When I was little, my mom gave me this tiny, doll-sized book about tea ceremonies around the world. I don’t know if it was the mini size or the tempting illustrations, but since then I have been pretty obsessed with tea parties and all of the little goodies that go along with them. I had always wanted to make petit fours, and when I finally gave it a shot they did not disappoint.
These french-inspired glazed cakes are the perfect bite-sized treat for an afternoon tea with friends, and a thoughtful homemade alternative to a Valentine’s Day box of chocolates. Keep reading to learn how to make them!
At first sight, petit fours can seem daunting, (and okay, they aren’t the easiest dessert to pull off) but when they’re done well, it’s incredibly gratifying to see dozens of the perfect little treats lined up in a row waiting to be eaten. You’ll find my preferred recipe at the bottom of this post, but you can use whatever pound or sponge cake you’d like, and vary the fillings and decorations however you please.
The first step, of course, is baking the cake (see recipe below.) Divide your pound cake batter between two 13″ by 18″ sheet pans, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and lined with parchment paper. This stops the cakes from splitting when it comes time to remove them from the pan.
After the cakes have baked, remove from the pans to cool on a wire rack. When they are completely cooled, spread a thin layer of buttercream, followed by a layer of jam, on top of the first sheet. Sandwich with the second cake, and frost the top layer with another very thin, even layer of buttercream. Leave your cakes in the freezer to set for around an hour.
Remove your cakes from the freezer, and using a ruler, run a sharp knife along the side of the cake to trim the uneven edges.
For the next step, there are multiple methods you can use. I measured out 1.25″ squares and cut the cakes using a ruler and a sharp knife. You could also choose to use small square cookie cutters to punch out your shapes, and if you’re feeling creative mix it up with circles, hearts, or any other shaped cutters you have on hand.
Leave the cut out petit fours to set in the freezer for another hour, and then they should be ready to dip! We’ve reached the fun part! Or the tedious part, if you’d rather not spend a few hours dipping baby cakes in chocolate, but that’s your call.
Using a deep, heat-safe bowl, microwave candy melts in increments of 30 seconds until completely melted. Add canola oil a tablespoon or so at a time until you can pour the chocolate in a consistent stream off of your spoon.
This next bit requires some technique, so don’t be frustrated if your first few petit fours come out a little wonky.
Submerge a petit four upside down in the chocolate, leaving the base just above the surface. Use your spoon to flip the petit four back onto your fork, and lift out of the bowl.
Use the handle of the fork to tap off the excess chocolate on the side of the bowl, then place your dipped petit four on a wire cooling rack and allow the chocolate to harden for about thirty minutes.
If you are adding sprinkles or other loose decoration, add them before the chocolate is completely hardened.
Divide your remaining chocolate in half, adding pink food dye to one half, and red to the other. Reheat your chocolate if necessary. You will also have to add more vegetable oil at this point to get the chocolate to a good drizzling consistency.
Using a fork, drizzle chocolate back and forth over your petit fours. Let the chocolate set for another half hour, and voila!! Perfect pretty petit fours for your pals.
These will keep pretty well refrigerated in an air-tight container for about a week. You can present them however you’d like. My favorite way is within some cute truffle papers, but I’ve even given them as a gift within a metal lunchbox before, so there are really no rules here.
Petit Four Recipe:
For the Pound Cake:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
Beat together cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer until smooth. Add sugar and cream until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Then add vanilla. Gradually beat in flour until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake at 300 for 50 minutes to an hour. Watch your cakes carefully, as they can go from being perfect to dry very quickly.
For the Filling:
- 1/2 cup ( 1 stick) butter
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk
- Jam of your choosing (I used raspberry)
To make the butter cream, simply beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer until well combined. Add the milk a little bit at a time and beat on high speed until fluffy. If you’d like, you can replace the milk with jam for a flavored buttercream, or leave them separate for a layered effect.
For the Coating:
- White chocolate candy melts
- Vegetable or canola oil
- Red and pink food coloring