Petit Fours, Take Two

petit fours whole

So, after my first excursion into petit fours the matter rested for quite a while, until by chance I came across an article about mooncakes. You know, intricately-stamped pastries filled with red bean or other sweet pastes, given as gifts or served with tea for the Harvest Moon Festival or Lunar New Year. I actually don’t like them very much, flavor-wise. But I do appreciate the possibilities in detailed molds intended for desserts.

A little searching online revealed that the molds came in various shapes and sizes, including a nice little 50g capacity plunger set that came with interchangeable design plates. I got mine in a square shape with various floral design plates, figuring that even if I didn’t make mooncakes I could make something interesting.

Once the mooncake mold arrived, I immediately realized that it was just the right shape and size to make petit fours. If I used rolled fondant instead of poured fondant, I could mold it however I liked over a cube of cake. Of course, I don’t much care for regular fondant, even the marshmallow fondant I use for layer cakes– it’s chalky and cloyingly sweet. So, figuring it couldn’t hurt, I decided to add cream cheese to the recipe. Voila! Perfect. The new recipe maintained the flexibility of fondant, but the extra fat from the cream cheese added richness, which did a lot to cut the sugariness and reduce the rubbery texture.

Quick overview on how to make the cake cubes is here. To summarize, you bake your cake in two half-sheet pans, cut into thirds, spread with jam or other filling, stack, trim the edges square, freeze solid, then cut into cubes.

petit four sheetpetit four jampetit four trimpetit four cuts

After some trial and error, I figured out that for a 50g square mooncake mold, a cake cube approximately 1.25″ in all dimensions is just about the right size when wrapped in a thin layer of fondant. It’s best to press these when your cake cubes are frozen so they’re easier to work with and don’t squish down too much during the molding process.

petit four fit

In order to keep my fondant skins consistent, I weighed out balls that were 21g each to use for each skin. Here’s a video I made of the rolling and pressing process, but if you want written instructions, here you go:

Dust your ball of fondant (the fondant in the photos has been tinted pink) lightly in powdered sugar and roll out into a rough circle just big enough to wrap around the cake cube, coming up around the bottom.

petit four rolled

Bring up two opposite sides of the fondant and lightly press together. Fold up one of the remaining sides and allow corners to wrap around the sides of the cube. Fold up the last side and allow those two corners to wrap around the other two sides of the cube. When you’re done, all of the corner pieces should be wrapped around the cube in the same direction, so there’s only one corner piece per side. (the picture below is the cube after it’s been flipped over)

petit four corners

When the cake is wrapped, flip it over and insert into the mold, flat side down. Very gently press it down into the mold, being careful not to tear the fondant. Push the edges (and corners, especially) down to pack it in well.

Flip the mold over onto a baking sheet and press the plunger down with the other hand. The trick here is to keep the mold firmly against the sheet, so you get a nice deep impression. You need to push firmly on the plunger while the mold is still sealed against the baking sheet, then lift away the whole thing, allowing the cake to release naturally. You’ll most likely need to keep the plunger fully depressed and gently pull the cake away from the mold with your other hand.

petit fours mass

These keep in the fridge for several days, and it’s best to cover them so they don’t dry out too much. I actually don’t mind the slightly dry crust they get as they age– makes them more stable and easier to eat. Enjoy!

petit fours layers

Recipes:

Fondant:

makes enough for about one boxed cake mix worth of 50g sized petit fours (they won’t actually weigh 50g, cake is less dense than the usual mooncake filling):

8 oz mini marshmallows

5 oz full fat cream cheese

1 T water

Pinch salt (not kosher, it’s too coarse)

2 lb powdered sugar

1/4 tsp flavoring of your choice (optional)

Combine marshmallows, cream cheese, salt, and water in a large, microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments, stirring thoroughly between heating, until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar a cup at a time until thick. When it gets too hard to stir, oil your hands with vegetable oil or solid shortening, and use your hands to knead in more sugar. You’ll probably need about 1 3/4 lbs of sugar– save the rest for the assembly process. The finished dough should be soft, but should not stick to your finger (or at least should not leave any residue) when you poke it. It’ll get firmer as it cools, so don’t worry too much if it seems a little soft when it’s still warm. When the dough is the consistency of play-doh, you can put it into a sealed ziploc bag and store in the fridge for at least 4 days. Let it come to room temp before using. You can always knead in more sugar or a tiny bit more water if it’s not workable later on.

Tips:

1. 50g is just about the perfect size for these, at least as far as mini desserts. Any bigger and they stop looking like teacakes and start looking gargantuan. They do make 25g molds, but I’ve only ever seen them in round and they’re not all that much smaller than the square 50g ones, dimensionally.

2. You can easily tint the fondant with food coloring for extra cuteness (either mix in the coloring during the marshmallow melting stage, or knead in later), or brush the finished petit fours with luster dust. Both look great.

3. I did try adding cocoa to the fondant once for a chocolate version, but for some reason it made my marshmallow mixture very stringy. I’ll have to keep experimenting, maybe with melted chocolate instead.

4. You’ll want to oil your mooncake mold, either by spraying with cooking spray or just using a bit of vegetable oil on a towel. You’ll need to re-oil the mold every dozen stampings or so, and it’ll help if you dust your finished ball in powdered sugar before stamping it. Also, when the plunger action on the mold starts sticking, take the whole thing apart and clean it of any traces of fondant. Then re-oil and start again. If you go too long without re-oiling the fondant will start to tear apart.

5. The petit fours will have flat tops when you first press them out, but depending on how much you squished the cake during the molding process the tops may puff up a bit over time. Don’t worry about it, the fondant is flexible enough that it generally won’t crack.

6. The fondant is pretty thin on the tops of these, where the design is, so any dark colors or spots in the cake will show through. I probably wouldn’t use chocolate cake for that reason, unless you colored your fondant in a very deep color. Or I suppose you could use a thicker fondant skin, but since I’m still not the biggest fan of the over-sweetness that’s not my preference.

7. I’ve also made these using cake balls instead of cubes of layered cake– just mix up your cake crumbs with frosting (erring on the dry side so they’re not too gooey), mold into balls of 28g each (the cake ball filling is a lot closer to a “real” mooncake filling, so try to keep your total weight right around 50g for the best results), and wrap each chilled ball in fondant. Make sure the ball is completely enclosed in fondant so it doesn’t get oozy later, and press in the mold just as you would a cake cube. Using a ball eliminates the folding of corners (and resulting creases in the finished product), and the cake ball center is much richer than the layered cake. These are especially good in chocolate.

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2 thoughts on “Petit Fours, Take Two

  1. Pingback: Victorian-inspired Fondant Cookies | It's All Frosting...

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