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French Almond Cake | Pain de gênes

Pain de Genes, AKA Genoa bread (though it isn’t at all bread like), or French almond cake, is a delicious classic. No one knows exactly when the cake was invented but legend has it that the recipe for the cake dates back to 1805, when Napoleon annexed the city of Genoa. After years of siege, there were only 50 tons of almonds left to eat, and a local pastry chef invented this cake and named it “Pain de Gênes“. Made with marzipan, it has a dense texture and makes a good base cake and is also scrumptious served with a sauce or fresh fruit (see chef’s notes below).

Recipe makes 2 cakes, each serving 6

Active time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Storage: Up to 4 days in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer, wrapped airtight

2 × 7-in. (18-cm) round cake pans
2 × 7-in. (18-cm) rounds of parchment paper Stand mixer fitted with the paddle beater


7 tbsp (3½ oz./100 g) butter + more for the pans
⅔ cup (1¾ oz./50 g) sliced almonds
13¼ oz. (375 g) marzipan, roughly chopped
6 eggs (1¼ cups/280 g)
1½ tbsp (15 g) All purpose flour (plain flour)
1½ tbsp (15 g) potato starch
1 tsp (5 ml) Grand Marnier
1 tsp (5 ml) aged rum


Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas Mark 6). Grease the pans with butter and line the bases with the rounds of parchment paper to prevent the cakes, which are fragile, from sticking. Press the sliced almonds around the sides of the pans, removing any that do not stick.

Beat the marzipan on slow speed in the bowl of the stand mixer until malleable and smooth.

Add the eggs, one by one, and beat for 5 minutes on medium speed after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture should be light and airy.

Sift the flour and potato starch into a bowl.

Melt the butter in a saucepan until foaming. Remove from the heat. Whisk in about one-quarter of the marzipan mixture, then the Grand Marnier and rum.

Gently fold the flour and potato starch into the marzipan mixture in the bowl. Slowly pour in the butter mixture and fold it in using a spatula.

Divide the batter between the pans, filling them three-quarters full.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4) and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until the cakes are golden and the tip of a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool completely in the pans before carefully inverting them onto flat serving plates, with the parchment paper uppermost. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Chef’s Notes

These cakes can be served with chocolate sauce or vanilla custard sauce, or with a fresh fruit coulis. They are also delicious on their own, with a cup of tea.

Extracted from French Pastries and Desserts by Lenôtre: 200 Classic Recipes Revised and Updated (Flammarion, 2021). Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

Love French cakes? Here’s a recipe for beer tart – sweet, decadent and delicious!

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