Sometimes you just want to WOW! folks with a small dessert. Petit fours, or small tea cakes, can easily do the job, and can be prepared quick as a whistle if you know a few secrets of the bakery. the French name for theses cakes, petit fours, means small oven! Today I am making chocolate raspberry petit fours, which can be made with your favorite cake recipe, a box cake mix, or a prepared pound cake from the grocer’s freezer. And of course, they can be any flavor you desire, so let the creativity begin!
cake secrets from a pastry chef
These are tips passed on to me by my pastry chef friend, Kelley, who is a master at cakes.
- Preheat the oven for a full 20 minutes before baking.
- Unless otherwise specified, put the rack in the center of the oven and bake cake in the CENTER of the oven.
- Use the correct pan size called for in the recipe.
- Measure liquids in a liquid measuring cup, dry ingredients in a dry measure.
- Mix the batter for the time and speed specified — use a TIMER!
- Check the cake for doneness EARLY. Pastry chefs look for browning in light colored cakes, press the top to see if it springs back, and look to see if the cake is just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Cool the cake in the pan 10 to 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to completely cool. Tube and bundt cakes cool for 20 minutes before turning out. Don’t cover the cake until it has cooled.
- Unless the recipe indicates, always cool the cake completely before frosting.
cake secrets with a box mix
- Choose a good quality mix. Nationally known brands are great.
- Prepare your pan — spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, line it with parchment, then spray the bottom and sides. This will assure that your cake will release from the pan after baking. We call this SPRAY – PAPER – SPRAY.
- Sift the mix before putting it into the mixing bowl. This will remove any large lumps and aerate the dry ingredients, ultimately producing a lighter, softer, more delicious cake.
- Combine the wet ingredients, ie. water, oil and/or eggs BEFORE adding them to the dry mix in the bowl.
- Mix the wet and dry slowly, just until it all comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat at the proper speed for the suggested time. For most cake mixes, you will beat on medium speed with a hand mixer, or on 4 for a KitchenAid stand mixer. Set a timer to be sure you beat for the allotted time (2 minutes can seem like a very long time!).
- Bake the cake(s) in the center of the oven. I usually begin to check to se if my cake is done about 6 to 7 minutes less than the time specified on the box. The first sign that your cake is nearly done is that you can smell it. Then, gently touch the top of the ake to see if it springs back. And, it should just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Cool the cake as above.
- After completely cooling, your cake can set at room temperature, covered, for a day before assembling. AFTER COOLING, you may want to put it back into the pan to store it, because it is easily covered.
So, now on to making petit fours!
First, make a cake…DUHHH! This time I chose a dark chocolate mix, and sifted it onto parchment. But instead of baking it in the 13X9-inch pan called for on the box, I prepped TWO jelly roll pans, one of which I lined with the parchment paper I had used for sifting.
Spread the batter as best you can to get an even cake layer.
Bake cake in preheated oven — mine took about 10 minutes. Begin to check at about 8 minutes to ensure that your cake does not overcook! Cool as directed above. I have found that baking the cake a day ahead makes it a bit easier to handle and assemble.
Now it’s time to assemble your petit fours. Using a ruler, cut the cake in half in the shorter direction. Spread one of the halves with filling — I used seedless raspberry jam. Top with the other cake half.
Then, using a ruler again, cut into 1-inch squares. Place squares on a rack over a sheet pan. Drizzle them with warm ganache, covering the sides if you would like. Let set to cool, or refrigerate to cool quickly. You may want to coat a second time for a really polished look. Then garnish. I used melted peppermint white chocolate, and fresh raspberries. And for a really professional presentation, serve the petit fours on flattened mini-cupcake liners! Yippee — it’s time for tea!
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 10 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (best quality you can find!)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat cream to boil, remove from heat. Add chocolate, shake the pan to allow chocolate to sink below the top of the cream. Let stand 4 minutes to melt. Beginning in the center of the mixture, stir until it begins to turn dark brown. Then make your circles larger, until all of the sauce is the same color. Add butter to cool. Pour over pastries as desired. If ganache stiffens, it can be reheated gently. Refrigerate any remaining glaze.