These tiny, beautifully iced cakes are traditionally made with an almond sponge cake, but they can be any flavor of cake--and filling.
A génoise (zhehn-WAHZ), or sponge cake, acts like exactly that: a sponge. It is meant to absorb flavored syrups and liqueurs, resulting in moist, flavorful cakes. An almond jaconde is delicious, but you can also use pound cake or any sturdy, fine-crumbed cake that can stand up to filling, cutting, and decorating.
Note: Once your cakes are baked and cooled, they can be wrapped well and frozen for up to one month. Thaw the wrapped cakes at room temperature.
For more about the cake layer, see our Sponge Cakes advice article.
Use a long serrated knife to split the cakes into layers. You can measure the sides and mark them with toothpicks to help guide the knife; gently saw your way through. Cover cake layers with plastic wrap until you're ready to assemble them.
Always use a flavored syrup (Simple Syrup or Brandy Simple Syrup, for example) to soak your sponge cake layers. Use a pastry brush and be generous.
Once you've applied the syrup, you can spread on the filling: jams, buttercreams, lemon curd, and raspberry curd all make delicious fillings.
Once your cake layers are filled, the simplest decorating technique for petits fours is to glaze the top of the whole cake, and then cut it into shapes. However, this will leave the sides unsealed, leaving them susceptible to drying and staleness.
- If you wish to glaze the tops and sides of your petit fours, arrange the cut shapes (squares, diamonds, or other shapes made with cookie cutters) on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.
- Using a measuring cup, pour the warm glaze over and around the sides of each cake, using a small spatula or knife to reach all the bare spots. Any extra glaze can be scraped off the baking sheet, reheated, and re-applied. (Strain the glaze if it's full of crumbs.)
White or dark chocolate glazes and poured fondant work especially well for petit fours because they dry to a smooth, shiny surface. (If you substitute white chocolate for dark, use about fifty percent more white chocolate.) See our Chocolate Ganache article for more tips.
If you like the almond flavor of marzipan, a thin layer of marzipan between the cake and the glaze provides a glass-smooth, crumb-free surface for decorating.
- Top the cake layer with a thin layer of jam, jelly or frosting
- Roll the marzipan as thin as you can, and lay it over the cake. The jam will help it stick to the surface when you pour on the glaze.