Learn how to make pistachio financiers with this easy recipe! These little pistachio cakes are made with ground pistachios and brown butter. This recipe includes a gluten-free option.
You have to try these pistachio financiers. Traditionally, financiers are little nut-based cakes, made with ground almonds, sugar, brown butter, and egg whites, and baked in small rectangular moulds that resemble bars of gold.
They are actually very simple to make, with a short list of ingredients, and the mixing method is pretty forgiving. These cakes are sweet, moist, and slightly chewy, and I bet you can't eat just one. Spoiler alert: I can easily eat 6 in the span of minutes. They are THAT good!
What you need to make pistachio financiers
- pistachios—I bake these with shelled unsalted pistachios from Nuts.com. For the chopped green pistachio garnish, I used some young slivered green pistachios from a store that sells Mediterranean food imports.
- butter—I baked this recipe with unsalted butter and then added my own salt to the batter for these cakes. If you use salted butter, you might want to skip the salt to avoid these pistachio cakes being too salty!
- flour—I used bleached all-purpose flour, but unbleached will also work fine. You can also use alternative flour, like chestnut flour and white rice flour. Even millet or sorghum should work well here.
- sugar—pistachio is a delicate flavour so I baked these with granulated sugar, though brown sugar can work here, but the flavour and colour will overpower the nuts.
- salt—I use Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt, which is less salty. If you are using table salt, you may halve the amount in the recipe
- egg whites—I bake with large eggs, so each egg white weighs 30 grams (approximately) and it takes about 4 eggs to get to the weight needed (or darn close!). If you bake with smaller eggs, you will need to crack open more eggs to get to the weight of egg whites to make this recipe
See recipe card for quantities.
- Almond—replace the ground pistachio with ground almond or almond flour for an almond version. You can also enhance the almond flavour with a few drops of almond extract (remember it's potent and a little goes a long way!)
- Coconut—replace the ground pistachio with the same weight of coconut. You will have to grind it in a food processor to avoid textural issues.
- Egg whites—you can either crack eggs and separate the whites to use in this recipe or use boxed pasteurized egg whites, which will work great in this recipe.
- Gluten-free—I learned from the Tartine Gourmande cookbook that you can make gluten-free financiers, replacing the all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour, such as white rice flour. I have tested it and it works quite well! These chestnut financiers are another example of using an alternative gluten-free flour that works perfectly (in that case, it was chestnut flour).
Improving the colour
If you want to make greener pistachio financiers, try to peel the pistachios first to remove the dark black or brown papery skin that covers the individual nuts. Also make sure to buy greener pistachios, which are picked younger when they are a deep, dark green colour. As pistachios age, the green fades to a golden yellow.
Special equipment and pan prep
Many pastry chefs prefer to bake financiers in silicone pans to guarantee that they don't stick. They brush the moulds with a little softened butter to ensure the little cakes don't stick. Unmoulding from silicone bakeware is easy because silicone is naturally quite non-stick and it's also pliable so that you can easily push the cakes out of the pan.
Financiers can also be baked in any metal muffin pan or mini muffin pan. I bake these in a non-stick mini muffin pan that makes 24 mini financiers. Again, if the non-stick coating is not compromised or dulled, you should be able to get away with simply buttering the wells of the pan, but greasing and flouring will ensure that the cakes don't stick.
Step-by-step to make French tea cakes at home
Financier cakes might be the easiest cake you make. The longest part of the process is chilling the batter before baking.
Most desserts with egg whites would have you make a meringue or whip the egg whites to stiff peak, then fold them into the dry mixture. Whipping the egg whites incorporates air and water, which is why egg whites are considered a leavening agent. But with financiers, all you have to do is whip the whites until they are frothy. It's faster and easier, and you still end up with a spongy, light texture!
Before doing any of the other steps, start by melting the butter in a small saucepan.
Continue cooking the melted butter until the milk solids begin to brown and release a delightful nutty aroma. Once this happens, take the brown butter off the heat and transfer it to a small bowl to cool before using.
While the brown butter is cooling, prepare the other ingredients. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and ground pistachio.
Make sure the dry ingredients are evenly mixed, then set the bowl aside to work on the egg whites.
Combine the egg whites and the salt. The salt will help you break up the globular egg white proteins.
Whip the egg whites until they are very frothy and thick.
Transfer the frothy egg whites to the bowl of whisked dry ingredients.
Whisk the two components together until they are incorporated.
Pour the cooled brown butter over the financiers batter and stir it in.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to chill it for at least one hour until cold and firm.
While the financier batter is chilling, butter the pan with softened butter.
Dust it with flour, tapping out the excess if you are not baking with silicone and/or if you are worried your cakes will stick. Err on the side of caution if you aren't sure!
Divide the financiers batter between the wells of your mini muffin pan. Use a small ¾ ounce disher to make the job easy.
Garnish the pistachio financiers with a little coarsely chopped pistachio to decorate them before baking.
Bake the financiers at 350 °F.
Bake them until golden brown and set for about 16 minutes.
Financiers have the best texture a few hours after they are baked: these French tea cakes are slightly chewy and crunchy on the outside on the day they are baked and have a soft crumb inside. Store them in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in foil. The edges will lose their crunchy texture but will stay chewy for a day or two. The flavour improves with time.
You can also freeze them. Unwrap and defrost overnight in the refrigerator to avoid any condensation or moisture build-up on the surface of the cakes.
Other financier recipes to try
Financiers are very versatile and are a great canvas for playing with flavours and also for baking with fresh fruit:
- incorporate shredded coconut and golden yellow kiwis to make these kiwi coconut financiers
- top them with summer berries like blueberries and raspberries to make berry financiers
- make them with chestnut flour, yielding a sweet cake that is the perfect contrast for tart cranberries, like in these gluten-free cranberry chestnut financiers
- incorporate tahini into the batter and kumquats, which are like miniature oranges to make sesame kumquat financiers
Frequently asked questions
Traditionally, financiers are baked in rectangular moulds that resemble gold bars. The word financier refers to this.
The number one difference between financier cakes and madeleines is the mould they are baked in. Financiers traditionally are baked in small rectangular moulds (or sometimes round/oval moulds), while madeleines are baked in small seashell-shaped moulds. Financiers are made with nut flour (ground almond in the classic financier), while madeleines do not have any nuts and are often citrus flavoured. The classic madeleine is orange-flavoured.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and continue cooking it until it turns light brown in color. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the brown butter to a small bowl to cool down sllightly. Set aside.
- Using a mini food processor or coffee grinder, grind the pistachios to form pistachio flour.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground pistachios, sugar, flour. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and salt. Whisk them until they are very frothy and foamy.
- Pour the frothy egg whites over the dry ingredients. Whisk vigorously to mix everything together, then add the cooled brown butter and whisk the batter more to completely incorporate it.
- Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the batter for at least 1 hour until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175 °C). Butter and flour a 24-cup mini muffin pan.
- Divide the batter among the 24 wells of the prepared pan. Sprinkle the tops of the financiers with chopped slivered pistachios to garnish them.
- Bake the pistachio financiers until the edges are golden brown and the centres are set. This takes about 16 minutes. Use a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of them to verify they are baked through. Let cool slightly before using a mini offset spatula to unmould them.