Friands are little cakes that are related to French financiers. They’re dense little cakes made with egg whites and ground almonds that have a dense, buttery texture that reminds me a bit of a bite-sized pound cake. Like muffins, friands are incredibly versatile and a basic recipe can be transformed into almost any flavor. I often bake carrot cakes in the springtime and this weekend, instead of baking up a full sized layer cake, I decided to opt for bite-sized Carrot Cake Friands.
The little cakes have a base made with browned butter, ground almonds, flour, confectioners’ sugar and egg white, along with plenty of shredded carrot and warm spices. I shredded the carrot very finely for this recipe, as the cakes are so small that more coarsely shredded carrot seems to detract a bit from the dense, soft interior of the cakes. Cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla – as well as the natural sweetness of the shredded carrot – combine to make each bite unmistakably carrot cake, even if the shape is farm from traditional.
I used a mini muffin tin to bake these. The resulting cakes are about two bites each, which makes it a perfect nibble for pairing with coffee or tea. You can also use small ramekins or actual friand molds (which hold about twice the quantity of batter as a mini muffin tin but produce cakes of the same thickness), which will yield about half of the number of friands that this recipe will produce when a mini muffin tin is used. The pan should be generously buttered and floured before the batter is added. The butter not only helps to prevent the cake from sticking, but it produces a slightly crisp edge around the exterior of the cake that is typical of friands (and financiers, for that matter).
You can serve these plain or with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, but a little bit of cream cheese frosting could also be piped on top if you’re missing that classic carrot cake + cream cheese flavor combination. The cakes keep well for a couple of days after baking whens stored in an airtight container and the recipe can be doubled if you want 2 dozen to serve a crowd.
Carrot Cake Friands
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 large egg whites
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
6 tbsp almond meal
6 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour a mini muffin pan.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and cook it over medium heat until it begins to bubble and brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk egg whites for about 30 seconds, just until foamy. Sift in confectioners’ sugar and whisk to combine. Whisk in almond meal, flour, salt, spices and vanilla extract. Pour in melted butter and carrots and whisk until batter is completely uniform. Divide evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the cakes are just browned around the outside edge and a toothpick inserted into the center of each one comes out clean. Turn friands out of the pan to cool completely before serving.