Rachel Khoo's Pesto Cake Bites

A quick and adaptable pesto is one of the handiest things to have up your sleeve when you haven’t been to the shops but have some herbs to hand.

  • Preparation Time25 mins
  • Cooking Time15 mins
  • Serves30
  • DifficultyEasy

For the pesto

2 handfuls of sunflower seeds (around 100g)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls of herb or leaf of your choice whatever you have to hand, washed sea salt

Alternative ideas

Melted butter in place of oil
Herbs of choice / or strong flavoured leaves such as rocket, watercress, wild garlic, kale
Pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds
Pumpkin seeds
Parmesan or pecorino cheese - hard cheeses work best

For the financiers

100g butter, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
75g ground almonds
30g plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp sugar
3 eggs, separated
½ tsp salt
3-4 tbsp of the pesto above
150g cheese, olives, sundried tomatoes or leftover roasted vegetables (whatever you fancy really)


Put the sunflower seeds into a large dry pan over a medium heat. Toast until they start to pop and smell nutty. Take off the heat and add the oil, pour everything into a blender. Add the leaves of your chosen herb and some salt, then blitz until you have a slightly rough paste. Taste, and season with extra salt if required (it should taste slightly salty). 

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan and butter and flour a financier tin.

Start melting the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Carry on melting until the butter turns a dark golden brown (this is called beurre noisette), then immediately take the pan off the heat. 

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk the egg whites and salt to soft peaks in another bowl. 

Beat the egg yolks in a third bowl, and slowly incorporate the warm butter (if the butter is still very hot, it will curdle the eggs so let it cool). Sift the dry ingredients into the egg and butter mix and then fold in half the egg whites followed by the filling ingredients. Fold in the rest of the egg whites, then lightly stir through the pesto in swirls. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 12–15 minutes or until the cakes spring back when touched. Leave to cool in the tin. are best eaten the same day, but will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.


  1. A big batch of pesto is a great way of also using up herbs that might be going to waste, if they are a little on the wilted side fret not, the blender will disguise any unsightly blemish and the flavour will be just as good. 
  2. Depending on what you are using it for, you might want to vary the texture. I generally like it quite coarse if I'm using it on a tartine or dolloping it on roasting vegetables, but sometimes a finer grind works better for a sauce for pasta. 
  3. Store - if using in the next few days store in a jar, press it down and cover with a few mls of olive oil. This stops the air discoloring it. 
  4. I sometimes like to add a spritz of citrus to give it a bit of acidity, but if you are making the pesto ahead of time, this will make it turn a murkier green, so wait until you are just about to use it for the spritz.
  5. I often batch this pesto up. A really simple and useful way of storing it is to spread it out on a baking tray lined with parchment and freeze it in a thin rectangle. It’s compact for storing and you can just snap off the amount you need when it comes to using it. 
  6. It’s not just the herbs and nuts and seeds that are interchangeable, you can replace the extra virgin oil with butter or other oils you like.
  7. Add a handful of finely grated Parmesan cheese if you like and toss through some pasta. 
  8. If you want to be traditional about things, you can use a pestle and mortar, but I tend to opt for a blender for speed.