THE financier, a refined, butter-rich, miniature French cake, has a storied past that goes as far back as the 17th century to a community of French nuns called the Sisters of the Visitation.
From the depths of their convent kitchens in Nancy, the chief town in Lorraine in northeastern France, the nuns baked a cake called the Visitandines (pronounced vee-zee-TON-deen), using the very ingredients that would make the financier so magical: ground almonds, flour, sugar, butter, and egg whites.
These little oval-shaped “visitation” cakes were baked not only to perk up their meatless diet; they were a creative way of using the whites of eggs that were left over after the nuns used the yolks to temper the paints for their artwork.
The name, financier, however, didn’t come to being until these petit cakes found a revival around 1890 when a pastry chef called Lasne produced it for his bakery located on the Rue St.-Denis, near the Bourse, the financial center of Paris.
Presumably, as a touch of flattery for his well-heeled, financier clients, he named these cakes financiers and went one step further by baking them in rectangular molds rather than oval ones, evoking the shape of gold ingots.
That was how the financier got its name, pronounced not like how one would pronounce in English, but the French way, fee-non-see-AY, though no one can quite fault you for a semi-anglicized take on it if you said fee-nahn-see-AY, as suggested by Amanda Hesser from The New York Times.
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