For the Love of Petit Fours

We have long wanted to make these adorable and scrumptious bite-sized desserts.  After tasting the petit fours from Duane Park Patisserie in NYC, they were so wonderful that it inspired us to take on the challenge of making them ourselves.  In this article, we are going to make square and heart-shaped butter cake petit fours with raspberry, cream cheese buttercream frosting and marzipan with both pink and white chocolate poured fondant and white chocolate decorating icing.

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Our butter cake petit fours filled with raspberry, cream cheese frosting and marzipan covered in poured fondant icing

Shown with Bodrum Helix White Gold Round Placemats and Garnier-Thiebaut Mille Charmes Blanc White Napkins

What is a Petit Four?

noun | petit four | pe·tit four |\ˌpe-tē-ˈfȯr, pə-ˌtē-,-ˈfu̇r\ ; plural | petit fours |\-ˈfȯrz, -ˈfu̇r(z)\

A petit four is a small bite-sized, decorated confectionery or fancy cake dessert coated with icing.  The name is French, petit four, meaning “small oven”.  Petit fours were first made in the eighteenth century and traditionally made in a smaller oven next to the main oven.

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Our butter cake petit fours filled with raspberry, cream cheese frosting and marzipan covered in poured fondant icing

Shown with Bodrum Corte Linen Blend Gold Napkins

More complex petit fours with layers of filling are very hard work and take a considerable amount of time to make.  Given this complexity, it is recommended to spread the task over two days (or three if you prefer to move the decorating to the third day).  These impressive, beautiful and delectable little cakes look lovely on your table when entertaining and have an explosion of flavor in every bite.

If you are not comfortable with the layering and filling, you may want to try just doing a butter cake petit four dipped in fondant icing and decorated to see if that works for you.  If you don’t have the time to bake them, try going to a local specialty bakery who makes them fresh.  We’ve ordered the petit fours online from the Duane Park Patisserie in NY (they ship) for a previous Valentine’s Day event and they were perfectly made and beyond delicious.  Attached is a photo that we put together with Duane Park’s petit fours using linens from Beautiful Linens™.

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Delicious heart-shaped petit fours with almond raspberry cake and pastel pink frosting from Duane Park Patisserie

Shown with Anichini Tablecloth and Napkins and a Thomas Ferguson Small Ladies Lace Handkerchief used creatively as a doily Thomas Ferguson Cavan Cross Design Linen Tray Cloth with Hand Drawn Threadwork

Planning out the Day

We are going to make square and heart-shaped butter cake petit fours with raspberry, cream cheese buttercream frosting and marzipan with both pink and white chocolate poured fondant.   Given the complexity of steps and time to bake, we recommend breaking up general tasks across two days.  This batch made about 135 petit fours using 1” squares a small number of heart-shaped ones.

Day 1
1. Pull together baking tools
2. Bake the cake
3. Prepare the filling
4. Assemble the cake

Day 2
5. Cut the cake into petit fours
6. Glaze the petit fours
7. Decorate the petit fours
8. Place in small decorative candy cups or mini-cupcake holders and refrigerate

Pull Together Baking Tools

  1. Pastry bag for icing or small parchment paper cone
  2. If using pastry bag, couplers and icing tips (we used small tips for icing writing)
  3. Oil-based candy color
  4. At least two half sheet baking pans or jelly roll pans (we used 12 x 17; 12 x 18 is fine as well)
  5. At least two cooling racks
  6. Double-boiler pan
  7. Mini-heart cookie cutters (only if you want to cutout some heart-shaped petit fours – or use other shapes)
  8. Mixing bowls and hand or stand mixers
  9. Sifter (or we used a fine mesh strainer)
  10. Cake layer cutter or large cake knife cutter
  11. Parchment paper
  12. Rolling pin
  13. Small candy cups (or mini cupcake holders)
  14. Pastry brush

Bake the Cake

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Simple Butter Cake for Petit Fours

Ingredients

  • 2 ¾ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup salted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup sour cream

Directions

  1. Cream together the sugar, butter and shortening until smooth and then beat in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, until fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt). Add this flour mixture and the evaporated milk to the original mixture alternately.  Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed, then fold or mix in the sour cream.
  3. Spread evenly onto a parchment-lined half sheet pan. We used PAM No-Stick Baking Cooking Spray on the sheet pan under the parchment paper so it sticks better (or use butter).
  4. Bake at 325°F until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (25-35 minutes – but check at 25 minutes). We feel 35 minutes is too long – cake is less moist and has more brown crusting on cake.  Be careful not to over-cook. Our optimal was 26-27 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and put baking pan on cooling rack to cool down slightly.
  6. Gently remove the cake from the pan and put onto parchment paper on a flat cookie sheet. Optional: Remove the dark brown cake bloom (the dark layer on top of cake after it is baked) with a serrated bread knife.  It is very messy and if cake isn’t too brown, you can opt out.

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Prepare the Filling

While cake is towards the end of baking and cooling, prepare the Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting, Simple Syrup, Raspberry Jam and Marzipan.

Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

The cream cheese frosting is good for decorating as it holds its shape well and forms a nice crust.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter (=2 sticks), at room temperature
  • ½ cup shortening (Crisco is preferred by author of recipe)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 lbs powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons of milk (we used 2 ¾ tablespoons)

Directions

  1. First cream the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for a couple of minutes until smooth and creamy. Add in the vanilla and cream cheese and mix again until very smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar until it’s all combined. It will be very stiff. Then begin adding milk until you reach the desired consistency for decorating (2-3 tablespoons).

Simple Syrup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan bring water and sugar to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature.

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Raspberry Jam

Ingredients

  • 8 or 9 ounces of raspberry jam (we used Smuckers Seedless Red Raspberry Jam)

Directions

  1. Stir jam in a small saucepan over moderately low heat until hot and thinned. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer to remove seeds.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. If it sits too long before using, it will begin to thicken.

Marzipan

Ingredients

You can make it yourself from scratch or buy it.  We chose to buy the marzipan to reduce time.

  • 1 – 8 ounce box of SOLO Premium Marzipan

Note: Marzipan is a confection for cakes, candies and decorating and is made with blanched almonds that has the consistency of play dough and the tempting taste of candy.

Directions

  1. Remove the marzipan from the box. Knead marzipan (before unwrapping) for a few seconds to warm and soften.
  2. Unwrap and press into a disk and dust slightly with cornstarch.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll out a very thin layer of marzipan on a surface dusted with cornstarch.
  4. The marzipan layer should be large enough to cover the top of the cake and go over the edges slightly. Briefly put aside until ready to use.

Assemble the Cake

Directions

  1. Ensure cake is on parchment paper. Using the cake layer cutter or large, serrated cake knife cutter, slice the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.  Try and get the layers as even as possible.  Gently move the top layer to the side and reserve.
  2. Brush a very thin layer of simple syrup onto the first layer of cake with a pastry brush.
  3. Spread a very thin layer of the Raspberry Jam onto the first layer of cake.
  4. Spread a thin layer of the Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting on top of the Raspberry Jam.
  5. Top with the second top cake layer that was put to the side and reserved.
  6. Spread another thin layer of buttercream on top of the cake. This will also adhere the Marzipan.
  7. Carefully lay 1 rectangle of marzipan over the thin layer of buttercream on top of the cake. Use a paring knife to neatly trim edges of marzipan flush with the edges of cake.
  8. Cover and freeze the cake overnight. If you cannot wait that long, refrigerate the cake for at least 2 or 3 hours before cutting the cake into petit fours.  We chose to cover and freeze the cake overnight.  It helped to create much cleaner cuts and shapes.

Cut the Cake into Petit Fours

Directions

  1. Using a long serrated knife warmed in hot water and dried, cleanly and evenly trim brown/tough edges across both sides and length.
  2. Using that same long serrated knife warmed in hot water and dried to cut cake into 1 inch squares. Use a gentle sawing motion to cut through the marzipan layer, then press down to cut through cake.  Dimensions should be the same size or petit four will look like they are tipping over.
  3. We started by cutting 1-inch-wide vertical cuts. During the process, frequently wipe the knife with a hot, damp cloth and dry thoroughly.   We proceeded to cut the 1-inch-wide horizontal cuts into square petit fours.
  4. We left a portion of the cake uncut to use for our heart-shaped petit fours. Using mini-heart shaped petit four cutter, proceed to cut out heart shaped petit fours in the section of the cake left uncut.
  5. Once all your petit fours are cut, place these cut petit fours on a cookie sheet or half sheet baking pan in the freezer for at least 1 hour before glazing with the fondant icing. If you need to keep in the freezer longer, put pieces in an airtight container on parchment paper.

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Glaze the Petit Fours

Poured Fondant Icing

This frosting recipe by King Arthur Flour (with some minor modifications by us) is the traditional coating for baked goods like petits fours. It can be tinted any color you like, and makes a lovely, slightly sheer glaze over a cake or cupcakes. Work with it warm.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup white confectionery coating or white chocolate chips (we used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Baking Chips1)
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Oil-based candy color (optional)

Optional: Pink Poured Fondant Icing: Add 1 drop pink oil-based candy color2 (we used Chefmaster Candy Color PINK #4209)

Directions

  1. Important: do not let the fondant get over 105°F, or it will lose its shine. We put a candy thermometer in the double-boiler while working with fondant.  The mixture is easiest to work with, and pours smoothly, at about 100°F (warm to the touch – not hot).
  2. Prepare a cookie sheet or half sheet baking pan with a layer of parchment paper and a cooling rack. This will be used to set the petit fours after glazing.
  3. In a double-boiler set over low to medium heat, melt the white coating or chocolate chips, stirring until smooth.
  4. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl, and add the corn syrup and hot water, stirring until smooth. If you’re using a mixer, set it on low speed so the icing doesn’t become too aerated.
  5. Add the sugar mixture to the melted chocolate in the double-boiler, then add the vanilla. Keep over low heat.  You may need to adjust the heat throughout the process to keep at the desired 100°F temperature.
  6. If the mixture starts to thicken later in the process, and stir in 1 to 3 tablespoons additional water. Stir in a very little water at a time to test.  It thins quickly.
  7. At this point, the fondant is kept white (no coloring) to glaze a batch of white petit fours.
  8. Take the cut petit fours out of the freezer. The petit fours soften quickly at room temperature, so it is best to only use smaller batches at a time and leave the rest in freezer until ready.
  9. Gather a larger, flat serving fork, a regular fork and larger spoon for the dipping process.
  10. Put cut petit four onto larger, flat fork where the excess fondant can drip out and back into the pan. Holding the fork in one hand over the double-boiler, use the other hand for the spoon to pour fondant over the petit four on the fork.  You can pour a lot onto the petit four as the excess icing will drip back into the double-boiler.
  11. Using the spoon, remove excess fondant underneath the large fork. Put the spoon down and then use regular size fork to gently push the petit four off the larger fork onto the cooking rack.  You will do this for every petit four until done.  If you run out of fondant, make another batch.
  12. For day two, we glazed and decorated half of the petit fours and put the rest in an airtight container in the freezer to complete at a later time.
  13. Once enough of the batch is glazed in white, then add a drop of the pink oil-based candy color to glaze a batch of pink petit fours.
  14. Chill glazed petit fours until ready to decorate.

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Decorate the Petit Fours

You can decorate the petit fours any way you like.   We finished our petit fours using a decorating chocolate.  We used a pastry bag, couplers and icing tips (we used small tips for icing writing).  It may seem easy, but this step definitely takes some artistic ability.   We provide the chocolate recipe, but do not provide instructions on the use of the pastry bag or decorating design.

White Decorating Chocolate

Ingredients (you may need to do two separate batches – one white, one pink)

  • 8 ounces white chocolate chips (we used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Baking Chips1)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Optional: Pink Decorating Chocolate: Add 1 drop pink oil-based candy color2 (we used Chefmaster Candy Color PINK #4209)

Directions

  1. Add water to the bottom of a double boiler (perhaps an inch in depth, as long as it doesn’t reach the top part of the double boiler). Over medium heat, bring the water to a low simmer.
  2. Add the white chocolate into the top of the double boiler. Stir the chocolate until melted.  Only heat the chocolate to the point of melting.
  3. Add the oil to the melted chocolate and stir continuously until the oil is completed mixed through.
  4. When ready to use pink decorating chocolate, stir in oil-based color at this point. We used both white and pink decorating chocolate.  We kept our first batch white and decorated the pink petit fours.  We mixed a second batch adding the pink coloring and decorated the white petit fours.
  5. We added the chocolate to the pastry bag that already had the coupler and writing tip on it and just did some simple designs.
  6. If you don’t have pastry bags and icing tips, perhaps try small parchment paper cone and cut a very fine tip off of it and see how that works. We did not use that method, but it had appeal.

1 Do not use the Ghirardelli White Melting Wafers that harden quickly, otherwise you will have difficulty with the decorating chocolate hardening quickly in the icing bags – we learned the hard way.

2 Any color can be added to the white for the desired colored decorating chocolate by just adding the desired oil-based candy color to the White Decorating Chocolate Recipe (i.e. pink, yellow, orange, lavender, red, green, etc.)

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Linens featured in this article are from Beautiful Linens at https://www.BeautifulLinens.com.

References

We leveraged and merged methods and ingredients across four different sources to create our desired recipes in this article (taking the best elements of all of them):

 

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