Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Petit Fours

Petit Four literally means "little fire" or "little oven", depending who you ask.  What it really amounts to is a chance to eat more than one slice of cake, because no one counts how many you take from the platter.

Prepared fondant can be found at most grocery stores and craft stores like Michaels.  It makes for beautiful cakes and even someone as bad at icing as I am can create masterpieces.  All it requires is patience.  You can't force fondant to do anything or it will tear.  You have to convince it to mold into whatever shape you need, like edible Play-doh.  Well, I guess homemade Play-doh is edible, but you get the point. The only problem is that, like Play-doh, it doesn't taste very good.  Sure it's sweet, but pasty, like stale icing or dried-out Oreo filling.  The way around this defect is to coat the cake with some kind of thinned-out jelly or syrup and then a thin layer of decent icing.  Then you can put the pretty cover on.  It's kind of like making a bed: fitted sheet, top sheet, and decorative comforter.  Any decorations you put on top are the throw pillows.

The recipe I'm using is basically a half-recipe from the Bible, but in an 8"x8" pan and slicing one layer in half instead of stacking two layers.  I did the math and knew the cake would come out thicker than the one in the book.  I've made the full batch and thought those were too tall, so this would have been even taller.  For the tea party, I was going for cute and no more than two bites big.  I also didn't need that much.  As is, I got sixteen 2"x2" cakes.

2 eggs
6 Tb sugar
6 Tb flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or almond for a different flavor)
1/2 C filling of choice
*1/2 C buttercream icing
approx 4 oz fondant

1. Grease 8x8 baking pan, line with wax paper, and grease the paper.  Preheat oven to 350º.

2.  Beat eggs at high speed until foamy.  Gradually sprinkle in sugar and continue to beat until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 7 minutes.

3.  At low speed, mix in flour, baking powder, salt, and extract until just combined.  Pour batter into pan and bake for about 20 minutes, until cake springs back when touched.  There is no added fat or liquid in this cake, so the toothpick test won't work.

4.  Allow to cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto wire rack and remove paper.  Allow to cool completely.  At this point, the assembly becomes easier if you freeze the cake solid, then allow it to thaw halfway.  Wrap it in plastic, then foil, and freeze on a level surface.

5.  When cake defrosts enough to slice, slice horizontally into two layers.  Place the top one upside down on work surface and spread with filling.  Top with upside-down bottom half, leaving you with the level bottom of the cake as your top.  Having the two cut sides together will make these more finger-firendly and less likely to lose crumbs out the bottom.  Freeze cake again, but it doesn't have to be solid.  Maybe half an hour.

6.  Frost top of cake.  I colored the icing.  You can sort of see the color through the white fondant, but it's mostly a neat surprise.  Trim edges even (and snack on them), then divide cake into sixteen squares.  I guess you could do other shapes and sizes, use cookie cutters, whatever.  It depends how much effort you want to put into it and how much cake you don't mind wasting in scraps.
7.  Get out the fondant.  Knead in color or flavor if desired.  Roll very thin, using powdered sugar to dust the surface of the board.  Gently place piece over one cake piece and drape down the sides until smooth.  This is such a small cake that you probably won't get any air pockets, but pop them with a toothpick if you can't get them to move out the sides.  Trim the edges and place on serving platter.  Decorate tops as desired.  I did colored fondant cutouts, using a cookie cutter tool from my Easy-Bake Oven that I got when I was eight.  Yes, I love cookie cutters that much.  Then I was able to stick on some flower sprinkles using a dab of water.
8.  If cakes are filled with anything that could go bad (I used that first fluffy batch of lemon curd), refrigerate until serving time. Otherwise, cakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 16

Difficulty rating :-0

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