A Simple French Cake Becomes My Go-To Recipe

During the lockdown when I was cooking three meals a day, some recipes became staples—especially desserts. One was an Extra Easy Brown Butter Almond Cake. My husband likes it so much that now even with things opening up, he is still asking me to bake it. As the name implies, it’s exceptionally easy and doesn’t call for any hard- to- find ingredients. I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks!

The batter for this cake is based on one used in France for those special confections called financiers, mouthwatering small cakes prepared with brown butter, sugar, flour, and almonds. They take their name from the brokers (financiers) who bought them in Paris’ financial district. My friend, Tina Isaac, who lives in Paris, introduced me to a simpler version of this classic. She bakes the batter in a single pan rather than in the traditional smaller molds.

I’d offer two caveats when baking this dessert. The oven temperature of 450 degrees F is quite high so if you have an oven thermometer be sure to confirm the temperature.  Also, following the recipe you’ll find a cooking tip that it is best to avoid using a dark metal baking pan as it causes the cake to cook too quickly on the sides.

Served warm with a dusting of powdered sugar, this golden “gateau” is versatile. Pair it with scoops of ice cream or a bowl of fresh berries, or drizzle it with your favorite chocolate ganache. Right now, I’m garnishing this cake with juicy sliced strawberries and dollops of vanilla-scented whipped cream. I think of it as a French version of our quintessential summer dessert–strawberry shortcake.




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Extra Easy Brown Butter Almond Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

10 tbsp (1 stick plus 2 tbsp) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp fleur de sel or sea salt
4 large egg whites at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan, preferably one that is not dark (see cooking tip). Line the bottom with a piece of parchment cut to fit the pan. Butter and flour the paper.

2. Place the butter in a small, heavy saucepan set over medium to medium-low heat. Whisk often until butter has melted and comes to a boil. Cook at a gentle simmer until butter turns a rich nutty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully as the butter can go from brown to burning quickly. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

3.Pulse the almonds in a food processor, pulsing the machine, until they are finely ground. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, flour, and fleur de sel. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the egg whites and the vanilla. Gradually whisk in the butter until well incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth even with a spatula.

4.Bake the cake until golden and a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center, 17 to 20 minutes. Watch carefully so that it does not burn. (The cake will not be more than about an inch high.) Remove from the oven, cool 5 minutes, then unmold. Serve, either warm or at room temperature. Dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar.

Serves 6

Cooking Tip: Because this cake cooks at an unusually high temperature, it is best to avoid dark metal cake pans. They tend to cook the sides of the cake too fast.

From Soup Nights by Betty Rosbottom (Rizzoli 2016)

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
4 tsp confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered if large

1.Using an electric beater on high speed, whip the cream in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar and the vanilla.  Beat just until firm peaks start to form. Makes about 2 cups whipped cream



4 thoughts on “A Simple French Cake Becomes My Go-To Recipe

    • Betty, So nice to hear from you. Thanks for the tip about the almond flour. I think you
      might have told me that when testing this recipe. Great info to have.
      Hope you are staying safe and well! Betty

      • Hi Mary,
        I just talked to the person who wrote that she used almond flour to replace the all-purpose flour in my cake recipe. It turns out she was mistaken and actually replaced the ground almonds called for in the recipe with almond flour. Although I don’t cook with almond flour, I have learned from others than you can’t replace AP flour with the same amount of almond flour because the structure of the cake will not be strong enough. I know you wanted to make this for your GF friend. I’d check King Arthur’s Flour website, and ask them what you could substitute. They have a little red and white chat icon and you can ask questions and then get replies. Hope this helps.

  1. Thanks for the tip about using almond flour. Taking this cake to a gluten free friend. Trust me on this cake. It is the BEST cake as I have written above the title on page 178 of “Soup Nights”. It is perfect also without any garnishes as well. ALso going to make the Market salad from Soup Nights. Betty I love your simple dressing recipes!

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