Petits fours are a classic treat that are the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea. They may look dainty and complex, but they’re actually quite simple. With just a little patience and practice, you’ll be wowing all your friends with these elegant pastries.
What you need:
- 1 recipe Yellow Cake (see below)
- 1 1/2 cups (350 mL) raspberry jam
- 1/2 cup (115 g) marzipan (almond paste)
- Redpath Icing Sugar (for rolling out the marzipan)
- 1 recipe Poured Fondant (see below)
For the Yellow Cake:
- 2 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp (320 g) pastry or cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) Redpath Granulated Sugar
- 2 tsp (10 g) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp (2 g) baking soda
- 3/4 tsp (3 g) salt
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (87 g) unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup (250 mL) water
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) milk
- 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) vanilla extract
For the Poured Fondant:
- 2 1/2 cups (600 g) Redpath Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) light corn syrup
- candy thermometer (available at most large grocery, household, & kitchen supply stores)
- food processor
- food colouring (optional)
How to prepare:
For the Yellow Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush a 12×17 baking sheet with oil or melted butter, then line with parchment paper, using enough so that it hangs over the sides. (Brushing the pan with butter will help the parchment paper stick to the pan and prevent it from sliding around.)
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat the butter until fluffy, then add in the lemon zest. Stir in the water and lemon juice. If the mixture looks slightly curdled, don’t worry, it will come together once you add the flour.
4. Alternate adding in the dry ingredients and the milk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour, mixing until everything has been well incorporated.
5. Pour the cake batter into the parchment lined pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the edges of the cake are golden and the centre springs back to your touch.
6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan until just warm, about 15 – 25 minutes. When cool enough to handle, carefully lift it out of the pan (using the parchment paper) and transfer to a cutting surface.
7. Using a serrated knife, slice off the edges of the cake (these will make great snacks for any hungry onlookers). Cut the cake into quarters as evenly as possible; we recommend using a ruler to make your cuts as accurate as possible. Then, very carefully, slice each quarter in half. Don’t worry if the cake gets a little ripped; once the layers have been stacked and coated in fondant, the rips won’t show.
8. Warm the raspberry jam (this will make it easier to spread), then spread it evenly over one of the sliced cake layers. You won’t need much jam, just enough to cover each cake layer. Stack the other layers, alternating with cake and jam. You should end up with two stacks of four layers each. Trim the edges of the cake to neaten them.
9. Divide the marzipan in half. Knead it until it softens and becomes workable, then roll out each portion, using icing sugar to keep the marzipan from sticking. Roll it out into a thin layer that is larger than your cake.
10. Brush one side of the marzipan with water to make it sticky, then gently place it on top of one cake stack, sticky side down. Trim the edges with scissors or a very sharp knife. Repeat for the second cake stack. Cut the edges to clean up any roughness. Cover cake with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to let it set for several hours or overnight. This will help the jam set and the cake hold together.
For the Poured Fondant:
1. In a medium-sized pot, gently stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Heat the mixture, without stirring, to the soft-ball stage, 238°F (114°C). Use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature for the most accurate results.
2. As soon as the sugar mixture reaches soft-ball stage, pour it into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Let the syrup cool to 140°F (60°C).
3. Once the syrup has cooled to the correct temperature, add food colouring (if you so desire), then process the syrup on high until it changes from a glassy syrup to an opaque paste. The fondant is now ready to use, but if not using immediately, let it cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to use it, warm it in the microwave for 30 second intervals until it liquifies.
To assemble the Petits Fours:
1. Once your cake has set and the fondant is ready to be used, remove the cake from the fridge and score the marzipan with a sharp knife to divide each cake into small squares. Carefully slice the cakes into small squares, following the scoring lines. Cover the cake with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out as you finish making the petits fours.
2. Get out a cooling rack and place it on top of a sheet of parchment paper. Have your petits fours close at hand, as well as your fondant. You may find your fondant will cool and thicken as you’re making the petits fours; if this happens, simply microwave it for 15 second intervals until smooth and drippy again.
3. Use a fork to gently dip each of the petits fours in the fondant. Start with the ugliest pieces until you get the hang of the process. Make sure to get the petits fours coated entirely in fondant.
4. Place the dipped petits fours on the cooling rack. If the fondant coating looks uneven, use a spoon to pour extra over the top of the petits fours. Let them set until the fondant is hardened. When removing them from the cooling rack, you may find you’ll need to use a sharp knife to take them off cleanly. To decorate them, you can drizzle a bit of melted chocolate (white, dark, or milk) over the them, top them with pearls, piped buttercream, molded marzipan, or sprinkles. The petits fours will keep for several days, covered at room temperature.