I’m pretty fearless, at least when it comes to caking. Every time that I step foot into my kitchen, I make a real effort to try something new. Whenever a new recipe or technique doesn’t work out, I don’t get my panties in a bunch. And, there’s nothing like doing a little happy dance when everything comes together beautifully.
My friend, who is also into baking, asked me to help her make Petit Fours for a little girl’s “American Girl” tea party. (How cute is that idea?) Neither of us had made them before. Truly, the blind would be leading the blind. We both knew what we were getting into, though. These tiny cakes can be a little tricky, and there’s a bit of a learning curve. Don’t let that inhibit you from making them. Seriously, you can do it! I’m going to talk you through each and every step that you’ll need to take, from start to finish.
1. Use a dense cake. Pound cake is perfect. A moist cake simply cannot withstand the weight of the poured fondant. Bake the cake the night before you plan to make the Petit Fours, because your cake needs time to fully cool and rest. (Yes, cakes need to rest!)
2. Cut each piece of cake cleanly. Poured fondant is very unforgiving–it magnifies every imperfection. Trim a bit (about ¼”) off of each of the short ends of the pound cake. Then, cut your pound cake into 1” slices. Using a small cookie or fondant cutter, press the cutter into each slice and release the piece from the cutter. (We were able to get 2-3 pieces from each slice of cake.) The size and shape of the cutter is entirely up to you. However, for your first go, I’d suggest that you keep the shape fairly simple—like a circle, oval, or square, until you get the hang of using the poured fondant.
3. The consistency of your poured fondant is everything. Take the time to fuss with it until you get it right. I’m not going to lie. The consistency of your poured fondant is everything. What you’re looking for is the consistency of house paint—thicker than a liquid but easily pourable. If it is too thick, you’ll die trying to get an even coating on your cakes. (Okay, that was a bit dramatic.)
This was my very first attempt at coating a piece of cake, and the fondant was simply too thick. If you follow the recipe (below) and find that it’s still a little too thick, then add a tad of water. Go easy, though. Add only one teaspoon of water at a time, stirring after each addition until incorporated. Also, contrary to every poured fondant recipe that I found, I discovered that it is essential (at least with this recipe) to keep the fondant warmed on the stove while you are using it to coat the pieces of cake. Otherwise, the fondant will start to harden, and it will be nearly impossible to coat your cakes evenly.
4. Place a piece of cake onto a fork. Using a spoon, pour the fondant over the cake, taking care to coat all of the sides. I tried several different methods of coating the cakes. Hands down, the best technique is to simply set the piece of cake onto a fork. Holding the fork directly over your bowl of fondant, take a spoonful of the fondant and pour it over the cake. Try to coat the cake in a single spoonful or two at the most. Otherwise, the coat just won’t be even. This step takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake. (Pun intended.) To transfer the coated cake from your fork to your cooling rack, simply use the side of wooden skewer to gently push the cake off the fork and onto the cooling rack.
5. Allow the fondant coating to harden. Allow the Petit Fours to cool until the coating has hardened (about 20-30 minutes). Be sure to place some parchment paper beneath your cooling rack to catch any fondant drippings.
6. Decorate your Petit Fours to make them extra lovely. Now you’re ready to decorate your Petit Fours. We decided to cut out little pink fondant butterflies and tulips, which my friend then detailed with icing.
I’m thrilled the Petit Fours that my friend and I made turned out so cute. In case you are wondering, yes, we did a little happy dance in her kitchen to celebrate.
Adapted from: Karen Porter of Tilly’s Cakes
8 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup water
In a heat-proof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, mix powdered sugar, corn syrup, water, vanilla and almond extracts together until they are warm, well combined, and smooth. Turn down the stove temperature. Do not remove from heat while you are using the fondant to cover your cakes.