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.
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.
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.
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