Financiers are one of those types of cakes that really could be made in any small tins and be just as yummy, however like madeleines they simply aren’t quite the same if they’re not done to the correct shape.
Their ‘correct’ shape is to resemble a gold ingot. They’re often glazed too, to make them shine as a bar of gold might. It’s unclear if they are named so because of their shape or because it’s been suggested that they were popularised by the workers in La Bourse (the Paris financial district) after an enterprising boulanger on the Rue St Denis made them to attract his banker clientele – a great early marketing ploy!
Recently it’s more common to see Patisseries displaying boat shape or oval Financiers, which I really think are cute. But maybe if they’re not ingot-shaped they’re not really Financiers anymore – even if the shop window label says so?
Anyhow… If you’ve not got a Financier mould, any small pan (even a bun/muffin tin would do) will work. Alternatively, you could spread the mix out in a sandwich pan, as if cooking a roulade, and then cut it into rectangles. You don’t get that bevelled edge and the sides won’t be crisp (on some of them) but at a pinch it will do.
What makes a Financier different?
As well as the ingot shape, the finished structure of the sponge should is very typical too. The sponge should be very bouncy, really springing back when pressed and the whole cake should have a crispy finish to the outer layer of the sponge, almost like a thin shell.
The ingredient composition of a Financier is very specific too – it should use beurre noisette (‘nut-brown butter’ – butter heated until it turns golden) and contain only egg whites whisked with the cold foaming method. It is one of the very few sponges that use this method (please see my blog post on cake types) and all are small/shallow, as the sponge will tear and be too heavy for itself when made into a deep cake. It makes a great multi-layer cake though, by nbaking lots of shallow layers instead of using a Genoise or Joconde.
Despite these traditions of what constitutes a Financier, it’s been difficult to find a definitive recipe and only a couple that I found had an even remotely similar ratios of butter:flour:eggs with others varying quite a bit. Even the Doyenne of French cookery, Ginette Mathiot (1907 – 1998), had an odd recipe (The Art of French Baking: Phaidon) which didn’t include ground almonds and didn’t specify beurre noisette (although it’s possible she just assumed the French housewife would know to do this with the butter as her instructions are usually brief). This recipe then, is borne out of a combination of Mdm Mathiot, Roger Pizey, and old unattributed French cookery book, the Larousse Gastronomique and a few attempts to make sure it works (and that the result is definitely ‘Financier’).
In French cookery making these cakes with ‘normal’ butter and in an oval appears to classify them as Friands rather than Financiers. However, in Australia, where apparently they’re more commonly seen, the two terms are interchangeable. When I was in Oz (OK, some while ago now) I don’t particularly remember seeing either… so I think I’ll step away from the cake-naming semantics as ultimately if it tastes nice, who minds if you’re savouring a Friand or a Financier? And these do taste nice…
You can mix up the ingredients to the method outlined below and leave out the nuts and choc chips to just make a plain Financier. You should keep the glaze, but a more traditional apricot version can be made by substituting apricot jam for the lime marmelade. Please do sieve the glaze though, as the result should be smooth and shiny.
- Financier moulds or alternatively any small bun tin or individual moulds (I use six-portion silicon moulds which are about 8cm x 3cm per cake and this mix makes 18 Financiers).
- A small but heavy bottomed pan
- Pastry brush
- Several bowls
For the plain Financier sponge
- 100g butter – 100 g
- egg whites – 4
- 150 caster sugar – 150g
- ground almonds – 50g
- plain flour – 50g
- vanilla extract – 1/2 tsp
Ingredients – inclusions
- choc chips – 35g
- chopped hazelnuts – 35g
For the glaze
- lime marmalade – 3 tbsps
- lime juice – a squeeze (optional)
- Grease and lightly flour your moulds. Pop them in the fridge or the freezer
- To make the beurre noisette: put the butter into a small pan over a medium heat (on a small – medium burner) and stir continuously until it starts turning brown. Don’t let it bubble or it will froth too much. This may take up to about 4-5 mins. Once it’s brown, take the pan off the heat. You can do one of two things here to stop it continuing to heat (otherwise the butter may get too brown) – either pour the butter into a cold basin or plunge the base of the pan into a sink of cold water, being careful not to let the water get into the pan for a minute and then take it out and set aside. You don’t want the butter to re-solidify but you need it to stop browning.
- Add the vanilla extract to the cooling butter and swirl into until combined.
- Put the oven on to 160C fan/180C conventional.
- Mix the ground almonds and flour lightly together in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and add the caster bit by bit while continuing to whisk. You’re aiming now for almost a meringue-ready result: you want it to be more than soft peaks but not quite stiff peaks.
- Spoon about 1/3 of the meringue into the flour/almonds and fold in as best you can, trying to flatten the whipped egg whites as little as possible (remember that there is no raising agent other than the whipped egg whites). Once this is incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Adding a little to start with will help the majority of the egg whites to remain as fluffy as possible when folded in.
- Tip in the butter/vanilla extract mix and ensure the mix is combined fully.
- Now tip in 2/3 of each of the chopped hazelnuts and choc chips – reserve a few to scatter over the mix in a minute.
- Take the moulds out of the fridge/freezer and spoon in the batter – to about 1 cm depth
- Scatter the remaining chopped hazelnuts and choc chips over the batter and pop the moulds into the middle of the oven.
- Bake for 18-20 mins until golden brown and the sponge springs back when pressed lightly. Take out and leave to cool in the moulds for 10 mins
- Now make the lime marmalade glaze. Warm the marmalade with a teaspoon of water. If you want, add a squeeze of lime juice for some extra zing. Strain the warmed marmalade. Wait until the glaze has cooled down to almost room temperature otherwise you’ll melt the choc chips and just end up brushing them all over the top of the cakes.
- When the Financiers are cooled in their moulds, brush over the glaze. Pop the Financiers out of their moulds with a knife – they should come out easily and enjoy!