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Fancy treats for a fancy bride

11.July 2011

This summer marks the occasion of my dear friend Liz’s wedding.  I do tend to get excited about friends and family getting married and this time around my friend Kristen and I volunteered to throw her a little shower.

Kristen is also not one to do things in half-measures – the shower that she and my sister organized for my wedding was fabulous and her own wedding was stunning.  Between her flair and eye for details (just look at the little name tags she made for the food!) and my tendency to go overboard in the kitchen, it seemed to be a safe assumption that this shower would be quite nice indeed. (I’ll allow myself to brag on this occasion.)

The idea was to have a high tea in classic tradition, so we brewed up a bunch of hot tea and a few pitchers of iced tea and did a spread of finger sandwiches –

little ones with benedictine spread, ham and cheese ones, and turkey ones.  We also had a number of dessert options – Kristen baked a beautiful, seriously delicious Kentucky Butter Rum Cake,

Liz’s sister baked a mountain of gorgeous Honey Madeleines,

and I decided to be overambitious as ever and make Petit Fours, which I had never made before.

Shockingly, they turned out beautifully, despite a number of little setbacks.  First of all, I had intended to make two different varieties – one with a rather reliable, sturdy pound cake and one with a beautiful carrot cake (the recipe for Liz’s parents’ wedding cake, in fact!).  Much to my chagrin, the carrot cake was too tender to stand up to the poured fondant I had planned to use.  When I poured the fondant, the carrot cake just kind of melted until I had a sugary, crumbly slurry of icing and carrot cake.  Disaster.  Delicious, but unpresentable.  And no, I don’t have any pictures of my shame.

Luckily for me (and the shower guests), the pound cake worked out beautifully and tasted divine.  I opted for a slightly exotic combination of flavors – ginger pound cake with mango raspberry filling.  It was quite delicious and stood up to the aggressive sweetness of the white chocolate coating very well.  A little embellishment in light blue royal icing and they turned out quite prettily!  All in all, a success.

Oh, and yes, we might just go into business!

Fancy Petit Fours

Fair Warning. These are a lot of work, have great potential to be frustrating, and might break your heart if they don’t turn out right.

The Cake

Easy Ginger Pound Cake
adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

  • 1/3 c crystallized ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 9″x13″ baking pan (and a 9″ round or 8″ loaf pan for the leftover batter).
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, salt).
  3. In a food processor, process the crystallized ginger until finely chopped.  Then add sugar and process until ginger is incorporated.  Then add eggs and vanilla and process until combined and light yellow in color.  With the food processor running, pour the melted butter very slowly in a steady stream into the sugar/egg mixture.  This should take up to 30 seconds.  I.e. pour VERY slowly.
  4. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and sprinkle about 1/3 of the flour mixture on top.  Mix with a spatula until combined, then add half of the remaining flour mixture and mix again.  Repeat with remaining flour mixture and mix until combined, but do not overmix.
  5. Scrape batter into the prepared 9″x13″ pan until you have a layer about 1/2-3/4″ thick.  Scrape the remaining batter into your miscellaneous pan.
  6. Bake in increments of about 10 minutes until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out nearly clean – with a few crumbs attached.  The 9″x13″ pan should take up to 30-35 minutes and the remainder may take up to an hour, depending on the thickness of the layer.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling, use a jam or curd of your choice.  I used my homemade Mango-Raspberry Jam.

The Coating

  • 1 lb. white chocolate pieces (I used Ghirardelli Premium White Baking Chips)
  • 1/3 c solid vegetable shortening
  1. In a double boiler (or a bowl set over a pan of simmering – NOT BOILING – water), melt the shortening and chocolate together, stirring frequently until smooth.
Royal Icing
  • 1/2 lb (about 2 c) powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 T meringue powder
  • scant 1/4 c water (this depends entirely on the weather – do it a tiny bit at a time!)
  • a few drops of your desired food coloring
  1. Place all in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until combined, then on high for at least 10 minutes.  When it’s ready, it will be glossy and look like gel toothpaste.
To Assemble the Petit Fours
  1. Once the cake is completely cool, wrap tightly in plastic and place in freezer until completely frozen – up to overnight. **Freezing keeps crumbs down and doesn’t impact taste at all!
  2. Remove the cake from the freezer and, using a serrated knife, level the top if necessary and then divide the cake carefully into two even layers.  It is useful to make a score line with the knife in the edges of the cake to provide a guide line.
  3. Place the layer side by side with the cut sides up (open the cake like a book, so that the top and bottom surfaces lay on the table, like the covers of a book).  Spread a thin layer of jam on both sides – the layer should be thin enough that you can see the cake through the jam layer.
  4. Carefully place the top layer of the cake on top of the bottom layer of the cake, jam sides facing each other.  Press lightly to adhere.  Rewrap the cake and place back into freezer for 1-2 hours or until firm.
  5. Remove the cake from the freezer and place on table with the top (leveled) layer facing up.  Using a serrated knife, carefully trim up to 1/2″ from all four edges of the cake.  Discard or save for snacking.  (They make a great trifle or shortcake!)
  6. Now, carefully cut the cake layers into squares about 1″-1 1/2″ across.  Try to keep your knife perpendicular to the table so as to not make slanted Petit Fours.
  7. You should have the coating melted and kept warm on the stove at this point.  Use a skewer to lift each cube of cake (remember you’re poking the skewer into the TOP layer, with the bottom of the cake down – the bottom is a more even surface) and very carefully, but quickly dip it into the warm coating and let the excess drip off.  You only need to dip up to the top edge of the cube – don’t bother submerging them.  Then turn the skewer so the top is the bottom (like a cake lollypop) and use a fork to ease the cake cube off of the skewer and onto a cooling rack with a pan underneath.
  8. Repeat until all the cake cubes are coated.  If the coating is too thin, wait until it has firmed up and then re- dip.  I didn’t need to do this, but you can if necessary.
  9. Remove carefully from cooling rack, trim excess drips of coating from bottom.  Decorate with royal icing.
  10. Serve and soak up all the compliments you’ll inevitably receive.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. 11.July 2011 21:46

    Smems – may I repost on the Hbird FB? You know you’re speaking my language and you did an amazing job with everything!

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      11.July 2011 21:49

      Of course! Publicize as widely as you like! :)

  2. Lauren permalink
    11.July 2011 22:26

    That is gorgeous! Looks like y’all had an amazing spread! Good job and congrats Liz!

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      11.July 2011 22:37

      Thanks! It was pretty sweet – literally and figuratively!

  3. 12.July 2011 10:59

    The petits fours were *delicious* and everything was so touchingly well-thought-out. Will I ever stop saying “thank you”? :)

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