Petit fours are tiny cakes and pastries. The name is french and means "tiny oven". The look and taste of a petit four varies greatly from country to country. In my country, Denmark, petit fours are usually small piped cakes made from a mixture of almond paste and eggwhite, that are baked and decorated with candied fruit, chocolate, jam or nuts. But most other recipes of petit fours I have seen, are made from cake and icing. The kind I will show here are made from an egg yolk sponge. The recipe produces a moist, dense sponge that is flexible, easy to handle and not too sweet. This caters to European tastebuds. You can use any recipe you like, if you want an American style petit four instead. Just bake your favorite yellow or white cake in 1" layers. Split the layer in two and sandwich with filling. Proceed as shown.
Start by making the cake. This recipe is from the Lambeth Method of Cake Decorating and Practical Pastries, by Joseph Lambeth. I added lemon zest. For a non-lemony cake, leave it out.
recipe makes one 16"x16" layer (40x40 cm)
4 large eggyolks (80 grams)
1 large egg
3½ Tbsp sugar (42 grams)
25 grams almond paste
1 tsp lemon zest
3 large eggwhites (115 grams)
2 Tbsp sugar (25 grams)
3/4 cup flour (70 grams)
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or in a rectangle pan.
Mix almond paste and the egg to a paste. Add yolks, lemon zest and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
In another bowl, whisk eggwhites and sugar to a glossy meringue. Fold into eggyolk mixture.
Sift flour and fold into the eggs. Be careful not to overmix the dough as it will flatten. Since there is no baking powder or baking soda in this cake, the air incorporated into the eggs is the only leavening agent there is.
Spread the batter into the baking sheet. It should be fairly thin, about 1/8" (0.5 cm). Bake for apprx 6 minutes until golden. Keep an eye on it so the edges won't burn. Transfer to cooling rack and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let cool completely.
When the cake is cool, turn the cake upside down on a fresh piece of parchment paper and peel the paper off the back. Be careful or it will tear.
Trim the cake and cut 4 squares, equal in size.
Spread a thin layer of lemon curd on 3 of the squares. Position on top of each other, placing the layer without lemon curd on top.
And now! Don't do what I did. I cut the pieces immediatly because I was in a hurry, which caused not-so-clean cuts. What you should do is to cover the cake and refrigerate or even better, freeze, for a few hours, preferably overnight. Then you can cut into squares about 1.5x1.5" (4x4 cm).
Place the squares on a cooling rack while you mix the poured fondant. Put a baking sheet with parchment paper under to catch the fondant drippings.
2 cups powdered sugar (275 grams)
2 Tbsp corn syrup or glucose
1/4 cup half water and half lemon juice (0.5 dl)
Yellow food coloring
For non-lemony cake, use all water.
Mix in a small saucepan and heat very gently on the lowest setting of your stove. The fondant should never be hot, but just slightly warm. Stir gently. Pour over the cakes, making sure every corner and side is covered. The drippings are scraped back in the saucepan, reheated and poured again until every cake is covered. If your cakes are nice and cold you should have no crumbs in the fondant. Otherwise you have to sieve it.
And this is where my laziness shows - the poured fondant reveals every single flaw I made when I cut unrefridgerated cake. Don't be like me!
The red spots demonstrates a common flaw - a naked corner. Pour more fondant over until completely covered and make sure to check every cake from all sides.
Let the fondant set a few hours and then decorate as desired. Here I used royal icing, but buttercream can be used as well as fruit, nuts and chocolate.
Tutorial and Photos by Sif Jensen. 2009 All rights reserved.