Pointed pinkies only, please: petits fours with poured fondant icing

poured-fondant-icing

Remember the good laugh we had over “grownup” food in our recent bread pudding post? Foods that, when you were younger, only grown-ups ate; and we kids couldn’t for the life of us figure out why?

For me, count petits fours in with sardines and stuffed peppers. Blame it on my brother Mark, who tricked me into eating one with Grand Marnier and marzipan when I was younger. I never thought I would get the sweet, potent orange flavor off my 10-year-old Twinkie-lovin’ taste buds.

Luckily, while I still hold a grudge against Mark for that, I’ve tried other petits fours since, and have grown to really love the complex flavors of the fillings playing against the cakes and icings.

And the best thing I’ve found is that with their tiny size, you can try several different flavors and still not eat the equivalent of a whole piece of cake.

Reality check first. Petits fours are a project, and require some special attention. BUT, we’re here together and have pictures to help us all along the way; so let’s begin our Petits Fours with Poured Fondant Icing.

For these petits fours, I wanted to try out different shapes and different fillings. A frozen layer of cake is the perfect jumping off point. Thaw the cake at room temperature for about 15 minutes, to soften it up just a bit but still get the benefits of working with frozen cake.

I’ve used a 9″ layer of our Golden Vanilla Cake, but you can tailor the cake and fillings to your favorites. Our Golden Vanilla cake recipe is a good place to start.

Use a sharp biscuit or cookie cutter to cut through the layers of mostly frozen cake.  See how neat the cuts are, with no crumbs to speak of? Just what you need for smooth petits fours.

All through the petits fours journey, crumbs will be known as the enemy, and will be avoided at all costs. Keep a pastry brush nearby to brush them away often.

Square cutters work well, too. Steady, even pressure is key to straight-sided morsels.

Wonderful! This whole array of cakes came from a single 9″ layer. Sweeeet.

If you’d like to fill some of the cakes with jams or jelly, use a sharp, serrated knife to gently cut three layers from the mini cake. You’ll want to trim the top off the cake as well, so that the baked brown top doesn’t show through the translucent icing.

In truth, it would have been easier to trim the top off the whole layer, but I started cutting rounds before I remembered that. Learn from my bad.

A tiny dab of jam is plenty for each layer. You don’t want the jam squeezing out the sides, so spread it to just short of the edge.

Press the layers of cake and jam back together and gently tamp each side on your work surface to press any loose crumbs back onto the cake.

Once all of your cakes are filled, set them aside in the freezer while you make your Poured Fondant Icing.

Melt 1 cup of white chocolate over very low heat. White chocolate is much more sensitive than dark chocolate; you really need to baby it a bit. Stir often, don’t leave it alone, and you’ll be fine.

In a heat-proof bowl place:
4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup hot water

Stir until quite smooth, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Avoid stirring too vigorously; bubbles are not your friend here.

Add the melted white chocolate, vanilla extract, and any coloring you’re using. Just a small dab of gel paste coloring on the end of a toothpick is plenty for a soft pastel shade.

Stir until very smooth. Most likely your fondant will have thickened and cooled a bit, so it needs to be heated gently to get it to a pourable consistency.

Place the bowl over gently simmering water and stir constantly (remember, avoid those bubbles). The heat will cause the fondant to become warm and thin. Shoot for 100°F if you have a thermometer to test the icing.

When ready, the fondant should pour easily off your spoon or spatula. If not, thin with a little more hot water until it flows.

Now we’re ready for dipping.

We’ve gone green here in our kitchens, so I couldn’t find a plastic fork to make into a dipping tool. I did manage to snag Susan’s real live chocolate dipping fork, though.

Place one cake on the tool and use a spoon or ladle to pour fondant over the whole cake. Check all over to make sure you didn’t miss any sides or corners.

You’ll want to do a thorough job on the first dip. Just like at the guacamole bowl, double dipping is a no-no. As our pastry chef Frank said, “The second coat makes the errors in the first coat that much more obvious.”

Tap the fork gently on the side of the bowl to encourage the last drips to fall off.

Place the cake on a rack to finish dripping and to set. This will take about an hour or so. You’ll need a thin, sharp knife to cut the cakes off the rack later.

Repeat until all the cakes are coated.

Pastel colors look best for these little treats. I’m pretty partial to pink today.

Parchment paper is going to be your good friend when working with poured fondant. It will be there to catch the drips, and keep your surfaces clean.

If you prefer not to use cutters, you can slice the cake into horizontal layers and fill all at once.

Slice with a very sharp knife into equal-sized squares. Depending on the size of your cake, you may end up with some odd-sized leftovers. They make nice nibbles for the baker (that’s you) as you work.

Especially with a little swish of buttercream on top!

As you can see, for this batch I used buttercream and strawberry jam for one layer; buttercream and blackberry jam for the other.

To decorate your petits fours, place a little of the warm fondant in a piping bag or zip-top bag with a small hole snipped in the end. Squeeze gently to pipe swirls, stripes, and zigzags over the cakes.

The pearly white fondant over the shimmery pink cake is quite elegant.

Isn’t that lovely? Tender cake; rich, fruity jam, and sweet icing in a personal little package.

As you can see, this does take a little more time and attention than just icing cupcakes. I’m not sure I’d want to do hundreds for a wedding, but I enjoyed making a couple dozen to share with my fellow employee-owners, and they enjoyed the special feeling that comes with having a tiny tasty treat in the middle of the week.

Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Poured Fondant Icing.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. sandra (Alicante)

    Mmmmm. As a kid I used to like a certain brand of these cakes. I seem to remember there was no jam in the middle but a small round of synthetic cream just under the icing. Never really tasted of anything, they always looked better than they tasted! Makes me long for outdoor tea parties, complete with ladies in long skirts and parasols!
    Frank, our pastry chef, was saying that when he worked at the Ritz, all petit fours had a layer of marzipan under the icing to ensure a perfectly flat top. I bet the ones you had had the cream there for the same reason.
    I’ll let you know when I break out my summer skirts after this blasted snow goes away!! :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. "Paul from Ohio"

    Lovely, but not really “my cup of tea”…and hey, I don’t even like tea! On the other hand, I wish I was there to try a couple of bites! And PINK? Probably not, but bright red, green, blue with a sprinkle of mini-white chocolate chips might work! And for your next project!!!
    Okay, I admit it may be a little on the girly-girly side for some people. BUT they are very tasty. I will have to try a batch with more outrageous colors. I bet I could leopard print some… or zebra stripes or … ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. cadfael

    I am going to make these for a “high tea”birthday party that my 8 year old grand daughter and I am putting together for my Step Mother Euphemia (from Scotland) on April 12. I am doing the finger sandwiches, homemade savoury shortbread with hot pepper jelly, scones and berries, mini shortbread cups filled with lemon curd, tulles and now these. It will be ladies only with best china in the afternoon. Because everything is timing-I was wondering if you have suggestions regrading the making and decorating of these ahead of time, storing etc. The more I can do ahead, the better. Your pictures are great, and looked like these would be perfect for the occasion. I love the pink and white! Thank you!
    The party sounds delightful! To make these ahead of time, bake and fill the cakes, then cut into the petit four sizes. Freeze in single layers in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. The day before the party you can make the fondant and ice the cakes, then store them covered overnight on the counter. DO NOT put them in the fridge, the fondant will get wet and gunky.
    Have a lovely tea, we’d love to see pictures. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. rachele

    Mary Jane, these look amazing!!! And the perfect bite-size treat for my daughter’s birthday party in three weeks!!! The only trick here is: do you have a recommendation for doing the cake gluten-free? I have a KAF GF chocolate cake mix ready to go but I’d rather do these now that I’ve seen them. But I haven’t seen your yellow cake mix (unless I’m missing something.) Any suggestions? (Your GF brownies are our favorite!!!) Thank you.
    I am so glad that you are enjoying our gluten free products. We don’t have a gluten free yellow cake mix at the moment, but we do have a wonderful recipe that you can try:
    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/gluten-free-yellow-cake-recipe ~Amy

    Reply
  5. fenbunny

    I didn’t think I liked these until I had some at Betty’s ( a tearoom institution) here in the UK–beautiful and SOOOO tasty!. Here they are called Fondant Fancies :) Really good ones are the best, bad ones (e.g. pre-packaged) are TERRIBLE–dry and sickly sweet.

    I agree with using a bit of marzipan on the top, it really makes a difference in the taste as well… mmm…marzipan and raspberry jam. You could also make these with lemon curd in place of jam–it off-sets the sweetness nicely. I’d probably use yellow icing…

    Reply
  6. Lish

    I adore that poured fondant. I used some pink colored white chocolate to cover a chocolate bundt cake and topped with your candy coated chocolate chips for my daughter’s third birthday this week. It was such an easy way to add her favorite color to her favorite flavored cake, and it was so tasty. My son has decided that he wants a peanut butter version for his chocolate birthday cake in 2 weeks. Do you think peanut butter chips would work in this fondant?
    I think adding melted peanut butter chips to the fondant would be a great idea, and a great addition to a chocolate cake. ~Amy

    Reply
  7. PJ Graham

    Looks so lovely I will try them for an upcoming ladies-only party. Recently made what I’m calling Sunshine & Roses jelly, and these might be an ideal vehicle for that. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  8. cathymo

    Lovely! My brother and I used to eagerly await the box of petits fours every Christmas. Maybe I’ll make some for my brother. I’ve told our local cupcake bakery that cupcakes, while tasty, have reached the saturation point here in the Pacific Northwest and she should switch to petits fours. I’m convinced they are The Next Big Thing!

    Reply
  9. argentyne

    If you forget to trim the brown top off, do what I do… turn that layer over. :D

    No one will notice the browned top when it is inside and you don’t have it showing through the icing!

    Not that I normally have trouble with that, since I tend towards chocolate ganache frosting or darker colors of fondant. :D But that’s just me.

    Reply
  10. Susan Reid

    In big old bakery-land, it’s common to set up your layers with jam or frosting, place parchment on top, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate with several baking sheets stacked on top to compress and firm up the cake overnight. This has the effect of making the cake less crummy (literally) when you go to slice it into dipping-size bits. Just sayin’. Susan
    Thank you for your great idea, Susan! ~Amy

    Reply
  11. lillabit2001

    How do you get them to slide off the fork and onto the rack without messing up the coating? Don’t they stick to the fork?
    You will need to gently push the cake off the spatula by using a knife or other tool to get underneath. This is one of those patience-building exercises! ~Amy

    Reply
  12. bellesaz

    Those are so pretty! I see you have some transparency issues.. you can see part of the cake through the fondant. Any suggestions on how to overcome this other than double dipping? I’m trying to recall my Mom doing this and thought she painted more fondant on after the initial dip was dried. Anyway, they are just gorgeous! Nothing like pink to make you feel all springy inside!
    Double dipping is a good idea. Or stay away from dark colored fillings and trim cakes well. I want to suggest doing a crumb coat of buttercream and freezing before dipping into the fondant, but am hesitant. Who would want to crumb coat such dainty petit fours??? Elisabeth

    Reply
  13. lmatheny

    Can these be made ahead and frozen??? They look lovely!!! Linda
    Hi Linda, I don’t think fondant would fair well in the freezer, but you could (depending on your choice of fillings) freeze the assembled cakes and dip them closer to serving time. ~Amy

    Reply
  14. vcallahan

    Thanks for the wonderful recipe! My daughters and little granddaughters are planning a “ladies tea” for the day of the royal wedding. We’re planning to wear big flowery hats, gloves and have a real tea party complete with dainty treats. Should be even more fun now that I know how to make these!

    Reply
  15. juthurst

    I have always wanted to try making these!
    Quick question:
    Instead of cutting off the top layer and discarding it just because it is darker, couldn’t I simply invert the dark part and place it next to the first jam layer, placing the white underside on top?

    These look SO yummy!!! Thanks for posting directions I think even I can follow ;)
    Sure, you can flip the layer over if you’d like to skip cutting the top layer off. ~Amy

    Reply
  16. erinhibshman

    Oooh vcallahan I like your thinking!! We are having a royal wedding party at the end of the month, and I was going to make a mini-wedding cake to celebrate, but I may be leaning towards these now instead! Thanks for the step by step directions – I definitely learned some new techniques from this! (BTW – LOVE the golden cake recipe – just finished icing and decorating by daughter’s birthday cake for tomorrow’s party – a mermaid!

    Reply
  17. AP

    This may be the answer to my decorating problem! I need to decorate a character Bundt pan cake (not the tradition ring). Is it possible to “guide” the fondant where you need it to go or is it too runny? I’ve been thinking about creating a template to cut out fondant, but fondant isn’t as nice to eat. Marshmallow fondant isn’t bad, but still.
    If you are looking to fill a template, I would recommend using a rolled fondant. Roll it out, trace your template with a paring knife. We have Rolled Fondant on our site. Elisabeth

    Reply
  18. The Café Sucré Farine

    Oh my, these look incredible! My mouth is watering and I want to start baking right now but it’s 6 in the morning! Thanks for an amazing sounding recipe and great tutorial. Your website is wonderful.

    Reply
  19. dryneth

    So lovely! But I know I don’t have the patience for this project–I’m turning the recipe over to my cake decorating sis-in-law.

    I’d love for Cadfael to share the recipe for savory shortbread with hot pepper jelly! That sounds fantastic, I’m always interested in not-sweet treats.

    I’m with you – no patience for fussy projects! Thank goodness there are those who love to make the baking world a prettier place, though… You might enjoy this savory cheese biscotti recipe – I can definitely see serving them with hot pepper jelly mixed with cream cheese… PJH

    Reply
  20. Irene in TO

    I make poured fondant without white chocolate. It pours better. It is also easier to scrape up leftovers and re-use them. Use the sugar and corn syrup recipe here, a few drops of almond extract, and add hot water drop by drop until you get a good thick icing. Keep it warm to use it.

    You can spread a thin coat of melted white chocolate on top of the cake–then the top will be really clean and not show any brown crust.

    It is also easier to dip petits fours if the cake is well chilled but not frozen. Chill the sandwiched layer for a couple of hours, and then use the cookie cutter. You will be happy with the result.
    Thanks for sharing other techniques Irene. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  21. smilemore

    My daughter’s first birthday is this upcoming Friday. Since her dad is in the military and currently deployed, I decided to throw a very girly party! And you have just given me the perfect birthday cake for my little one! Would these freeze okay to save dad some for when he returns from overseas?
    What a nice time you will have with these sweet little cakes. Yes, I would freeze some for Dad. They will not be as good when first made, but this way he can take part, too. I would wrap them as well as you can in aluminum foil and placed into an air tight container or a freezer zip lock bag. Elisabeth

    Reply
  22. "Mike Nolan"

    The cornstarch in confectioner’s sugar often adds too much flavor for us. Glazing sugar (without the cornstarch) is not available locally, but is on my ‘wish list’ for my next KAF order.

    Every now and then I make up a batch of candymaker’s fondant, which is cooked then creamed on a marble until smooth and white, then allowed to age for several days.

    For eclairs, I warm the fondant, add chocolate (usually bittersweet) and some simple syrup. This gives an icing which has the right taste and hardness.

    Would this work for petit fours?
    Hi Mike,
    Yes, that should work just fine. Frank, our pastry chef, says that’s how they used to do it when he worked at the Ritz.
    Have fun! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  23. rachele

    I just had to report back with the final results. The birthday party was a huge success and these darling little cakes were an amazing hit! First, I made the gluten-free yellow cake suggested by Amy. To be honest, I debated whether I should use cake because it didn’t look like it would be very good. But I didn’t have time to make another so I went with it. With raspberry jam in the center and the pink fondant encasing them, I added a few white pearl sprinkles on top of each. They were so pretty and the perfect sidekick to the spa birthday party theme. The girls loved them. Thank you so much for showing me how to make these adorable little pieces of heaven!!! They were perfect!
    I’m so happy to hear that everything worked out so well. Thank you for keeping us posted. ~Amy

    Reply
  24. lkrummrich

    Love this recipe
    All of the comments were so helpful
    I have never done very well w/ layer cakes but practice makes perfect
    I love that you show photos at each step
    Thank you so much

    Reply
  25. carolmccaslin

    When I saw this post I had to make them for the Royal Wedding this morning. We all got up early and went into work to watch the wedding and bring breakfast. I was in charge of the petite fours. What a disaster. I baked my cake early in the week and froze the sheet cake. Then I cut it horizontally and filled with strawberry jam and refroze. Last night I cut the cake into squares and started to spoon the fondant over the squares and the top layer kept sliding off the bottom layer. I gave up and just used a decorating tip and dolloped buttercream on top as you did. They tasted wonderful and everyone loved them but they weren’t as pretty without the fondant. Not one to give up what can I do differently. I used your recipe for cake and fondant.

    Thanks!
    I’m sorry you had trouble with the cakes sliding apart. The only thing I can think of is that maybe there was a bit too much jam in the layers or it got too warm?
    I hope you enjoyed the wedding at least. They looked like such a happy pair. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  26. Sophie

    These look amazing, and are the easiest recipe I’ve found yet in my (rather laborious) search!

    Two questions, brought on solely by my lazy nature: one, is it possible to use a boxed cake mix? Two, could I use pre-made fondant instead of the fondant glaze?

    Thank you so much, and I can’t wait to try these!
    You may certainly use a boxed mix to make the petit fours, thought try avoiding ones that contain pudding as these tend to be super moist and difficult to work with in smaller pieces. If your pre-made fondant is able to be melted and thinned to the right consistency, then you may use it. ~Amy

    Reply
  27. rose

    Is there a standard size for the square and round petit fours? What are the dimensions of your cutters?
    There is no “standard” size, but one or two bites is pretty normal. I think my cutters were 1 1/4″ or so. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  28. denise

    Any idea on how to do this with chocolate cake? and white poured fondant? should I mask it with buttercream first and if so, will the fondant stick?

    You can certainly cover your cake with a thin layer of buttercream before dipping in it in fondant. I would make sure to refrigerate the cake before doing so to harden the frosting. This will help to prevent imperfections from occurring.-Jon

    Reply
  29. Mary McC

    To say that these are time consuming is an enormous understatement. I finally took the last cake/jam stacks and drizzled your Vanilla Glaze (from the Scone Bites) over the top. Pretty! If only I had time left to do more than that, I’d rosette the tops, but oh well. Thanks for all you do! I wish I’d read the entire blog/responses before taking this on.

    Reply
  30. Chloe

    These came out unbelievably well–I’m still finding it hard to believe that I actually brought these perfect, tiny cakes into the world! I used layers of genoise, homemade Meyer lemon curd, and blackberry jam. They held up perfectly during the coating stage (no breaking or sliding around even though I inevitably manhandled a couple). Thank you, Mary Jane, for the recipe and the inspiration, and thanks to Amy who cheerfully and calmly talked me through all my poured fondant angst! A big hug & an even bigger thank you from NYC!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Wonderful Chloe! We were just the backup singers, you were the real Rock Star! ~ MJ

  31. kristen_verity

    I used both the Golden Cake recipe and the Poured Fondant recipe to make these petit fours with a seedless raspberry jam. I employed the extra steps of freezing my cakes with a little weight on top. The good news is they were absolutely delicious! The bad news is I had a terrible crumb problem and they were not especially pretty. Also, these were incredibly labor intensive, and I’m on the fence about whether it was worth it. I think next time I will use the cake batter to make mini cupcakes and figure out a way to work in the jam and a comparable icing- there’s got to be an easier way.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Kristen, petits fours are indeed incredibly labor intensive; they’re really as much about the journey as the destination. Unless you truly enjoy this kind of “fussy” work, then yes, mini cupcakes are just as tasty and a whole lot less trouble, in my opinion. PJH

  32. Hala

    Hi,
    After the poured fondant dries, would I be able to touch the cakes and dip the bottom in chocolate? Or will I have finger marks on my cakes?
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello Hala, poured fondant never completely hardens in my experience. It will leave a shiny but soft finish to your cakes, not the best to pick up with your fingers to dip. Jon@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’ll want to use a recipe for pourable milk chocolate fondant for best results rather than replace milk chocolate for the white chocolate. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

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