Fortunately, it turns out that the easiest cake in the French repertoire is also one of the tastiest. I mean it. In terms of the effort-to-reward ratio, this is absolutely one of the best recipes I know. We make a version of this at work, for use as the base of a more complicated entremet, and had I known before just how little effort this involved, I would have started making it at home a long time ago.
Financier is a classic French bakery treat, traditionally baked in little rectangular molds that are supposed to represent bars of gold. The name means “banker,” which is either a reference to said shape, or the supposedly expensive ingredients that go into it. I’m more inclined to believe the former explanation, because when have egg whites ever been considered a luxury item? Usually it is made with almond meal, brown butter, powdered sugar, and the aforementioned egg whites. This one has cocoa powder sifted in with the sugar, and since I really like the robust flavor of hazelnuts with chocolate, I switched out the almond meal for hazelnut. Besides, I love the symmetry of using noisettes (hazelnuts) with beurre noisette (brown butter). It just makes sense.
The main reason I had to test this recipe was to see if it would work in cupcake form. The one we do at work is baked in a thin sheet, so I didn’t know if it would puff up into an attractive cupcake shape or if it would bake through before the top burned. One test confirmed that it worked beautifully.
If you read my other blog, you’ve already seen the results of this first test. I also tested them for next-day-edibilty (still bangin’), and even a more traditional version, with almond meal and a bit of fresh fruit (in this case, cherries) baked in. Those, in fact, I whipped up at midnight on a Saturday, after a long day of exploring Paris by foot with some friends. We all enjoyed our dessert, and my friends still caught the last Métro home. If that’s not quick and easy, I don’t know what is.
What I’ve learned from all of this testing (apart from the fact that they disappear as quickly as they bake) is that as long as you repect the 1:1:1:1 ratio of butter, egg whites, nut meal, and powdered sugar, with 10% of one part (by weight, bien sûr) something dry like cocoa powder or cake flour, this cake is almost infinitely adaptable. So try this one. Make it suit your tastes or your mood. I guarantee you’ll want to make them again and again.
Chocolate-Hazelnut Financier Cupcakes
When I realized how easy this classic French cake was to make, I couldn’t help but tinker with the recipe a bit to see if it would work as a cupcake. And as long as we’re changing things, why not switch out the almond meal for hazelnut? If you can’t find hazelnut meal, grind the same weight of nuts with the powdered sugar in a food processor. And if you want to go cocoa-less, substitute 20 grams of cake flour for the cocoa powder.
200 g / 7 oz. powdered sugar
20 g / ¾ oz. cocoa powder
200 g / 7 oz. hazelnut meal (Or any other nut meal. Peanut would probably be awesome.)
200 g / 7 oz. egg whites
200 g / 7 oz. butter, browned with ¼ of a vanilla bean (vanilla bean optional, but worth it)
Pinch of sea salt
- Preheat oven to 200 C / 395 F. Grease a muffin tin or line it with paper liners.
- Sift the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder together. Whisk in the hazelnut meal.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt just until frothy. Whisk in the sifted sugar, then the browned butter.
- Fill the prepared muffin cups about ¾ full. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it.
- Cool about 10 minutes, then remove from the baking pan. Continue cooling, or devour the cupcakes warm. They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days, but they’ve never lasted that long in my house.
Makes 10 cupcakes.
On this day in 2008: Apricots and Ginger and Butter, Oh My!
Originally published on Croque-Camille.