Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Post: Petit Fours

This was Terry's last week in Los Angeles, and what better way to see him off then with some tiny little cakes?  I have never been to the South so the petit four was quite a mystery to me, but in the end I am totally sold.  They are moist little sugar bombs that don't require sharing.  What could be better than that?  Besides Terry staying in Los Angeles, of course.

Sponge Cake
Adapted from Taste of Home (We doubled the recipe because we love cake that much)
Servings:  One 9x13 cake
It is quite the lovely, fluffy batter!
Time:  20 minutes prep, 40 minutes baking
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2-2/3 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cup whole milk
6 egg whites, room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease a 9x13 pan, line the pan with parchment paper, and then grease the parchment paper
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine
  4. Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer - be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically
  5. Beat the vanilla and almond extracts into the creamed butter/sugar mixture
  6. Alternate adding the dry and wet mixture at low speed being careful not to overmix (1/3 dry -> 1/2 wet -> 1/3 dry -> 1/2 wet > 1/3 dry)
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form 
  8. Very carefully fold the fluffy egg whites into cake batter - don't worry about getting all of the egg whites incorporated, it is better to leave streaks of egg white than to overwork and deflate the batter that you worked so hard to make
  9. Gently pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes (the original recipe is for a 9x9 pan, so doubling the batter but not doubling the pan size resulted in a thick cake that took forever to bake - when it comes to making the cake, I would start checking the cake around 30 minutes and then use your best judgement, aka toothpick, to decide when to take it out)
  10. When the cake is done, let it cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool to completion - easier said than done, as seen below

These are some amazing soft peaks,
thanks to Courtney and her impressive muscles

Remember what I said about that parchment paper?  Well, Terry and I didn't think to use it and this is what happened.  Luckily we were able to carve out quite a few squares for the petite fours.  The cake is very moist and light and it almost has the texture (and stickiness) of angel food cake.  Everyone kept eating the leftover sponge cake while waiting for the petite fours to be finished.  But things were about to get even tastier...

Almond Glaze:
Time:  10 minutes

1 pound confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water (or milk if you want a creamier glaze)
1-1/2 teaspoons almond extract

  1. In a large bowl, combine all glaze ingredients - try not to think about the pound of sugar
  2. Blend until smooth
  3. When the cakes are cool, spoon the glaze over the cakes until the top and sides are all covered by delicious, sugary glaze (and if you really love sugar, you can go back for round 2 and give them a second dose of glaze)
  4. Let the glaze harden and dry on the cakes, about 20 minutes
Orange Glaze:  (who doesn't like choices, especially ones that smell like creamsicles?)
Time:  10 minutes

1 pound confectioner's sugar, sifted - yes, we used 2 pounds of sugar for the glaze and we still weren't done!
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water (or milk if you want a creamier glaze)
2 teaspoons orange extract

  1. Do the same thing as for the almond extract, except get ready for some orange
Who needs energy drinks when you can just pop a few of
these sugar landen cuties?

Buttercream Frosting:
Time:  10 minutes

6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (now we are done with the sugar, I promise)
Gel food coloring - we went with pink and blue - is someone expecting a baby??

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix the butter, shortening, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as necessary
  2. Carefully add the sugar (and enjoy the break from sifting you get for this round)
  3. Split the frosting evenly among two cups (for two colors), add a few drops of food coloring, blend, and smile as you imagine turning everyone's teeth blue and pink
  4. Put the cups of frosting back into the refrigerator until ready to use
Xiaoming helped decorate some of them, and this petit four
is loving topped with a goldfish - can you see it?

While each step of the process is straightforward, the whole thing takes about 2 hours from start to finished product (of course, both Terry and I lack basic decorating skills).  But the time is definitely worth it, especially if you have someone as awesome as Terry to bake these little cakes with.  Now it's time for me to stuff myself with the delicate cakes in an attempt to console myself over Terry's leaving.  I think it will work.

We bake together, we die together.  Bad Bakers For Life!

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