Petit fours come in many different shapes and sizes. Some people use the term "petit four" when referring to chocolates, small desserts, or cubes of cake dipped in icing, but the traditional petit four is comprised of thin layers of delicate cake separated by jam or flavored liquor syrup and covered with icing.
Typically, petit fours are made with a genoise cake, which doesn't contain any chemical leavener. Instead, air is whipped into the eggs, and it is this air that causes the cake to rise during baking.
What you'll need:
1 genoise cake recipe, below
1 roll of marzipan (available at most grocery stores, aka almond paste)
Candy Melts in various colors (available at craft stores)
powdered sugar or shortening for rolling out the marzipan
Classic Genoise Cake
1 cup sifted cake flour (I just used multi-purpose flour...I know it's a baking sin. I repent!)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a jelly roll pan (12 x 17 x 1") and line it with parchment paper, allowing the parchement paper to hang over the edges. This will allow you to lift the entire cake out of the pan after baking, and the grease will hold the parchment in place while you pour the batter in the pan.
Sift together the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Place the eggs into a mixing bowl set over a pan of hot (not boiling) water. Add the 1/2 cup sugar to the eggs and whisk until the mixture feels warm (not hot) to the touch. Remember, the whisking is very important here so no slacking off!
Place the bowl onto a mixer and beat on medium speed until the mixture becomes pale yellow in color and falls off the end of the whisk attachment in long ribbons. Add the vanilla.
Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the beaten eggs and fold in. Continue to add the remainder of the flour, folding it in each time. Be careful while you fold in the flour mixture so you do not deflate all the air you incorporated into the eggs.
Place about 1 cup of the batter into the bowl containing the melted butter and then combine with the rest of the batter by folding. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Immediately bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges and top are lightly browned. When the cake is fully baked, the center should spring back when you touch it. Allow it to cool in the pan 10 minutes. Gripping the parchment paper, carefully lift the cake to a cooling rack to cool completely.
With a serated knife, cut the cake in quarters and cut off the rough, carmelized edges.
Let's zoom in, shall we?
If you'd like your petit fours to be 4 layers of cake, cut each of these quarters in half horizontally. Because I actually used a larger jelly roll pan than the recipe suggested, my cake came out thinner so I did not cut these in half horizontally. They're your petit fours - do what makes you happy!
Spread a thin layer of jam over one of the quarters and top it with another quarter. Hint: You can microwave the jam for a few seconds to make it easier to spread over this delicate cake. The jam layer should be so thin that you should be able to see the cake through it.
Next, we need to top each quarter sandwhich with marzipan. Roll the marzipan to approximately 1/16-inch thick, being sure it's larger on all sizes than your cake quarters.
Brush one side of the marzipan with a little water to make it sticky. Then place it on top of your cake quarter. Trim the edges with a knife or scissors, and repeat until all cake sandwhiches are marzipan-topped.
Cover the cakes tightly in plastic wrap (if air is allowed out or in, your cakes will become stale), and refrigerate overnight.
Cut the cakes into 1 x 1" or 1 1/2 x 1 1/2" squares, keeping your serated knife as straight as possible.
Cover the cakes with plastic wrap and freeze while you prepare the Candy Melts.
Place Candy Melts in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally. When all the lumps are gone, remove the saucepan from the heat. Working quickly, dip the petit four, marzipan-side down, into the candy melts and coat all sides, except the bottom. For ease in handling the petit fours, I skewered 2 toothpicks through them.
Immediately place petit fours on a wire cooking rack set over a cookie sheet, which is there to catch drippings. In fact, you can remelt the drippings later if you need to.
Once the icing has set, you can decorate the petit fours with cute little flowers, sprinkles, etc. I drizzled melted pink and blue Candy Melts over mine.
Then the petit fours can be packaged or placed on a serving tray. More importantly, they're ready to be eaten!