You may have heard of financiers, small French almond cakes. You may also have heard of friands, small Australian/New Zealand almond cakes. The two cakes are just about the same, and there are only two differences between them: the countries that those names are used in and the shapes of the cakes. Tradition dictates that friands are usually baked in oval baking tins and financiers are usually baked in rectangular baking tins. No matter what shape your cakes are or what you prefer to call them, these little almond cakes are a tasty and easy to make tea time treat.
The cakes may look like small muffins, but they’re more like sponge cakes. They’re made with a combination of all purpose and almond flours, which gives them a tight, tender crumb. Although the crumb is tight, these cakes aren’t heavy or dense. They have enough egg whites and just the right touch of baking powder to make them surprisingly light. They also have a lovely nutty flavor that comes from both the ground almonds and the browned butter in the batter. All these things mean that these friands are easy to eat – and small enough that it is hard to eat just one.
I don’t have oval or rectangular specialty cake pans. If you have them, you can absolutely go ahead and use them in this recipe. If you don’t have them, you can use mini muffin pans, which are much more widely available. The muffin tins should be filled about 3/4 full, to prevent the friands from overflowing. Ideally they should look like small cakes, not muffins. The cakes keep very well when stored in an airtight container and I often find that they are best a day or so after they are baked. They become even more moist and tender, so you should be able to enjoy a batch for at least a few days.
Browned Butter Friands
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup almond meal or almond flour
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 24 cavity mini muffin pan.
In a small saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat until it melts and begins to turn a golden brown color, about 4-7 minutes. As it turns a dark golden color, remove it from the heat and transfer it immediately to another bowl, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Set aside to cool to almost room temperature.
In a large bowl, sift together almond meal, confectioners’ sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and add egg whites, vanilla extract and almond extract. Blend with a mixer at low speed until well-combined. Add in cooled, melted butter and mix at low speed until batter is smooth.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin pans, filling all 24 cavities just under 3/4 full.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the tops 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.