Petit Fours... a.k.a. putzy fours

My blog has been silent for a while.  Work life is a bit overwhelming these days and I don't have many spare minutes to do what I love, cook, bake and tell you about it!  I have several blog posts in the wings, just haven't had time to write them up.  Someday....

But this one I wanted to get out there right away.  I told someone I was going to try to make petit fours and she asked me to post pictures.  I think the pictures require a story in this case so I'm going to try and get this post done before Great Food Truck Race (GO TIKKA TIKKA TACO) starts!

I was asked to make the dessert treats for my sister-in-law's baby shower.  I'm already making the cake for the baptism that same day, so we didn't really want cake at the shower.  I thought it would be nice to have small bites of dessert, nothing heavy, maybe a couple of options.  I thought petit fours would be fun.  I know they are basically cake, but they are little cake and a very different cake recipe than I make for my regular cake, and, well, I've never made them before so what a great excuse to try them?

As always for something I've never done before I consulted The Google.  I found a video of Martha Stewart with John Barricelli making petit fours.  I'm not a Martha Stewart fan.  I find her a bit obnoxious.  I loved it when Marjorie Johnson schooled her on pie crust!  I decided to try this recipe when I saw the look John gave Martha when she didn't follow his instructions for coloring the poured fondant for the petit fours they were making.  Want to see it?  Click HERE.

The recipe was simple enough.  I did have to hit up my Amazon Prime account for three quarter-sheet pans but other than that, there was nothing too terribly difficult about the assembly of the cake.  The recipe calls for a pound, yes a pound, of almond paste.  I will admit I was a bit nervous about that.  I LOVE almond, but a pound of it?  The cake sounded delicious, almond paste, eggs (12 ounces of them!), butter, sugar, almond extract, and flour.  Simple.

The almond paste is beaten with the sugar.  To this butter is added, then eggs and the rest of the ingredients.  The batter is split between three prepared (coated with butter, or in my case, cooking spray because it's easier - I'm not going to paint melted butter on the pans like Martha, and parchment) pans.  It really spread out very easily.  My only concern at this point was the obvious chunks of almond butter.  Did I do something wrong?

These go in the oven for 15 minutes or so and then are cooled, in the pans, on a wire rack.  I could still see the bits of almond paste in the cake which concerned me, but you really don't taste them separate from the cake, whew!

To start the assembly a piece of parchment is placed on an upside down cake pan.  This is so the first layer doesn't stick to the pan.  The parchment is removed and a thin layer of apricot preserves that have been run through a food processor are added.  The second layer goes on, more preserves and then finally the third layer of cake, without the parchment removed.


One of the pans is inverted over the three layers of cake.  This is then weighted down by cans of tomatoes.  Don't have tomatoes?  Use something else, just weigh the pan down.  This will help the layers meld together.  According to the instructions in the video, this weighed down cake is placed in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  

When it comes out you cut out cute little circles of cake.  Hmmm... what size circles?  I guessed using a 1-14 inch cutter.  It turns out I guessed a little small the first time but we'll get to that.  I learned quickly that you should loosen the bottom piece of parchment before starting to cut out the cakes or the bottom layer sticks to the parchment and you end up with a two-layer petit four!  I cut out all my little circles then started the glazing process.

Now in the video they used poured fondant.  I'm not a big fan of fondant.  I don't think it tastes particularly good and I really didn't want to mess with trying to melt it!  So I Googled some more and found a few recipes.  I picked an easy one.  I am short on time these days!  

I tried glazing the little cakes as shown in the video.  It's not as easy as John makes it look and there is a lot of waste!  If you pour the glaze on in the quantities that many websites show you'll throw away more than actually makes it on the cake!

I poured the glaze over the top and used an off-set spatula to spread the glaze around the sides.  As the cakes warmed up from being out of the frig, they started looking like leaning towers of Pisa, so I stuck them in the freezer.  MUCH better!  Still they seemed too tall and skinny.  Maybe two layers would be better than three?

But how did they taste?  They were very, very good!  There is a LOT of almond flavor, almost too much.  Yes, I said that, almost too much.  Maybe they would be better with raspberry filling so the tart raspberry could cut some of the rich almond?

If you know me  you know I had to try again making a couple of modifications to the original recipe.  The original recipe not only called for a pound of almond paste, but also a teaspoon of almond extract.  I substituted the extract with vanilla the second time around.  I also used raspberry filling instead of the apricot for more contrast to the almond flavor.

I did some more Googling on petit fours and some people put a thin layer of actual frosting (not glaze) on the cake before it was cut.  Many also put the cake in the freezer rather than the refrigerator before cutting it.  I used both of those suggestions the second time around.  I put a thin layer of buttercream on top, then put a piece of parchment over that, then the cake pan and the cans of tomatoes!  I put this in the refrigerator for about an hour before moving it to the freezer.

While it was freezing I worked on other projects around the house then made my glaze.  I did the same glaze, powdered sugar, water, meringue powder and water.  I also whipped up a little buttercream to test out decorating the cakes.

The frosting and freezing made a huge impact!  It is definitely the way to go!  The cake cut cleanly with far fewer crumbs and the tops were more "even" when glazed because of the frosting.  Pretty!

Cutting all the little circles there is a LOT of waste.  A LOT of waste.  I had a hard time with that.  So I decided to take the second half of this batch and cut them in "squares".  No, they aren't perfect 1-1/2 inch squares, but this was just a test!  I will be more precise when I make them for "real" I promise!

I found frosting the circles easier than the squares.  When you pour the glaze over the top it spreads more evenly around the round cake.  But there was definitely less cake waste with the squares!

I piped a few rattle and bootee looking thingys on a few of the petit fours and let them dry.

We decided to take these little gems to one of our favorite restaurants, San Pedro Cafe in Hudson, WI to let the foodies there help us decide a few things.  Which flavor was better, apricot or raspberry?  Which shape was better, round or square?  And of the round ones, which was a better size 1-1/4 inch or 1-1/2 inch.

The verdict?  Well, on size they all pretty much agreed the 1-1/2 inch circle or the square (which was close to that size) were better than the 1-1/4 inch circle.  There was almost a 50/50 split on flavor.  The apricot took an early lead (one person who was sure he was going to like the raspberry better actually voted for the apricot) but by the time we finished eating, it was pretty much an even split.  Dave and I were surprised.  We both thought the raspberry were a little less rich.

For the shower I will definitely be leaving out the almond extract from the cake, I don't think it's really necessary with a pound of almond paste!  I will also frost the cake and freeze it.  And I'll keep the cut petit fours, whether round or square, in the frig or freezer as I glaze them.  By the time I got to the last of them they were softening and starting to lean like the first batch.  I think flavor will be a last minute decision as will shape!

Oh, and FYI, these will NOT be going on my 3-Day Baking for the Cure options!  For a special occasion they are fine but these are not something I want to make all the time!


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