Friday, May 1, 2020

Visitandines de Nancy - Divine Bakes for the Month of May (Visitandines für den Marienmonat Mai)

Visitandines de Nancy also called Visitandines de Lorraine are small French Almond Cakes that originated in the convent of a community of French nuns called 'Ordre de la Visitation' (Order of the Visitation in English or Visitantinnen in German). The 'Sisters of the Visitation', colloquially known in French as the 'Visitandines' took their name from the visitation by the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, before Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. And the lovely month of May is also known as 'Mary's month of May' (Marienmonat), therefore there seems to be no better time than May to present the wonderful recipe for classic Visitandines.

It is said that these small cakes with almond meal, egg whites, and brown butter were created by the nuns as a source of much-needed protein in times of hunger. Other sources indicate that since in former times paint was made with egg yolks (as an emulsifier), accordingly the nuns had many egg whites left over from mixing paints, didn’t want to waste them and created those lovely little cakes. Whatever the truth of their original creation maybe, Visitandines are adorable little snack cakes that are a cinch to make.

For many years, the original recipe that was created by the nuns in the 17th century, seems to have been forgotten but it was re-vived at the end of the 19th century (around 1890) by a French Pâtissier named Lasne. He owned a pastry shop on the Rue St. Denis in Paris, located in the heart of the financial district, nearby 'La Bourse', the stock exchange. In the afternoons the stockbrockers would go to his pastry shop to pick-up a small afternoon snack. So, based on the traditional recipe for 'Visitandines', Monsieur Lasne offered his customers small compact almond cakes with a batter of nut flour, sugar and egg whites, enriched with melted brown butter and baked in small rectangular molds (the shape being reminiscent of gold bars). He served them without any decoration and named them for his clients 'Financiers'.

Later the recipe was picked up by the world famous Parisian pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre (Desserts traditionnels de France). Lenôtre even mentions in his cookbook that the little cakes originated in the convent of the Visitation community, but that they were subsequently improved by pastry chefs who prepared them elsewhere. A similar recipe appears in Darenne and Duval’s early-twentieth century Treatise on Modern Pastrymaking (Traite de Patisserie Moderne). Today, you can also find a recipe for 'Financiers' in Thomas Keller’s 'Bouchon Bakery' (page 98).

The recipe spread not only across France but also to the US, Australia and New Zealand and many pastry chefs around the world have come up with their own takes on the classic – including adding berries, fresh fruits, differents nut flours, dried fruits or chocolate. In many places including New Zealand and Australia, these cakes are also known as 'Friands'.

My recipe for today is based on a classic version, as it is my favorite way to enjoy these almond cakes. It needs just a handful of ingredients and bakes in less than 20 minutes.These elegant Visitandines are rich, buttery, and delicate, a perfect afternoon delight, not only in the month of May.

Visitandines de Nancy (French Almond Cakelettes)

(yield 12 to 24 small cakes, depending on the size of the molds used)
  • 110g beurre noisette*, plus some butter for the baking pan
  • 80g almond flour (if you do not have almond flour, use blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor)
  • 145g powdered sugar, sieved
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • 4 egg whites (L), free-range or organic
  • 50g AP (plain) flour, plus some for the baking pans
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 cl rum (you can substitute milk here)
  • Powdered sugar, or powdered sugar mixed with cherry liqueur (Kirsch) for the glaze (optional)
* To prepare the beurre noisette, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat, warm until completely melted, once the butter has turned brown, emove from the heat and filter.

Baking Molds

If you use a regular muffin pan, you will end up with 12 Visitandines, if you go with a mini-muffin pan, you will get 24. If you have oval visitandines, friands or financiers molds, you will also end up with 12. You can also use madeleines molds.

  1. Butter and flour your molds. Pre-heat your oven to 356°F.
  2. In a small pan, have the warm (still liquid) beurre noisette at the ready.
  3. To another pan, add the almond flour, powdered sugar and vanilla sugar, then add the 4 egg whites and stir well. Then very carefully warm slightly (over low heat). Take off the heat and add the flour, salt, beurre noisette and rum (if using, otherwise go with milk). Stir until you have a homogeneous batter (the consistency will be like a tick liquid).
  4. Use a large soup spoon OR fill the dough in a piping bag OR use an ice cream soop to fill the previously buttered and floured baking molds – about 2/3 full.
  5. Bake the Visitandines in a pre-heated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on their size) until they are risen and golden and they feel firm when pressed with a fingertip.
  6. Place the molds on a cooling rack for about 2 minutes and then un-mold the Visitandines while they are still slightly warm.
  7. You can serve them as is, dusted with powdered sugar or with a sugar/Kirsch glaze (glaze once they have cooled completely).
Serving:  the Visitandines are fabulous with coffee, tea or a glass of sweet dessert wine.

Storage: keep the cooled Visitandines loosely covered with plastic wrap on the day they are made. For longer storage, transfer them to a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid in one layer and refrigerate them. Bring them back to room temperature before serving again.

Visitandines de Nancy (Französische Mandelküchlein)

(für 12 bis 24 Stück, je nachdem welche Backform man nimmt)
  • 110g Nussbutter* (beurre noisette) und etwas weiche Butter für die Backformen
  • 80g Mandelmehl
  • 145g Puderzucker, gesiebt
  • 8g Vanillezucker
  • 4 Eiweiß (L), Freiland oder Bio
  • 50g Weizenmehl (Type 405), gesiebt und etwas für die Backformen
  • eine Prise feines Salz
  • 1 CL Rum
  • Puderzucker, oder Puderzucker mit Kirschwasser verrührt für eine Glasur (nach Wunsch)
*Zur Zubereitung von Nussbutter die Butter in einem kleinen Topf schmelzen und zum Köcheln bringen, bis sie eine goldbraune Farbe annimmt, dann die flüssige Butter durch ein Passiertuch geben.


Bei Gebrauch eines Muffinblechs ergibt die Teigmenge 12 Stück, wenn man ein Mini-Muffinblech einsetzt, dann eher 24 Stück. Falls man ovale oder runde Visitandine Formen, eckige Financiers oder Friands Formen oder Madeleines Backbleche benutzt, ergibt das Rezept ebenfalls 12 Stück.

  1. Erst die Backförmchen vorbereiten: zunächst mit weicher Butter ausstreichen, dann mit etwas Mehl bestäuben, dann die Förmchen ausklopfen (dabei das überschüssige Mehl ausschütteln). Den Ofen auf 180°C vorheizen.
  2. Die warme, flüssige Nussbutter in einem Topf bereit halten.
  3. In einem zweiten kleinen Topf das Mandelmehl mit dem Puderzucker und Vanillezucker mischen, dann die 4 Eiweiß dazu geben, verrühren und ganz leicht erwärmen. Von der Kochstelle nehmen und das Mehl, Salz, Nussbutter und Rum ebenfalls dazu geben und unterarbeiten bis eine homogene, glatte und relativ weicher Masse entstanden ist.
  4. Diese entweder in einen Spritzbeutel geben, oder mit einem Eisproportionierer arbeiten und in die vorbereiteten Kuchenformen geben, diese nur bis zu 3/4 füllen.
  5. Im vorgeheizten Ofen bei 180°C für ungefähr 15 bis 20 Minuten (abhängig von der Größe der Förmchen) goldgelb backen.
  6. Auf einem Kuchenrost etwas abkühlen lassen, dann noch lauwarm aus den Formen nehmen und weiter abkühlen lassen oder noch lauwarm servieren.
  7. Nach Wunsch mit Puderzucker bestreuen oder glasieren.

Gaston Lenôtre : "Les religieuses lorraines devaient être fort gourmandes tant sont nombreuses les pâtisseries dont on leur attribue la création. (...) leur imagination paraissait vouée aux sucreries et a laissé une forte empreinte dans les desserts régionaux ou bien peut-être ces derniers petits gâteaux ne furent-ils inventés que dans un noble souci d'économie, pour utiliser des blancs d'oeufs excédentaires. Comme les créations des religieuses de l'ordre de la Visitation Sainte-Marie étaient bonnes, on en vendit de plus en plus, et les pâtissiers les améliorèrent (...)".

Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a local radio station, where, throughout the years, I present different baked goods that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German)HERE.

The various recipes of my series can be found here:
  • in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
  • for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
  • for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
  • for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
  • for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
  • for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
  • for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
  • for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
  • for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
  • for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
  • for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
  • for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
  • for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE
  • for New Year's Eve New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
  • for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
  • for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE
  • for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE
  • for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE
  • for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
  • for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
  • for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE
  • for Pentecost/Whitsun these festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.


  1. Andrea, deine französische Mandelküchlein sehen sehr lecker aus . Sie haben eine sehr interessante Geschichte. Alles Liebe Gerlinde

    1. Liebe Gerlinde, Dankeschön für deinen netten Kommentar! Mandelküchlein französischer Art (Financiers/Friands/Visitandines) sind schon ganz schön lecker und haben in der Tat eine eher illustre Geschichte!
      Liebe Grüße nach Santa Cruz - ich hoffe, es geht euch gut!

  2. These cakes sound delicious. And I love that coffee cup you have in the background!

    1. Dear Jeff, thank you for stopping by! The lovely coffee cup hails from an Italian coffee roasting company located in the vicinity of Lake Garda (Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy). It happens to be one of my favorite cups plus it was a rather fitting prop for this blog post.
      Take good care of yourself!

  3. Oh Andrea, I have never heard of Visitandines de Nancy, and I am loving what I am reading in this post...almond is one of my favorite ingredients in desserts...this little gems look so delicious, delicate and again, love love how you decorate them...thank you so much for the inspiration.
    Have a great and safe week my dear!

    1. Dear Juliana, thank you for your wonderful comment! I am quite happy to read that you enjoy thes elovely little tea cakes - they are a cinch to make, have a wonderful aroma and texture and go so well with a cup of tea or coffee.
      From all the fabulous food that you posted on your blog, I know that you are doing well, my friend!
      All the best,

  4. Sometimes, my dear friend, I wonder if we share one brain. First it is the mention of carrot and radish tops for pest, but then around the same time as this post, I made financiers/visitandines! My post won't go live for several weeks, but want an amazing coincidence! I love the shape you make yours - mine are much simpler. XOX

    1. Well, dear David, you could be right about sharing one brain...and we do share certain tastes for certain foods, props, recipes and many other things, that's for sure. I believe that's why I really treasure our friendship!!!
      And I certainly enjoy our foodie connection!!!
      Sending you a big fat virtual hug!
      Andrea xo