Towards the end of the 19th century, a pâtissier on Rue Saint-Denis, near the Paris stock exchange, baked rich cakes in the shape and color of gold bars, likely in an effort to appeal to his banker customers. The pastry’s name? Financier, pronounced “fee-nahn-see-AY,” of course.
Parisians still love the simple, baked almond cake, whose pillow-y soft center often contrasts with a more crisp exterior. Egg whites gave the cake its spring, brown butter added a rich moisture, and ground almond flour imparted a toasty, nutty flavor. The financier was a hit. But the enterprising baker who paved the way for the financier’s success is thought to have sourced his recipe from the Sisters of the Order of the Visitation. During the Middle Ages, the nuns baked small, round cakes called visitandines from egg whites, brown butter, and nuts.
After the financier’s revival and renaming in Paris, the deceptively simple sweet became a culinary staple, and the ingot-shaped pastries can commonly be found in pâtisseries and on restaurant dessert menus. Bakers around the world also make financiers in countless variations. In the United States, upscale restaurants serve the treat with everything from fruity sorbets to chutneys and make the batter with chocolate, pistachios and poached prunes, pecans and strawberries, candied ginger, lemon, and much more. Some are simple, coarse, and nutty; others are more refined and involved. But all must be eaten the same day they’re baked. In a departure from actual gold ingots, the financier’s texture begins to deteriorate in just a few hours.
Where to Try It
Le Grande Épicerie de Paris38 Rue de Sèvres, Paris, 75007, France
This massive gourmet food store bakes financier à la framboise (raspberry).