Known as Le Saint-Germain, the French almond cake was invented in 1920 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. It's also deliciously dosed with rum and topped with boozy icing.
Although the genuine recipe is a local secret by the creators at Patisserie Hardy, I have developed my own recipe for those of you who need a taste of Paris. Although usually with a tart base, it is also made without - making a moist, gluten free almond cake.
Known simply as le Saint-Germain, this almond-packed cake with a subtle hint of rum was created in 1920 by the Pâtisserie Hardy in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, between Paris and Versailles.
Le Saint-Germain: A Closely Guarded Secret Recipe
As you can imagine, I've tried all sorts of ways to be able to extract the recipe from the patisserie's creators on rue des Louviers. Each time, however, they make it clear that the secret recipe has never left the laboratory since it was created in 1920. So, what's a girl to do?
The answer? Taste as many Saint-Germain cakes as possible and develop as close to the recipe myself to share a part of our delicious royal town. That way you can taste what it's like if you can't get to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just outside Paris.
Le Saint-Germain Almond Cake Variations
In Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Le Saint-Germain almond cake is available also at the Patisserie Grandin in rue au Pain. While both versions are full of almonds and clearly have some bits of almonds in there too (not just powdered), Grandin's version is laced a lot more with rum. In fact, it's pretty boozy!
See much more on this cake and the sweet specialities in my online Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chocolate & Pastry Tour.
Not everyone loves rum but if you're like our family, we love it and a good splash in the icing is great. Add another tablespoon in the almond filling just for that extra oh-là-là kick.
Gluten Free French Almond Cake
When I first tasted le Saint-Germain made by my French friend, Liliane, she didn't serve the cake at all using sweet pastry like the patisserie versions. It was without the the tart shell and served as a plain with a glaze.
Then I discovered the magnificent version of Le Saint-Germain made by the Boulangerie-Patisserie l'Aigle d'Or. Theirs is a complete gluten free French almond cake, made without any tart shell base and without the glaze. If you make the recipe below and prefer to keep it gluten free, I suggest adding another egg to the cake to lighten it up to resemble this version.
Saint-Germain Almond Cake
Just like macarons, this cake tastes better when matured. So once you've made this try and forget about it for 24 hours, as it tastes even better after leaving it aside for a day to mature. It's really worth the wait. Try it for yourself and taste the difference.
After painstaking tasting sessions of developing the recipe with my daughter, Lucie, however, I'm happy with the result as it tastes just as good.
More on Saint-Germain
To help plan your next trip when in Paris, or simply enjoy some armchair travel around France, see my gourmet travel posts:
- an introduction to Saint-Germain-en-Laye,
- my self-guided tour of chocolate and pastry in Saint Germain.
Also find out other speciality recipes that were created here, including the Sauce Béarnaise.
French Almond Tart with Chestnut Filling
Inspired by a Moelleux au Marron by chef Claire Demon's Du Pain et des Gâteaux in Rue du Bac, this extra chestnut filling with the almond is an extra treat! Spread a layer of chestnut and vanilla paste at the bottom of the tart base (about 3 tablespoons) and top with the rest of the almond filling. This is excellent served during the festive season! On top of the rum glaze, decorate with one or two marrons glacés (candied chestnuts).
Love chestnuts? Discover all about them and more recipes from the Chestnut page from our local French market.
More French Almond Cakes
Looking for the name of the famous small French almond cakes? They're called Financiers, our little almond teacakes (like friands) - get the Financier cake recipe, an extract from my book, Teatime in Paris.
French Almond Cake (Le Saint-Germain)
Sweet Pastry Base (optional):
- 125 g (4.5oz) butter (unsalted) softened
- 75 g (3oz) icing (powdered) sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt (fleur de sel)
- 1 egg (organic)
- 250 g (9oz) plain flour (all-purpose)
- 100 g (3.5oz) unsalted butter softened
- 75 g (3oz) sugar
- 2 eggs (organic) at room temperature
- 100 g (3.5oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
- 1 tablespoon good quality rum optional
- 25 g (1oz) slivered almonds
- 4 tablespoon icing (powdered) sugar
- 2 tablespoon good quality rum
Sweet Pastry (optional):
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4/360°F.
- Beat the butter, sugar and salt together in a mixer or by hand until pale and creamy. Gradually add the other ingredients until well combined then split the dough in two, cover in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour. (You won't need all of this dough - you can freeze the rest or keep it for up to 3 days.)
- Remove from the fridge until easily workable. Roll out the pastry to 3-4mm thickness on a floured surface then press into a 24cm (9") tart ring or into a pie case. Leave to set in the fridge for 20 minutes then blind bake by topping with baking parchment and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. (For a more detailed step-by-step recipe, see my chapter on tarts in 'Teatime in Paris'.) Set aside to cool on a wire rack once turned out.
Almond Cream Filling:
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the eggs, ground almonds and rum if using. Sprinkle the slivered almonds on the base of the baked pastry base then spread on the almond filling. Bake further in the oven for 25 minutes (same temperature as above). Set aside to cool then chill for 24 hours or overnight in the fridge.
- Mix together the icing (powdered) sugar with the rum and spread the glaze on to the cooled almond tart.
Since I have to be gluten free, I am going to make only the "topping" as a separate cake. Where do the sliced almonds go? On the top of the cake? I may even try the pastry with gluten free flour! Thank you. It looks divine.
Put the almonds either in the bottom before the batter or sprinkle on top - up to you. If you try this with your gluten free flour, please tell me how it goes. Thanks, Alene.
How happy I am to find this recipes!
Thanks a lot.
But something not clear for me when you filled up the almond cream in the pate à tarte you need to bake at 180 degrees also right?
When you need to let it cool down its in the fridge or room temperature ?
I am so glad you like this recipe, Jessica.
Yes, the temperature is the same at 180°C for baking further with the almond filling (I have now added this in the recipe just to make this 100% clear). Cooling the tart down first is at room temperature then chill in the fridge. Jill x
Thanks for the response ! It went so well I added some stuff as we dont feel the separation between the dough ans the cream turn exactly as St germain bakery one ! How thankful am to you !!!! 🙂 my husband grew up with that pastry 🙂 .
If I want to make small one how long do you think the baking time will be please? Thanks !
So happy you liked the recipe and reminded you of the St Germain bakeries your husband grew up with. Of course it won't be exactly the same, as I leave these for the genuine patisseries to continue their secret recipe but it's the best I could come up with and feel it's pretty close! As a matter of interest, what was the "some stuff" you added? I personally love the addition of the chestnut paste but then it's no longer a Saint-Germain.
For a small one, you mean a tartlet? If so, I'd suggest baking 10-15 minutes then a further 15-20 minutes with the almond cream. Happy baking!
thank you for the answer ! I will try small size. I spread the bottom of the pie crust almost the same thickness as the almond cream so that you don't feel too much the separation of the cream and the pie dough in your mouth - to my memories we do not feel any separation between the crist and cream we know there is two different texture but same time feel one is the "continuité " of each other so was worried about it and décided to think of something 🙂 I did not put the slivered almonds. I put almond powder in the pie crust and I baked the pie crust for a shorter time (alone) 5 minutes before the end of baking I covered my pie base with a thin layer of egg yolk + icing sugar for a little more caramelized taste. I just changed that 🙂 🙂
Interesting - thanks for sharing, Jessica. I love having to taste these from the patisserie on a regular basis and make my own just to keep up to date. The Hardy's original Saint-Germain put slivered almonds on the base after doing a cross-section, so that's why I add them. Glad you like it!
I’m late to the party...but this is delicious! Excellent recipe...Merci!
Thanks Kathy - so glad you like it!
Love almond cakes, especially since my husband is diabetic and they are low carb. I simply substitute stevia, swerve or xylitol for the sugar and it works perfectly. Will be trying this soon but need some help with the ounce/gram conversion. I don't have a scale and know that although 100 g = 3.5 oz by weight, it's not the same as 3.5 oz by measuring cup (which would be not even 1/2 cup). Could you help me out with the conversions? Thanks!
You're not going to like this but I'm afraid I totally recommend investing in digital scales. They really don't cost much (they come in all forms and even the cheapest easily available at supermarkets these days are fine). Seriously, your baking will be so much easier by using them. Please see my post here why using digital scales will give you good, consistent results each time. The French won't use anything else in making French patisserie. So glad you've found the best sugar substitutes for your husband.
I do love a good almond cake and this one looks superb. Rum is completely unexpected for some reason, but I'm definitely up for trying it. But how tough for you to have to taste test so many Saint-Germain almond cakes 😀
Totally agreed on the rum surprise, Choclette, but love how it works! Yes, loved doing a bit of delicious local research! Thanks for sharing. Bon week-end!
Almond is my favourite flavour so this tart sounds like heaven
Well this is certainly for you, Janice! Enjoy - thanks for popping in!
This cake looks and sounds absolutely fantastic, Jill and I bet you got it really close to the original in your own recipe! Who doesn't love rum? Can't wait to try this! 🙂
It took a few tastings, believe me Christina (someone had to do it all in the name of research!) and the family are happy taste-testers, as I'm sure you have your dose too!
This was so fun to make and SO delicious! I shared it with my neighbor, who immediately texted me for the recipe. My tart pan was 11-1/4 inches, or 28 cm, so I used more than half of the pastry and that should have been my clue to double the glaze. But, in my excitement, it wasn’t - so my glaze appeared as a shiny sheen. If all you have is a large tart tin, it’s still every bit as delicious, just not as “cakey” & needs minor adjustments. I’m going to make it again in one of my smaller tins.
It’s perfect for summer with fresh raspberries! And so easy to make ahead for guests.
Thanks so much for your feedback, Kathy - thrilled you and your neighbour liked the recipe. Jings - I forgot to precise the size of tart ring I used so have updated, merci! I use a 24cm (9inch) ring of only 2cm height but this is the kind of recipe that a few grams/oz won't make a huge difference. As you can see from the photos of the patisseries' versions, the glaze is very thin so your shiny sheen is also great. You're right - it's a perfect dessert to make in advance and great with berries.
Made this cake for my Mum's birthday last Sunday. It was delicious.
Thrilled to hear, Lesley. Happy belated birthday to Margaret!
oh dear where did my comment go? just saying this sounds delicious. cheers sherry
Thanks, Sherry. Don't worry about posting comments - I just have to approve them before they appear, simply to avoid the spam. Appreciate you leaving your kind words here!
this sounds delicious Jill. Reminds me of having a black forest cake made with a shortcrust base. no one seems to do that anymore:) cheers sherry
That sounds good too, which reminds me I need to post something re Black Forest with cherries and chocolate! This is just plain almond with rum and although sounds so simple, it's incredibly good!
Jill, thank you sharing this wonderful recipe. I am going to have a go at making it over the next two weeks and will post the pictures of how it turns out. Watch that space (although I am going to take it to work as I am worried about my waistline ...! I will eat it - it looks so delicious. Thank you again for the lovely pics with the recipe. Just great.
It's a real pleasure, Liz. Great idea to share this cake at work, as it is a bit compulsive eating. Great with all the lovely fresh berries just now!
I didn't know about the Saint Germain cake. Thanks for sharing this Jill - looks good! Loving your posts about Saint Germain - I need to visit. No idea about the Sauce Béarnaise either!
Oh you would love to visit Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Jean. It's just a quick RER A ride from Paris and full of interesting things to see and do - and eat!
Great post! Had no idea about this cake - it sounds scrumptious Jill
Thanks, Dave. I think the town should be making more of this cake, as it's a hidden gem here. It's also a very easy recipe!