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Petits Fours Made Easy
These are the life of the party!
You can try this at home!
Entertain in Style
I love to have big dinners and parties. The most fun part to me is to plan the menu. I like to serve meals in courses and have an amazing dessert at the end. Even if you mess up dinner, if you have a terrific dessert - everyone will forget about any mishaps before it.
Proper etiquette is to keep the dessert hidden away and you do not place it on the table until after the dinner dishes have been whisked away. There is no better ending to a meal than presenting a beautiful and delicious treat to go with after dinner drinks or coffee.
"Petit Four" is singular. The word "Petits Fours" is plural.
Petits Fours are tiny little cakes that have been made since the 1700's. The literal meaning of "Petit four" in French is "small oven." French Patisseries (bakeries) would use the cooling down time of the huge brick ovens to make these tiny cakes. They didn't want to waste any energy so at the end of the day, as the coal powered ovens cooled they would utilize this period to make these confections.
These delicate little edlibles are delicious and the perfect bite sized confection to serve your guests or to take to a party. They can be simple to make or you can use your imagination to make intricate designs for memorable special occasions. You can make a couple for a romantic special occasion or you could make dozens for parties.
There are different categories of petits fours. They can be savory or sweet.
Enjoy a Visit to a French Bakery
Types of Petits Fours
There are different types of Petits Fours.
- Petit Four Glace - these are the most common kind, most often made from layers of sponge or pound cake and jam filling. They are frosted or glazed. The traditional Petit Four has four layers though they are frequently made in one to two inch cubes.
- Petit Four Sec - These are usually tiny filled cookes such as macaroons, madelines or meringues.
- Petit Four Frais - usually cream filled such as tarts or mini eclairs.
A tiny bite - with a huge taste!
Pour the fondant.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Being infatuated with everything French, I had to try to learn to make these little tiny cakes. Much to my surprise, they really are not that difficult. They can be very time consuming depending on how fancy they are made, and what fillers you use.
Petits Fours Glaces are the most common type of Petit Four. They can be covered in glazes, fondant or frosting. Fondant is the most common form of sugar covering to use for decorative Petit Fours. It can be made in your kitchen or purchased.
If you want to make your own fondant, a double boiler is the easiest method. However, if you do not have one, you can use an oven proof bowl and set it on top of a pan of water. Bring the water to a low boil and whip up the fondant in the bowl. The temperature of the fondant is best around 100 degrees fahrenheit. If the fondant gets too hot (it burns your hands and you will know it) take it off the heat. Rewarm the water if it gets too cool to pour smoothly. I have used this method and it is almost as easy as having a double boiler so don't be discouraged if you don't have one.
Sponge cake or pound cake are great choices for these cakes. They are dense and hold up well under the weight of the frosting. You can make your own, buy fresh or frozen Sara Lee.
There are so many ways to make these exquisite little cakes. This was the easiest way to prepare them in a residential kitchen.
Step by Step
If using fresh cake, freeze it for a few hours to make it easier to cut neatly. I wanted to show various shapes and sizes so I cut my cake shapes and then filled them with jam. If you want to make a large number in a more efficient manner, it would be best to cut the large cake into layers, cover them with jam or fill the layers then refreeze and cut the petits fours into even rows.
Chefs usually cover the entire cake with a layer of marzipan but I found it wasn't necessary although it is great tasting as well as beautiful.
Once the cake is filled and cut, freeze it for another couple of hours. It is so much easier to work with the poured fondant if the cake is frozen.
Heat the fondant and if you don't have a candy thermometer it is fairly easy to tell when the glaze isn't pouring nicely. A good rule of thumb is - if the frosting burns the thumb when it drips on it - it's too hot!
Pick the cake up with a toothpick and use a spoon to pour the melted fondant over the cake as you twirl the toothpick. Use a fork to gently lift the cake off of the toothpick and place it on a rack to dry.
Let the cakes cool for about an hour. Use a very sharp knife to help cut the bottom away from the rack. It wasn't difficult though, to remove the cakes when propery dried.
Freeze the cakes for a few hours or more before decorating.
When less is more.
Poured Fondant Recipe
Check out this King Arthur Flour recipe for a list of ingredients, clear step-by-step instructions, helpful photos, and customer reviews.
Working with rolled fondant.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Create fun or elegant designs for any occasion.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rolled Fondant Petits Fours
Making rolled fondant petits fours seemed much more time consuming to me. They are more artful and I think that poured fondant looks great with piped frosting while rolled fondant looks good with either piped frosting designs or fondant decorations.
For an even simpler idea you could purchase pre-made candy flowers for cake decorating at any grocery store. These cakes are fun to make with the kids and playing with fondant is very similar to a clay or play dough substance.
If you want to spend more time, the sky is the limit and you can decorate award winning designs and flavors right in your own kitchen. As you can see, you can make them super simple or extremely detailed - either way they are so much fun and they make the table look gorgeous.
"...the best poet is the man who delivers our daily bread: the local baker..." ~Pablo Neruda