Little flavor bombs with a burst of citrus, almond and vanilla, this tea cake recipe is a lovely addition to any special occasion or simply to enjoy with tea. I’ve included three variations on Almond-Orange Mini Tea Cakes with Brown Butter! Quick to whip up and easy to share.
When I was in pastry school I couldn’t wait to get to quarter four. It was the fourth rotation of six, the fancy dessert and petit four section of the year and a half long program. The pastry school I attended is a fully equipped working bakery. Pastries, desserts, pies, tarts, bread and cakes made are sold in the college cafe, served in the on campus, culinary student run, restaurants and are open to the public. We even took orders for wedding cakes! The bakery is completely run by students and two teaching chefs. When I reflect back, it’s quite remarkable what came out of that bakery then, and continues today.
We also serviced a community high tea once a quarter. The cutest little petite fours were created especially for this event. Those little cakes that are fussed over to the nth degree, perfectly cut to square with exacting buttercream edges and detailed chocolate work.
But it was these Almond-Orange Mini Tea Cakes with Brown Butter we leaned on heavily. They’re easy to make with infinite variations and they taste extra special without all the petit four fuss. And we had to have some sort of back up should something go array.
And it did.
Financier vs Friand
This tea cake recipe is similar to the French pastry, financier and the Australian pastry, friand. The difference is financier are traditionally baked in gold-bar like mini tea cake molds. Friands tend to be round in shape and have some sort of inclusion such as fruit, nuts, chocolate (yes, I know!) or coconut, for example.
But it’s the butter and almond flour that shine in these simple mini tea cakes, no matter what you call them. Browning the butter is completely worth the 5-7 minutes it takes to create a little something extra special. All those little specks of brown bits with their toasty-nutty notes make a fabulous addition to these little tea cakes.
How to Make Almond-Orange Mini Tea Cakes with Brown Butter
These mini tea cakes come together quick, and because they’re mini, sharing is easy.
- First, brown the butter. Set aside to cool.
- Next, prepare the mini muffin baking pan by carefully brushing each cup with melted butter.
- Then, make the batter by sifting the powder sugar, almond and all purpose flour. Whisk in the egg whites until the batter comes together. Add the cooled brown butter, orange zest and vanilla beans (or paste/extract). Whisk.
- Scoop batter into prepared pan and top with either pistachios or a blueberry.
- Last, bake!
These tea cakes store well for about three days at room temperature.
Three Flavors to Choose From
Really, the sky is the limit with flavor inclusions. But for a base tea cake of orange and vanilla, there are three ways to enjoy this recipe:
- vanilla bean (plain – but not really)
Because of their simplicity, none of the flavors outshine the others in these mini tea cakes. They have a slight crunch on the outside with a tender and light interior. And like in most of my sweets recipes, I’ve scaled the sugar back, just a bit, so they’re not too sweet.
Mini tea cakes small size is good for portion control, but watch out! They’re addicting!
A Few Recipe Notes
- I use a 24-cup mini muffin pan to bake mini tea cakes. If baking in a 12-cup pan, bake in two batches. Simply rest the remaining batter on the counter while the first batch bakes. Allow the baking pan to cool before preparing it for the next batch.
- Proper pan prep is essential for an easy to release mini tea cake. Be sure to butter the rim of each cup too.
- I use leftover, previously frozen and thawed egg whites. They work beautifully in this recipe.
- Using a cookie scoop will make portioning the tea cakes a snap. Use a small, slightly overfilled #50 scoop. Otherwise use a heaped tablespoon, or piping bag filling each cup a little over 2/3 full.
- As with all cakes, these are best the day they’re made. But, I’ve enjoyed these up to three days after baking. Reheating them in a 400F oven (a toaster oven works great) for about five minutes will freshen them up. They’re fabulous warm too!
- If browning butter is a new endeavor, Food 52 has how-to video.
- I enthusiastically recommend an oven thermometer! I’ve baked in commercial bakery and home ovens, old, lightly used and brand new ovens – they all have their own personalities with temperature variations and fluctuations. Knowing the temperature of your oven is important for the best outcome, especially when it comes to baking.
Almond-Orange Mini Tea Cakes with Brown Butter
- 14 Tbs (200g / 7oz) Unsalted Butter cut in pieces, for brown butter
- 1 Tbs Unsalted Butter melted, for preparing the pan
- 3/4 C + 1 Tbs (110g) Powder Sugar
- 1 C (115g) Almond Flour
- 1/3 C + 2 Tbs (75g) All Purpose Flour
- 3/4 C (180g) Egg Whites* (see note) room temperature, about 6 eggs
- 2 tsp Orange Zest
- 1 Vanilla Bean seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
Options to Include:
- 24 Blueberries fresh or frozen
- 3 Tbs Raw Pistachios rough chopped
Brown the Butter:
- In a medium sauce pot, add 14 Tbs of butter and heat on medium-low. Swirl the pan occasionally to melt the butter. Take your time here. Cook on medium-low for about 6-7 minutes. Notice it will bubble and sputter. Swirl again. The solids will begin to sink to the bottom and brown. It's ready when the butter and solids are a golden brown. But watch it! It burns easily, so adjust the heat as needed. Quickly remove the brown butter from the heat and pour it into a heatproof jar (you want to stop the cooking) - include all the brown solid (nutty/tasty) bits. Set aside to cool. Food52 has a video that shows how to brown butter if needed. Preheat oven to 400F (204C) and set rack to center of oven.
Prepare the Pan:
- In a muffin pan, using a pastry brush, brush the the entire cup and top rim with melted butter. Pop the pan in the refrigerator so the butter firms up. This will make it easier to remove the little cakes. If you need to bake in two batches, the remaining batter can rest on the counter. Allow the baking pan to cool before preparing it for the next batch.
Make the Cake Batter:
- In a large mixing bowl, sift in the powder sugar, almond and all purpose flour. Whisk in the egg whites until the batter comes together and there are no dry patches. Add the cooled brown butter, orange zest and vanilla beans (or paste/extract). Whisk until the batter comes together.
- Scoop the cake batter using a slightly overfilled #50 scoop or heaped tablespoon (1 1/4 Tbs) to portion each tea cake. Top with one blueberry each (nestle the blueberry in just a smidge), and/or a sprinkle of pistachios and/or leave plain.
- Bake tea cakes at 400F (204C) for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F (190C) and bake for an additional 8-9 minutes, until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove the cakes from the pan. If they need a little nudge, gently slide a pairing knife between the cake and the pan. Cool completely before storing them at room temperature in a lidded container.