kumquat tea cakes
Here is a variation on the almond and orange cake I posted about a few weeks ago.
It came about after receiving my fortnightly veggie box. There is always some new and unusual produce included, and last week’s surprise was a handful of kumquats.
I must admit, I have never bought kumquats before, let alone cooked with them. I took a bite of one of these little egg-shaped citrus, expecting it to be sweet like a mandarin, and nearly spat it out: it was so tart, nearly bitter, like eating a whole lemon! So they sat on the kitchen bench for a while, while I figured out what to do with them. I knew they needed to be cooked to dial down the puckering tanginess, and also had to be made into something sweet. Marmalade was suggested, but I didn’t have enough of them. Instead, I revisited the concept of pairing orange and almonds, this time going for little cakes to match my little kumquats.
These mini-muffin size tea cakes are very much inspired by financiers, these small French almond cakes, flavoured with beurre noisette, and usually baked in a small rectangular mould. Like a traditional financier, they contain egg whites, almond flour, plain flour and a lot of vanilla bean brown butter.
But unlike a financier, they contain coconut sugar instead of icing sugar. This is a concession to the family, as we are trying to cut down on added sugar. Sweets are rare nowadays, and when I do bake, I find myself experimenting with alternative sweeteners. Coconut sugar is unrefined, so is supposed to retain more nutrients than refined cane sugar. It is also said to be 75% less sweet with a lower Glycemic Index than cane sugar. Is it “healthier” than cane sugar ? Only marginally, after all, it is still a sweetener. The difference is in the taste ( there are some caramel undertones ) and colour ( it has a golden brown colour ).
In another departure from a traditional financier recipe, I lined the mini muffin pan with paper liners, instead of greasing the sides with butter.
The result? These cakes are not as sweet as traditional financiers, but they are light and moist with a crisp exterior, and packed full of butterscotch-like flavour with a tangy kick from slices of sweet kumquats. Two mouthfuls and they are gone. Perfect for tea or at the end of a meal.
175g unsalted butter, cubed
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
90 g almond flour
90 g plain wheat flour
90 g coconut sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
3/4 tsp sea salt
5 egg whites, large
1 cup kumquats
2 tsp black sesame seeds for garnish ( optional )
- Pre-heat oven to 175C. Line a 12 mini muffin pan with paper liners.
- Place the unsalted butter in a medium, heavy based saucepan with the vanilla bean and the scraped seeds. Cook over a medium heat until the butter foams up and turns a brown hazelnut-like colour ( hence the French name of “beurre noisette” ) approx 5-10 minutes. Once it does, turn off immediately and let cool.
- In a large bowl, add almond flour, plain flour, coconut sugar and salt. Whisk together well to get rid of any lumps. Make a well in the middle and pour the egg whites. Whisk until the batter is smooth, then add the brown butter gradually and keep whisking until well incorporated into the batter. Set aside.
- With a sharp knife, cut the ends off the kumquats, reserving the ends. Slice the fruits into thin slivers ( about 3-4 each ) using the tip of your knife to remove any of the tiny seeds. Keep aside enough slices to garnish the cakes ( 3 per cake ). Cut up the remaining slices and reserved ends into small bits and stir these pieces into the batter.
- Divide the batter among the mini muffin cups, filling them up to 3/4 of the way. Top with 3 kumquat slices each, and sprinkle with extra coconut sugar and black sesame seeds ( if using )
- Bake the cakes until golden on top and a tester inserted in the centre come out clean, about 25 minutes. (mine didn’t look done at 25 minutes, so left them a little longer but they browned really quickly, so watch they do not burn on you! )
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes then take the cakes out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.