This week I bring to you four flavors of petit fours, because what’s life without a pun or four? Ironically, the “four” in petit four is actually French for “oven” (specifically, ovens of the small variety, hence “petit”), since these miniature entremets were literally made in a smaller oven located next to the main oven for baking everything else. So really, there’s nothing particularly four-ish about them, aside from, of course, the way they’re spelled. Nevertheless, seeing as summer break is finally upon me, and I suddenly have all the time in the world, I went all out for Mother’s Day with all 4 of Mom’s favorites – coffee, matcha, lemon, and raspberry, complete with little hearts and swizzles for garnish.
I also I bring to you slightly the misshapen proof that nothing is ever as easy as experts on the internet make it look. In retrospect, part of the reason that this whole dessert blogging adventure began was because I wanted to write more beginner friendly versions of the fancy recipes on the Internet – ones that include tips on tricky techniques that the professionals and virtuosos take for granted. So I suppose there was really no avoiding the inevitability of running across something that just doesn’t come out quite right.
At any rate, let it be said that petit fours look deceptively easy but most emphatically are not. Honestly, I thought that I was home free after the cutting step but in retrospect, everything really started to go downhill around the time that glazing began. It’s always the seemingly simple steps that have the most potential to go catastrophically wrong.
The good news, though, is that despite the wonkiness of the final product, they are quite delicious, and Mom loved them, which is really the entire point of baking for Mother’s Day. And with any luck, in a few months, after testing out a couple of modifications, we’ll find ourselves with a petit fours, take featuring perfectly cuboid tiny cakes.
Until then though, I’m afraid we’ll just have to muddle along with these rustic little treats. And we get to keep taste testing until we get it right. If at first you don’t succeed, enjoy the delicious stepping stones on the path to success, right?
Especially if they’re crumbly stepping stones that are particularly content in finding new life as adorable matcha cake pops. (Just add milk and dip into melted white chocolate!)
Hope you enjoy!
Assorted Petit Fours
Makes 12 petit fours (of a single flavor – quadruple the recipe to try all 4!)
Poured fondant recipe from King Arthur Flour
70 g (1/2 cup + 1 tbs) all purpose flour
60 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tbs hot water
1 tbs granulated sugar
For lemon or raspberry: + 1 tbs vanilla extract
For matcha: – 1 tbs flour, + 1 tbs matcha powder, + 1 drop green food coloring
For coffee: 1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp milk
1 tbs cream cheese, full or reduced fat
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tbs powdered sugar
For lemon: + 1 tbs lemon curd (see below)
For raspberry: + 1 tbs raspberry jam (see below)
For coffee or matcha: + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested (I recommend using organic because they’re waxless!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs corn starch dissolved in 1 tbs milk
1 drop yellow food coloring
6 oz raspberries, pureed
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs pectin
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tbs corn syrup
1/2 cup water
3 oz white chocolate chips
For lemon: + 1 drop yellow food coloring
For raspberry: + 2 drops red food coloring
For matcha: + 1/4-1/2 tsp matcha powder dissolved in 1/2 tsp water
For coffee: + 1/4 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1/2 tsp water
- Preheat the oven to 325 ºF. Using parchment paper, line the bottom of half of a quarter sheet pan (To section off half of the pan, make a divider as shown here).
- Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, yolk, and the 60 g of sugar (along with the respective add-in for each flavor) over heat by setting a large stainless steel bowl over a lightly simmering pot of water on the stove.
Tip: When you see large visible bubbles in the mixture, keep beating! Don’t stop until the foam is quite thick and you can lift your beaters out to form small peaks in the mixture that slowly collapse back in. Also, avoid cooking the eggs by keeping the water at a simmer and not a rolling boil.
- Sift flour into the whipped egg mixture and gently fold together until just combined. Fill the pans with batter, smoothing the top surface with a metal spatula and gently banging the pan against the top of your counter to dislodge some of the bubbles.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes for the half pan, 25-30 minutes for the full pan, or until the cake springs back when a finger is gently pressed to the center of an undivided pan (or 3/4 of the way from the edge of the pan to the divider).
- Allow the cake to cool, then press the cakes together top surface to top surface, wrap with saran wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
- After chilling, gently pry apart the two layers of cake using a sharp knife, peeling away the slightly sticky layer in between (from the two pressed-together top layers) to expose a dry, spongy exterior.
Tip: This peeled away sticky cake remnant is super conducive to cake pop making! No moisture needed – just smoosh together into a ball-like shape, poke in a kebab skewer, and dip in your leftover glaze or just plain melted white chocolate later!
- Dissolve the remaining granulated sugar in the hot water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush this sugar solution over the newly exposed surfaces of both layers. Set aside for later!
- Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.
- In another bowl, whip the heavy cream until the beaters leave a visible trail in the thickened mixture.
- Transfer the whipped cream into the whipped cream cheese, add any add-ins, and continue whipping until well mixed and the filling is the consistency of a light frosting.
- Spread a 1/4″ layer of filling over the brushed surface of one of the cake layers, leaving a 1/4″ border along each edge.
- Gently invert the other cake layer onto the filling layer such that the brushed surface lies against the filling. Wrap in saran wrap and chill for another 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- After chilling, make 2 cuts parallel to the long edge and 3 cuts parallel to the short edge such that the cake is divided into 3 x 4 = 12 squares. Set aside for glazing!
Tip: I’ve seen suggestions to place a layer of saran wrap over the tops of the cakes at this point and set a weighted baking pan on top of them to compress the cakes and prevent crumbling during glazing. Based on my struggles with crumbling cake, this suggestion is worth a try!
Lemon Curd and Raspberry Jam:
- Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan, then stir continuously while heating on medium high until boiling. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- In a small pot, mix together the water, powdered sugar, and corn syrup over medium heat until fully dissolved.
- Melt in the white chocolate chips and stir in any coloring mix-ins until well combined and no streaks remain.
- Arrange the sliced cakes on a cooling rack, keeping them at least 1 1/2″ apart from one another.
Tip: I like to do half of the batch at a time to minimize chances of dripping onto adjacent cakes while glazing.
- When the glaze is cool enough to comfortably pick up the bowl by the base, use a spoon to drizzle glaze over the cake until it is fully covered.
Tip: To prevent the glaze from causing the cake to topple or lean in one direction, start by dropping a large dollop of glaze over the center of the cake, then start drizzling one edge, the opposite edge, then the two remaining adjacent edges, letting the glaze drip down to cover the bottom of your cake.
Also, feel free to reheat and add additional water to adjust the consistency of the glaze. As the glaze starts to cool toward room temperature, microwave briefly for 8-10 seconds, then adjust the consistency such that the glaze flows in a flat ribbon when the surface of the glaze (or side of the bowl) is just cool enough to comfortably touch.
- Garnish with excess glaze of a contrasting color:
- To form a swizzle, fill one corner of a sandwich bag with glaze, snip off the tip, then pipe back and forth across a glazed cake along the diagonal.
- To form a tiny heart, dot 2 small drops of frosting about 1/8″ in diameter and about 1/16″ apart. Using a toothpick, imagine that the two dots are diagonal corners of an imaginary square, then drag the two dots together toward a 3rd corner of the square to form a sharp point there. Neaten the heart using the toothpick.
- Serve with copious amounts of tea. Enjoy!