 cup plus 1 T flour
225 g butter or 16 T butter (preferably Kerrygold)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds smashed, or 12 cardamom pods, smashed
7 liquid ounces egg whites (from 6-7 eggs)
140 g powdered sugar
100 g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon rosewater
1/2 cup blackberries or raspberries, fresh or frozen (optional)
1/4 cup toasted almond slices
Preheat the oven to 350˚F and position the rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9 or 10 inch springform pan
Place the crushed cardamom seeds into a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and cook over medium heat until the butter turns a deep golden brown and emits a nutty flavor.
Over a double boiler (or in the bowl of a bain marie) whisk together the egg whites and the two sugars until just warm to the touch – this may take 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Whisk together the dry ingredients and then slowly whisk into the egg white mixture. Smooth it out with a few turn of the whisk.
The next part to this cake is key – you need to slowly add the browned butter to the cake batter. Add it in about a quarter of a cup at a time, whisking thoroughly between each addition. Repeat this process until all of the butter is incorporated. Really do go slowly, otherwise the butter melts out of the cake during baking and produces a greasy mess. After the butter is added, whisk in the rosewater. At this point, you can refrigerate the batter for up to 4 days.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange berries in cake batter. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. You want the cake to be a deep golden brown when it comes out.
The cake is best served slightly warm, but it keeps for up to 4 days, well wrapped at room temperature. Top it with the toasted sliced almonds and powdered sugar, and serve with either more fruit or rosewater whipped cream.