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Poached Kumquat & Almond Cakes

Kumquat & Almond Cakes

I love this time of year for so many reasons. They hit me with a bit of nostalgia in the afternoon but they all revolve around the same flavors and scents. I found myself humming our favorite Christmas story. He caught me starring at the skyline while my mom was describing the snow back home. He noticed I let the cardamom pods linger on the countertop a little while. That’s the holidays too. So I close my eyes and just imagine.


Chocolate. Thick as ganache and strong as coffee hot chocolate. Cardamom. My mom’s Swedish cardamom rolls, Roasted chestnuts. Piping hot snack we would get on the streets of Paris while visiting my grandparents. Oolong tea. The perfect cup to warm you up in the afternoon. Clementines and kumquats. One of my favorite Winter dessert.

Kumquat & Almond Cakes

A yogurt and a clementine or a handful of kumquats was by far the most common dessert at our house during Winter. My mom has this gigantic wooden fruit bowl for everyday dinners that I love. Not because of what it is but because of what it promises. Comes Winter and it is a cornucopia of lychees, citrus, pears, nuts and dates. Snapping the citrus skin to smell their natural oils to feel instantly energized was however my favorite part.

Poached Kumquats

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it only took a glance over the kumquats at the store to instantly feel the promises of clean, fresh and vibrant desserts. It brought about the biggest skip in my step and the urge to come home and start baking. I know, I know…it’s all about the chocolate this time of year but I got to tell you, after rolling 3 pounds of truffles, I needed a break.

I started slicing and seeding a couple of pints of kumquats and was almost instantly transported back to my parents' home. I had no idea what I was going to make for sure. I only had the beginning of a plan you see. My mind had stopped at poached kumquats. Once I had done those, I started popping them in my mouth like they were candies and figured I’d better come with a plan fast or there would not be many left to share with B.

Kumquat & Almond Cakes

Fate would have it that I had decided to explore some of my favorite dessert book again and had bookmarked pretty much the entire citrus section in Hidemi Sugino’s The Dessert Book. I can easily bookmark all the recipes in the book actually. There are handful of pastry chefs I would follow blindly in the kitchen. Sugino is definitely one of them. His desserts are clean and yet complex, refined and yet simple. His recipe bring out the inquisitive quality of each of us and makes you wan to imagine dishes like he did.

My mind quickly settled on a promising recipe for little tea cakes chock full of kumquat compote, poached kumquats and almonds. The compote is made by poaching sliced kumquats until tender and pureeing the whole thing, rind and pulp, together which adds the perfect hint of bitterness to cut down the sweetness of the cakes. Every bite makes made us slow down, close our eyes and just sigh.

Because we wholeheartedly approve. Hope you do to!

Kumquat & Almond Cakes

Kumquats and Almond Tea Cakes, adapted from Hidemi Sugino:

Makes 12

For the cakes:
1/2 cup (70gr) millet flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cup (150gr) powdered sugar, unsifted
4 medium eggs
1 cup (100gr) ground almonds
1/2 cup reserved kumquat compote (recipe follows)

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve.
Butter the insides of cake tins (your preference) and place on a baking sheet. Reserve.
Heat the oven to 350F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and ground almonds and mix another 30 seconds. Fold in the kumquat compote with a spatula. Divide the batter in between your prepared tins, top with either fresh or poached kumquat slices and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown(the larger the tins the more baking time will be needed)

For the kumquat compote:
1 cup kumquats, halved and seeded
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

Place the kumquats, sugar and water in medium saucepan over medium high heat and slowly bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes, covered, until the kumquats are translucent. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, drain the kumquats from the syrup, reserve a few slices and puree in a food processor adding 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of the reserved syrup as you go along. (it should look and feel like thick marmelade). Reserve.

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Sanjeeta kk December 22, 2010 um 5:36 am

What lovely cakes out there. Wish you could have clicked the creative molds too.

Helene December 22, 2010 um 6:05 am

Sanjeeta kk: I found them at an antique store in town so that'd be a bit difficult.

notyet100 December 22, 2010 um 8:44 am

ur posts always make me nostalgic,..

Fragolina December 22, 2010 um 12:00 pm

Beautiful pictures!! I would love to taste kumquat in a dessert, I bet it's delicious. Happy Holidays.

A Plum By Any Other Name December 22, 2010 um 12:44 pm

This sounds fantastic. I am always perplexed with how to handle kumquats, so I am glad I finally have some direction. These gorgeous little cakes look like the perfect way to get my feet wet!

LimeCake December 22, 2010 um 12:47 pm

I was just thinking the moulds you used for these cakes are so unique! This looks like a refreshing respite from all the heavy sweets of Christmas. Happy holidays, Helen!

Sally – My Custard Pie December 22, 2010 um 2:02 pm

A visual feast as always. I can't buy these but my neighbour grows them so I might have to go and ask her for some.

Rut December 22, 2010 um 2:16 pm

Continuo a seguirla e i suoi dolci sono buoni e belli.Le foto?Cosa posso mai dire,la luce che emanano sono eccezzonali.Rut

Jessica December 22, 2010 um 2:28 pm

Absolutely wonderful! I'm in north Florida and have 2 mature sweet kumquat trees that are loaded with fruit! These will be a wonderful way to enjoy them, thank you!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate December 22, 2010 um 2:41 pm

As always, a beautiful post. I too love "popping" the Kumquats like candy and have never gotten around to baking with them. Your post is a delicious reprieve from chocolate; although, I'm not sure when I'll be ready for a chocolate break 🙂

The Iconic December 22, 2010 um 3:28 pm

What a lovely post!xx

momgateway December 22, 2010 um 4:20 pm

..kumquats are not available where I live but I can imagine how yummy these must be… I'm an almond cake girl

DessertForTwo December 22, 2010 um 4:49 pm

These are gorgeous! I could use a break from chocolate these days too 🙂

Heather December 22, 2010 um 5:13 pm

What a beautiful post. I love the light green ribbon on the mug and the light green sifter. You truly are a food stylist. Also, how lucky that you have grandparents to visit in Paris!! Happy holidays!

~Heather from Snacktive

Melissa December 22, 2010 um 5:14 pm

this post actually makes me wish for January, when these treats are more plentiful here and brighten up the post Christmas gloom. Lovely, as always.

Micki December 22, 2010 um 8:16 pm

Sorry for what is probably a silly question, but I am a novice baker. 🙂 When you say cake tins, what do you mean by that? I ask because what I know to be cake tins are large round pans (like a traditional american birthday cake). But obviously your picture shows the cakes to be much smaller.

Again, so sorry for the dumb question, but I love your blog and since I am gluten-free, I am excited to try this for the holiday!

Helene December 22, 2010 um 8:20 pm

Micki: any cake tins that you would like to use as long as you can divide the batter in 12 so that can be muffins tins, financiers tins, canneles tins, deep shell tart tins, etc…

Micki December 22, 2010 um 8:24 pm

Thank you so much! I assumed as much, but I am pressed for time and didn't want to have to do trial and error! 🙂
Happy Holidays to you and your family.

keiko December 22, 2010 um 8:25 pm

Helene, this is lovely and you are lucky to have those fresh kumquats. I have Sugino's other book and it's full of inspirational recipes too – I hope you can visit his patisserie in Tokyo one day, you won't be disappointed. Have a lovely Christmas and a new year!

Géraldine de Papillehot December 22, 2010 um 9:06 pm

L'année dernière, j'ai fait un tartare aux kumkats…la recette est sur mon blog et j'avais adoré 🙂

Dewi December 22, 2010 um 9:30 pm

Wishing you and your love one a happy and wonderful Holiday season Helene.

Ginger G December 23, 2010 um 1:47 am

… thank you for this beautiful looking and tasting GF recipe!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The InTolerant Chef ™ December 23, 2010 um 2:58 am

What a lovely delicate looking little cake. Merry Christmas!

Sunshinemom December 23, 2010 um 4:01 am

Love the recipe and the cakes! Wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Unknown December 23, 2010 um 7:15 am

those look so delicious! but those plates are absolutely gorgeous! I'm in love, where would one pick some up, I wonder??

Helene December 23, 2010 um 7:23 am

The Pantry Drawer:

Hilda December 23, 2010 um 9:12 am

What a lovely cakes, they look wonderful.


Alina December 23, 2010 um 11:01 pm

Such beautiful, dainty cakes! And perfect pictures too! I've never tried baking with Kumquats before.

Stephanie December 24, 2010 um 12:41 am

A ribbon 'round your mug to remind you to enjoy this nibble

Cynthia December 24, 2010 um 4:10 am

Beautiful as always.

Happy Holidays.

Anonymous December 24, 2010 um 7:17 pm

I love the look of these cookies. I found something called a limequat last weekend (in Brussels, and I insisted on buying them and carrying them back across to London). This could be an interesting idea. Look beautiful dusted with icing sugar.

Merry Christmas!

Unknown December 29, 2010 um 9:13 pm

this is beautiful. it looks lovely.

Lauren December 29, 2010 um 11:28 pm

Gorgeous! I just baked these using muffin tins, and it actually made 24 of them for anybody who is interested in doing it the same way. Mine also turned out quite moist, but they taste wonderful anyway. Your cakes look drier in your photos, and I think I would have preferred mine to be like that. I wonder if my compote was too soupy.

Helene December 29, 2010 um 11:35 pm

Lauren: ours were very moist too.

Isa January 6, 2011 um 3:40 am

I had never used kumquats so when I saw them at the grocery store I decided to go for it! They were a little dry (not exactly native fruits to Minnesota…) but the compote turned out great. I made them in small barquettes molds and added a few drops of almond extract. They were moist, sweet, almost madeleine-like with that little hint of bitterness that reminded me of my grandma's confiture d'oranges. Have you ever tried making these with apricot jam instead of compote? I might give it a try… Merci Hélène de m'avoir inspirée une fois de plus! Bonne année!

Chrystal January 17, 2011 um 2:02 pm

Beautiful! We are baking these tonight. Any chance you could share where you sourced these lovely white plates from?

Cytomel January 26, 2011 um 12:18 pm

This is just beautiful.

Child brain development June 21, 2011 um 10:57 am

Its good to see some stuff cakes.

Meaghan July 23, 2011 um 10:27 pm

These are lovely little teacakes. I made them on a rainy day in Chicago and my husband, who in general absolutely detests any gluten-free pastry, adored them and couldn't stop eating them! I didn't have kumquats, so I made them with some rhubarb-strawberry preserves that I had in the freezer from earlier this year. Thank you for a great g-f cake recipe!

Belle (tinkeringinthekitchen) December 3, 2011 um 1:29 pm

what a delicious sounding (and looking!) recipe! Im going to grab a coffee and read more, so glad i found your blog 🙂 Belle

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