Financiers are buttery almond cakes that are easy to make, despite their elegant-sounding name. If you can bake muffins, you can definitely bake these. The cakes are baked in small molds – and the molds can be any shape, though a mini muffin tin works beautifully if you don’t have a bunch of specialty molds just laying around – and have a dense, tender center and a crisp, sweet exterior. They can usually be eaten in just one or two bites. The thing that I like most about financiers is that it is very easy to put a flavor twist on them. These Cranberry Almond Financiers are a lovely example of how to turn these little cakes into holiday favorites.
The financiers start with a batter made with melted butter, almond meal (a.k.a. almond flour or ground almonds), confectioners’ sugar, flour and egg whites. The combination of melted butter, almonds and confectioners’ sugar produce a cake that is dense, yet delicate. I used regular ground almonds and you can see that the cakes have a bit of a speckled look from almond husks. Blanched almond meal/flour will give the cakes a whiter look. There is no leavening in these cakes, but they get a bit of a rise from all the egg whites in the batter (even though the eggs are simply whisked in, not beaten into a meringue). The little cakes dome up nicely in the oven as they bake.
While the almond meal gives the financiers a nice almond base flavor, I also added vanilla extract and allspice to the mixture. A hint of allspice really works well with the sweet-tart dried cranberries studding the cake, making them seem even more flavorful without turning the financiers into spice cakes (which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not this recipe!).
The cakes should be baked in well-greased mini muffin tins (or similar sized molds) and should be removed from the pan shortly after they come out of the oven to prevent them from sticking. They should have a nice golden edge when viewed from the top, and the sides of the cakes should crisp up as they cool. I think that these are best when they are fresh from the oven, when you get the most contrast between crisp exterior and tender center, but they keep well when stored in an airtight container and can be enjoyed for several days after baking, as well.
Cranberry Almond Financiers
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup almond meal
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter, or grease with cooking spray, a 24 cavity mini muffin pan.
In a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Set aside to cool to almost room temperature.
In a large bowl, sift together almond meal, confectioners’ sugar, flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add egg whites, vanilla extract and allspice. Blend with a mixer at low speed until well-combined. Add in cooled, melted butter and mix at low speed until batter is smooth. Stir in dried cranberries.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin pans, filling all 24 cavities just about to the top. Sprinkle with a few pieces of slivered almonds.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the cakes have a ring of gold around the edge and spring back when lightly pressed. Slide a knife around the sides of the cakes to loosen and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.