A Hidden Treasure Inside — Un trésor caché à l’intérieur

Vanilla Brown Butter and Almond Cake
with Warm Vanilla Crème Brûlée Custard Filling

From here you just think, Rien de spécial ! (nothing special), this cake is a mere teacake, nothing less and nothing more. But wait until you get to know the rest of the story. There is really a secret treasure hidden inside.

When I first put my hand on Kate Zuckerman’s book, The Sweet Life, I remember the reaction I had when, while leisurely flipping through the pages, I reached page 163. In front of my eyes stood a glorious, delicious-looking to-die-for dessert that, no matter how hard, I promised to make right then. Alors ça, je dois essayer !(I have to try this!) I showed P. the culprit picture that had suddenly brought so much excitement to my body and I saw his eyes become rounder and shine, as if saying Miam, j’en veux de ce dessert (I want this dessert). He was already forgiving me for not sticking to my word when I had told him “J’te jure, c’est le dernier livre de cuisine que j’achète cette année, j’ai tout ce qu’il faut” (I promise, this is the last cookbook that I buy this year, I have all I need), the kind of silly things I can sometimes say. I knew he wanted this dessert as much as I did. That was a good start. So we left the bookstore with the cookbook and inside me, I felt a beam of joy at the prospect of so many goodies to try.

I came home and started flipping through the pages to land on page 163 again, read “Vanilla Brown Butter and Almond Cake“, got that, “with warm crème brûlée custard filling”. Mmmmm, where was this part in the book? I looked at the Index, no success, searched carefully once more, where is it?, but it was nowhere to be found. Did I miss something? Oh no, please no. I was bummed.

A few weeks passed and I almost forgot about it. Then, you might remember that I decided to bake Apple Quince Tartlets from that same cookbook. To my surprise, Kate herself happened to come across my blog post — I did not even know she also had a website and blog — and left a lovely comment on my blog. She also sent me an email and so this is how she and I started exchanging a few messages. Being the friendly person that I had imagined — how can you make desserts like this and not be warm? — she very nicely offered to answer any questions I might have, so I did not think twice. “Page 163, crème brûlée” resonated loudly in my head. I jumped in.

“Kate, where is the recipe which picture is featured on page 163 ?”, I asked.

“Ah yes”, she responded. “You are not the first one to ask. I thought I was not going to include it as it requires a little more work. In fact the explanations can be found on my blog. Check it out there and let me know if you have questions,” she added.

I was happy. I must have been under a really good star. I promised her that of course, I was going to try soon and I did. And I loved it. This dessert is simply excellent, a real winner if you like:

  • Financiers (brown butter cakes)
  • Crème brûlée
  • Berries poached in syrup

I love them all. In her book, Kate adds that this dessert is a classic at Chanterelle, the NYC restaurant where she works as a pastry chef.

Agreed, it requires some organization because a few steps are involved into the assembly of the final dessert. I ended up preparing mine over two days, and adapted it as well. Four main things are required for the dessert:

  • Brown Butter Cake Batter (a Financier cake batter)
  • Vanilla Crème Brûlée
  • Sweet Crust (Pâte sablée), if you decide to use one
  • Poached Fruit

I was lucky to have a leftover of sweet crust I had frozen a few weeks before, and so used it. Then, I poached Red Berries in a Lemon Sugary Syrup instead of the compote suggested in the initial recipe. In the end, I was left with two things to prepare: the Cake Batter and the Crème brûlée.

And there are good news. Once you make your crème brûlée, you have to freeze it and you can also keep more for futures uses, hence it can be prepared ahead of time. As to the brown butter cake batter, you can prepare it and keep it for 4 days in the fridge before baking the cake. So in two words, you do not have to do everything last minute. Don’t think that pastry chefs at restaurants have the time to do everything right on the spot! They are just like us!

Thank you Kate! Your desserts are really excellent!

“The combination of the rich, buttery cake, redolent with vanilla, and the warm custard center creates an intense mixture of flavors and consistencies.” (Source: The Sweet Life). I could not agree more.

Vanilla Brown Butter and Almond Cake with Warm Vanilla Crème Brûlée Custard Filling and Poached Red Fruit

Recipe adapted from The Sweet Life

You need:

For the crème brûlée

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1.5 oz sugar
  • 1/4 vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp heavy cream


  • Cut the vanilla pod open and remove the seeds. Place them with the pod in a pot, and add the cream and 1/4 of the sugar. Bring to a gentle boil. Stop the heat, cover and let infuse for 15 mns. Filter the cream.
  • In a bowl, mix together the sugar, egg yolks and salt. Pour the warm cream over and mix well.
  • Preheat your oven at 250 F.
  • In a large baking dish, place a rectangular ceramic one. Pour the cream in the small one and add water in the large one until it reaches half the height of the dish with the cream. Cover with foil paper and cook for about 50 mns or so. When jiggling the cream, it should hardly move. Remove from the large dish and let cool. Then freeze.
  • To unmold, place your dish in hot water for a few mns and then run a knife around to help remove it. Cut in small squares and freeze (these squares will be added to your cakes when they cook).

For the cakes, pastry and garnish

  • 5 ounces almond flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 16 Tbsp butter
  • 7 egg whites (7 liquid ounce)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Sweet crust***


  • Cut the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds in a saucepan. Add the butter and the bean, then cook until the preparation gently caramelizes and has a nutty taste– the butter changes color. Remove from the heat and remove the vanilla pod.
  • Place a bowl over a pot of simmering water and dissolve the two sugars with the egg whites, mixing with a whisk. The preparation should be warm to the touch.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the dry ingredients: 1/2 cup flour, ground almonds and salt. The mixture will be thick.
  • Use a ladle and add about 1/4 cup of brown butter and whisk while absorbed. Repeat until no butter is left. Do this slowly and progressively.** Keep in the fridge.
  • If you decide to make a pastry base***, prepare a batch of sweet pastry (otherwise go to the step when you pour the cake batter in the molds). Cut circles slightly bigger than the base of the molds you will use to bake your cakes. Place the circles on a baking sheet, and place them in the fridge for 30 mns.
  • Preheat your oven at 350 F. Make small holes on your dough and cook the circles for 20 mns or so, or until they are a light brown color.
  • While they are still warm, press them at the bottom of your greased molds. Pour some cake batter.
  • Add one frozen crème brûlée square and pour more cake batter to cover.
  • Cook the cakes as such, for about 25 mns or so, until they have a nice light brown color.
  • To poach the fruit, pour 1 cup water, 1/2 granulated sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice into a pot and bring to a very light boil. Add the frozen fruit to poach them rapidly (it only takes a few mns). Turn off the heat and let cool in the pot slightly. Remove the fruit and increase the heat to reduce the liquid to a syrup. Serve with the cakes.
  • ** The cakes can be baked right away or stored in the fridge for 4 days. They are baked at 350 F, in individual molds with the crème brûlée filling, for about 20 mns or so, or until golden.

    *** I made a batch with and one without and both are excellent.

    Kate’s explanations are here, for those of you who own the book.

Le coin français
Financiers à la vanille et sa crème brûlée, servis avec des fruits pochés

Recette adaptée de The Sweet Life

Ingrédients :

Pour la crème brûlée

  • 2 jaunes d’oeuf
  • 40 g de sucre
  • 1/4 de gousse de vanille
  • 1 pincée de sel
  • 250 ml de crème liquide

Étapes :

  • Fendez la gousse de vanille en deux et grattez-en l’intérieur. Mettez les graines dans une casserole à fond épais et mélangez avec 1/4 du sucre et la crème. Faites chauffer sans faire bouillir, arrêtez le feu et couvrez pour laisser infuser pendant 15 mns. Après ce temps, filtrez la crème.
  • Dans un bol, mélangez au fouet le sucre restant, les jaunes d’oeuf et le sel. Versez doucement la crème chaude sur cette préparation, puis plus rapidement le reste.
  • Préchauffez le four à 160 C.
  • Dans un long plat à gratin, placez un autre plat en céramique rectangulaire. Versez la crème dans ce plat. Remplissez le plat à gratin d’eau chaude, jusqu’à mi-hauteur du plat contenant la crème. Couvrez d’une feuille aluminium dans laquelle vous perforez des petits trous , et faites cuire au four pendant environ 50 mns ou plus. Il faut que lorsque vous bougez doucement la crème, elle soit prise. Retirez du four et laissez refroidir dans le plat à gratin avant de sortir pour refroidir. Congelez-la.
  • Pour démouler, plongez le moule dans un bain contenant de l’eau chaude et passez le couteau entre les parois et la crème. Coupez-la congelée en carrés pouvant être placés dans vos gâteaux.

Pour les gâteaux, la base et la garniture

  • 140 g de poudre d’amandes
  • 60 g de farine
  • 1 gousse de vanille
  • 230 g de beurre
  • 7 blancs d’oeuf
  • 120 g de sucre glace
  • 100 g de sucre
  • 1/2 càc de sel
  • Pâte sablée***

Étapes :

  • Fendez la gousse de vanille et grattez-en l’intérieur. Mettez-les dans une casserole avec le beurre. Cuisez jusqu’à ce que la préparation caramélise légèrement et développe un bon goût de noisette — c’est un beurre noisette et donc la couleur du beurre change. Retirez du feu et enlevez la gousse de vanille.
  • Mettez un bol sur une casserole remplie d’eau frémissante et faites fondre les deux sucres avec les blancs d’oeuf, en fouettant constamment. La préparation doit être chaude quand vous la touchez.
  • Enlevez le bol et mélangez avec les ingrédients secs: farine, poudre d’amandes et sel.
  • Utilisez un louche et ajoutez 60 ml de beurre et mélangez énergiquement jusqu’à ce que tout le liquide soit absorbé. Répétez jusqu’à utilisation complète du beurre.
  • Cette pâte se conserve 4 jours au frigidaire ou peut ête utilisée de suite. (20 mns environ au four préchauffé à 180 C).
  • Si vous souhaitez utlisez une base de pâte sucrée***, préparez-en une d’après une recette que vous aimez. Découpez des cercles un peu plus grands que la base des moules où vous allez cuire les financiers. Mettez-les sur une plaque de cuisson, piquez-les avec une fourchette et mettez-les au frigo pendant 30 mns.
  • Préchauffez votre four à 180 C. Cuisez les fonds de pâte pendant environ 20 mns.
  • Alors qu’ils sont encore chauds, mettez-les au fond de vos moules beurrés. Versez de la pâte à financier.
  • Ajoutez un carré de crème brûlée congelé et couvrez à nouveau de pâte à financier.
  • Faites cuire les gâteaux pendant environ 25 à 30 mns, jusqu’à ce qu’ils aient une belle couleur dorée.
  • Pour pocher vos fruits, versez 250 ml d’eau dans une casserole et ajoutez 100 g de sucre et 60 ml de jus de citron. Amenez à peine à ébullition et ajoutez les fruits (seulement pour quelques mns). Arrêtez le feu et laissez refroidir les fruits dans le jus. Retirez-les et faites réduire le jus en sirop. Servez avec les financiers.
  • ** Vous pouvez cuire les gâteaux de suite ou les conserver au frigo jusqu’à 4 jours. Ils sont cuits à 180 C dans des moules individuels avec la crème brûlée pendant environ 20 à 25 mns, jusqu’à ce qu’ils aient une belle couleur dorée.

    *** J’ai aussi réalisé la recette sans pâte sucrée et c’est délicieux. Les deux sont excellents.

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Posted in Cakes, Dessert


  1. and what a surprise…..my favourite dessert. i have to tell you i am blown away every time i see “tes bonnes recettes”.miam miam .

  2. this blows me away. i am in love w/ every element of this dessert. financiers w/ creme brulee? heaven. i had a blueberry financier not long ago accompanied w/ mascarpone ice cream. HEAVENLY. u should try sometime.

  3. Please can I come live at your house? I will wash dishes! I have decided I can only looking at your blog after I have had something to eat!!
    Great photo!

  4. Moi qui cherchait une recette avec des amandes en poudre, je pense avoir trouvé quoi faire!! Je salive déjà à l’idée de me préparer les petits gateaux…et je vais de ce pas, acheter des fruits rouges surgelés. The Sweet Life ne tardera pas non plus a arriver dans ma boîte au lettre!

  5. Hi Bea!
    wow, we should never judge a financier by its ordinary look! this sure hides something heavenly inside, delicieux….

  6. Et moi qui essaie de réfréner mes envies sucrées… It looks so delicious !

  7. voila qui est parfait…un superbe petit gateau et hop dans une creme brulee parfaite…un dessert parfait quoi !!!!!

  8. Bea, I may never make this (I don’t bake much and I’m definitely not that organized!), but I adore reading about it and about your correspondence with Kate! Thank you…and for the wonderful (as always) photos, too.

  9. Tes recettes tout comme tes photos ont vraiment le don d’éveiller la gourmandise… Une fois de plus, c’est magnifique !
    A chaque fois que je viens visiter ta cuisine virtuelle, je me dis qu’il est si simple de se régaler et de faire d’un petit instant de gourmandise un véritable concentré de bonheur !
    Amicalement blog,

  10. What a wonderful story! I love that Kate found you and helped you make your dream dessert (which looks heavenly, by the way). It really shows the support and generosity of the food blogging community.

  11. Encore une fois belle photo et recette. J’aimerais savoir dans quel sorte de moule as-tu fait cuire ce dessert? Merci.

  12. C’est toujours la meme chose quand je passe sur ton blog: Une photo juste myhtique à tomber à chaque fois, une recette qui descend tout droit du paradis….je peux venir vivre chez toi 😉 Bravo


  13. Bea – I was obsessed with this dessert ever since I saw it on Kuidaore and like you I was searching for the recipe on her book to no avail. I posted that question yesterday at Pastry Chat, I am pleasantly surprised that you just posted it here on your blog . I will attempt to make this next weekend. Thanks!

  14. J’aime quand tu dis “…the kind of silly things I can sometimes say”. J’en dis tout autant, bien souvent! Dessert à essayer de toute urgence!

  15. Oh! I keep looking at this book and wonding if I should buy it. You are making a very convincing argument that I should!!!

  16. Dear Bea:

    I’m so thrilled that these cakes came out so beautifully. The photos are gorgeous, and the berries complement the cake perfectly.

    There’s a recipe in the book for a chocolate financier. Sometimes I make the chocolate pot de creme recipe and freeze it, so I get oozing chocolate custard out of a rich chocolate cake. When I do that, I don’t put the lime zest in the chocolate financier.

    Keep the reinterpretations going! I just looked at your post about cannelles, which I often make at Chanterelle, and I never stray from the classic flavor of vanilla and rum, but you’ve inspired me to try something different next time! I love cardamom, as you probably know from reading my book, so I might just try that.


  17. Oh le petit gateau qui cache bien son jeu ! Une bonne surprise pour celui qui y plonge la cuillère !

  18. that is quite the project! but i’m glad you did it, plus showing what can be done well. all too often i forget to make things ahead

  19. Bea, your blog is great! I voted for you in the contest and am happy you were succesful! Can I ask what kind of camera and lens(es) you use?

  20. Bea,
    This story is so exciting! I imagine how happy you were with Kate’s comment and all. You deserve it!

    Oh, and the cakes look yummy!

  21. Bea,
    I love this book too! And isn’t Kate the nicest person! You are certainly showing off her desserts spectacularly!

  22. Rose, merci!

    Bou, oh yes, this definitely sounds like a great combination!

    Kat, thank you!

    Tongue in cheek, ahah, let me see. Washing dishes, I kind of like this since I seem to be doing this ALL the time!

    Mercotte et Ninette, merci.

    Noémie, oui, je suis sûre que tu ne regretteras pas l’achat.

    ValentinA, yes this one is deceptive, isn’t it? All for the best.

    Adeline, merci! Dommage pour te donner du courage à manger moins de sucreries 😉

    Veronica, oui c’est vrai, deux superbes desserts en un!

    Lydia, yes it was really nice to chat with Kate. She is lovely and very responsive!

    Jeff, no, not at all! Really!

    Pebbles, thanks.

    Ingrid, merci de ton gentil message. Ca fait plaisir de savoir que je donne du plaisir gustatif virtuel!

    Emy, 😉

    Lisa, I loved having this correspondance with Kate as well. Definitely showing that what seems untouchable before is not anymore.

    Hélène, bonne question! J’ai utilisé des moules à popover, plus hauts!

    Brilynn, thank you!

    Claude, ravie de savoir que ca te plait. Ahahah vivre chez moi? Tongue in cheek a demandé avant toi! (voir son commentaire ci-dessus) 😉

    Veron, I cannot wait to see yours! That is great coincidence.

    Ninnie, oui essaie bien vite. Tu verras, c’est délicieux.

    Ivonne, yes you are seriously going to be tempted now with a new cookbook purchase.

    Rasa, thank you very much for your nice note and the tag. I will have a look right now!

    Kate, many thanks to you! I was so glad to be able to make this dessert and it was a hit every time I made it! I made the chocolate financier before too 😉 and your idea to freeze some to also play with the oozing chocolate is excellent. AS to the cannelés, happy to see I managed to inspire you. I remember well that you love cardamom!

    Clairel, oui complètement.

    Grignote et Barbotine, merci beaucoup.

    Connie, you will see that true, making some things ahead of time and freezing for last minute use is very helpful. A good habit to have.

    Cecilie, thank you very much! My camera is a Canon 30D, and I often use a 100 Macro or a 50 mm lens.

    Eva, merci

    Carol, thanks so much. Very nice of you! I feel touched!

    Domie, merci.

    Peabody, I bet you will see!

    Barbara, ahah if you two are happy like this 😉

    Yoyo, thank you! I looked at your blog but could not read the language I am afraid. I need to use a translator!

    Sylvie, merci.

    Gracianne, oui complètement, n’est-ce pas?

    Milie, oui bonne image 😉

    Patricia and Gilly, thank you!

    Anita, yes you are so right. This cookbook is excellent and I cannot wait to try many more things!

  23. Bea~ so glad to see your words~:) although u can not understand chinese,but i think the food pictures can be understood by everyone~ ^ ^ so gorgeous your photos r! so yummy your food be!

  24. Pingback: PastryChat » Blog Archive » More Photos!

  25. Well, I feel very out of sorts looking at that fabulous little cake and not being able to eat it right now. I will have to go through the day, pining for it! :):) I’d say you made a very seductive goodie.

  26. Thanks for writing about this. I have Kate Zuckerman’s book too, and was wondering about the recipe for that great looking oozy dessert. Now I really have to give it a go 🙂

  27. Wow – that’s just too fabulous! Like a whole bunch of desserts in one… I can imagine how well those flavours will work toghether. And what gorgeous photos!

  28. Pingback: Humble Pie » Blog Archive » This takes the cake!

  29. I know this is an old post – but I was wondering what kind of molds you use for the cakes? I made this once using a popover tin (with 6 cups) and it was very yummy, but it seemed a little too big maybe.

  30. Hello! This looks wonderful, and we are going to try and make this for a Christmas dessert. We are going to use popover molds as well, but wanted to know how many individual cakes the recipe makes? There will be five of us. . . .should we double the quantities?

    Thank you!

  31. Hi Kristen,

    Ah yes, I never wrote this down. And now I realize that I made this such a while ago that I am not 100% sure. Yet, I would tend to think that I made a minimum of 6 cakes since my popover mold gives 6 cakes Good luck with the dessert.

  32. I made these lovely cakes for a holiday dinner last weekend & they were absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much!

  33. These are adorable! I was looking for something to make for our bowling potluck that gets a little fancy. I am hopeful that I don’t burn them and they turn out as cute as yours did! Thanks.