My dad would often go on business trips overseas when I was young. He would come home with all sorts of exotic gifts, but my favorite were the beautiful boxes of fancy petit fours. As I became more skilled at baking, I decided to tackle them. How hard could they be?
Don’t let petit fours fool you. They are tough. My first attempt was for Mother’s Day back in 2012. They tasted delicious, but I can’t say they were visually appealing, especially given the type of fondant cakes that I was making at the time.
Over the years, I’ve made them a handful of times (of course, not taking enough photos), and while it’s not my strongest bake, I’ve made a lot of progress with petit fours.
If you are attempting to make petit fours (and are feeling a little nervous), here is my best advice to you:
- My favorite recipe for cake is this one from the Food Network, made with almond paste. In fact, I love this cake recipe so much that I often use it for other special occasion cakes, including my own wedding cake!
- My favorite poured fondant recipe, to cover the cakes is this one, from King Arthur.
- Make sure your cake is chilled before you cut the prepared cake into squares. Take the time to clean your knife after every single cut to ensure a nice clean square. I use my quilter’s fabric cutting ruler to get a nice clean edge.
- There are lots of recommendations out there on how to get a nice, smooth coating over the little cakes. I have tried everything from individually icing each cake, to dipping directly into white chocolate cut with coconut oil. My recommendations are:
- Put a layer of buttercream on the top of the cake before you cut. This will ensure the most visible part of the cake is perfectly smooth!
- Never dip your cake directly into your icing. This will quickly cause your icing to become “contaminated” with crumbs and moisture. And if you are dipping into anything with white chocolate, the moisture from the cakes will cause your chocolate to seize up!
- Instead, place your cake onto a fork, and gently spoon the icing over the cake. Full coverage will likely take a couple targeted spoonfuls. Be patient.
- Icing consistency is extremely important. It should look fairly good immediately after you cover the cake, and if it doesn’t, adjust the consistency of your icing. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it will look better after it sets. Promise me, it won’t.
- If I have time and want a really polished look, I will cover the cakes twice. But oh my goodness, it takes a long time.
- Don’t ever bother with icing the bottom of the cake. It’s not worth it.
- Find a restaurant supply store in the area (or sometimes can be found at craft stores), and invest in the small, white paper cups that the cakes are usually presented in. They not only massively improve the presentation of the cakes, but are good for hiding small imperfections!
Nowadays, when I make petit fours, they are certainly not perfect, but I no longer have to hand them over with the disclaimer of, “I promise, they taste good!”