Petits Fours – Tiny Ovens and a Labor of Love

Petits Fours are one of my favorite cakes – so tiny and yet bursting with luscious sweetness. They dress up any dessert table. They make the perfect bite-size gifts in pretty little boxes all tied up with ribbons and bows. And such an adorable name – Petits Fours. The literal French translation is “tiny ovens”. Hum . . . as it turns out, Petits Fours were traditionally made in a smaller oven next to the main oven, thus the name for these tiny cakes.

I’m not a baker – I can bake, (and even enjoy baking) but it’s not really my strong point in the kitchen. I had searched high and low for a petit four recipe that was reasonably easy. The cakes themselves all seemed far too complicated. After much searching, I came upon a step by step recipe that seemed perfect – a cake recipe that was simple and straight forward, a two-step glazing process, then just a matter of decorating my little treasures to my heart’s content. So I baked up my first batch. What I didn’t realize when I made them was just how labor intense the fruit glazing process would be before reaching the final icing and decorating stage. Wow!

First, the cakes needed to be cut into little squares.  Each square was then glazed with a fruit glaze, allowed to dry, then stacked together to create tiny two-layer cakes, dried, glazed again with the final icing and finally decorated.

They were delicious! No doubt about it. But my word – very time-consuming. If you have a day or two set aside with nothing to do but glaze, ice and decorate tiny cakes the traditional way, by all means do so. They are to-die-for bites of heaven. However; I have since learned that there are options. I love to have options.

Rather than cut the entire cake into bite-size cakes at the beginning, cut the cake in half. Frost the top of one half with your favorite buttercream frosting or with a fruit preserve.  Top with remaining half of cake, then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for “filling” to set.

Remove cake from refrigerator, trim ends and cut into tiny squares. Skip the fruit glazing step completely, and go straight for the finishing icing or pourable fondant. Allow to dry, then decorate.

There is very little difference between the finishing Icing Glaze and the Pourable Fondant recipes – they are almost identical, with the exception of the use of candy melts in the Fondant. While the Icing Glaze allows you to store the little cakes in the refrigerator (great for make ahead Petits Fours or Petits Fours to be consumed over time), the Pourable Fondant will dissolve and drip off your cakes if placed in humid places such as a refrigerator (so no make ahead, and gobble them quickly). The Icing Glaze is thinner, while the Pourable Fondant is a thicker outer layer, with more even coverage.

Which option you use is entirely up to you.

Petits Fours – Cake
¼ Cup Butter, melted
¼ Cup Shortening
1 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
2/3 Cup Milk
3 Egg Whites

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Prepare pan for batter using favorite method (Grease/flour or brush with Wilton’s Cake Release)

In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar. Beat in the vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; GENTLY fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared baking pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto a plate or cooling rack; chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To make with fruit glaze: Remove cake from refrigerator. Cut a thin slice off each side of chilled cake. Cut cake into 1 ¼-inch squares. Place squares on a cooling rack, allowing about ½ inch between each square for working.

Place rack over a large pan to catch glaze.

Apply fruit glaze of your choice (Raspberry or Apricot) evenly over tops and sides of each cake square, allowing excess glaze to drip off. Let glaze dry. Repeat as necessary to coat square completely. Allow glaze to dry completely before proceeding with final icing.

Ingredients – Raspberry Fruit Glaze
12 oz Raspberry Preserves
2 Tablespoon Water
1 Tablespoons Chambord

Ingredients – Apricot Fruit Glaze
12 Oz Apricot Preserves
2 Tablespoon Water
1 Tablespoons Grand Marnier

To make fruit glaze, heat preserve with water and liqueur in a medium size saucepan over low heat.

Drizzle or brush fruit glaze over tops and sides of cooled petit fours. Repeat as necessary, keeping glaze warm.

If you prefer, cut glaze recipes in half, and glaze half the cakes with each glaze.

Once glaze has dried, ice squares with Petit Four Icing or Pourable Fondant.

Petit Four Icing Glaze
8 Cups Powdered Sugar
½ Cup Water
½ Cup Light Corn Syrup
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 ½-2 Teaspoons Almond Extract
Food Coloring Gel (optional)

Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler. Heat over boiling water to lukewarm.

Pour icing over tops and sides of petit fours. Once icing has set, repeat with a second coat.

After icing hardens, decorate as desired.

Pourable Fondant Icing
9 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/2 Cup Corn Syrup, warmed in the microwave
4 oz White Chocolate Candy Melts
2 Teaspoons Almond Extract
1/2 Cup to 1 Cub Water Warm adjust consistency for desired result

Place the sifted confectioners sugar in the bowl of a stand up mixer with the paddle attachment.
Add the warmed corn syrup and the melted chocolate all at once, and continue to mix smooth.

Add the warm water starting with a half cup first, then add more to adjust to your desired consistency for a pourable frosting.

Add extract.  If desired, tint with food coloring.

Place fondant into a disposable bag.  Clip off tip.  Squeeze large amounts along outer edge and center of stacked cakes.  Let excess drip off cakes.  Touch up sides as needed.

Once fondant has dried, decorate as desired.

For the final touch: Decorative finished cakes with little candies, edible sugar flowers or pipe buttercream for a finishing touch.

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