With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I wanted to do something special for my mom, as we all do. My parents moved to Ottawa when I was in university and have since retired and have spent most of their time traveling the world. While I’m super happy that they’re healthy and able to do so, they aren’t around for most holidays and I only see them a few times a year. I miss them a lot and Mother’s Day is no exception. But this year my parents were going to be in town, so I want to go all out! Except…I’m in between contracts at the moment and am on a tight budget. All the fancy high tea spots are ch-ching! So, I decided to do my own tea party at home. Time to bust open my go-to baking book: Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I decided to tackle her Petits Fours recipe: mini almond cakes covered in a white chocolate glaze. I’ll show you how to make Martha Stewart’s Petits Fours…or at least, how I tried to make them…
The first problem I faced was that I couldn’t find almond paste anywhere. I guess it’s more of a specialty baking ingredient? But none of the major supermarkets in Toronto had this paste. So, I made some myself and it was quick and easy. I found this recipe on the Taste of Home site – now I need to find more desserts that use almond paste ’cause I have a whole block of the stuff!
Making the almond cake went smoothly. I made sure my butter was at room temperature, and carefully added the ingredients one at a time. I timed the butter exactly for two minutes and the mixture became nice and fluffy. I used a big spatula when adding the yolks and vanilla and added the flour in three parts. Things were going well!
For the next step, I started to feel intimidated…egg whites! Peaks and foam! But I had faith in my trusted Kitchen Aid mixer and soon I saw some foamy whites start to form. I carefully added the sugar and low and behold – peaks! Ever so gently I folded a third of this fluffy mixture into the egg yolk mixture and then spread it evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet. I made sure to rotate the pan halfway, and out came a heavenly almond cake!
Man, I love the smell of almond. Everything smells so lovely, like a sweet, nutty dream. I could just close my eyes, and take a wonderful cozy, nap…
But there is still more work to do!
The next step is the chocolate part. As in, the most expensive ingredient that I CANNOT BURN part. The glaze was actually the easy step, because the cream is poured over the chocolate to melt it. Make sure the cakes are completely cooled by this point or they will melt the chocolate! I found glazing the cakes to be a bit tricky. Even though I worked quickly, my glaze was pretty thick. It tasted delish, but I don’t know how to get the glaze thin and evenly spooned over the cakes. In the photos her glaze looks almost transparent. I almost feel as though it would be easier to dip them? But in any case, my cakes are glazed.
The final step was to make the white chocolate cut outs. I found this stage to be the most difficult, and gosh darn it I did end up burning some chocolate! Luckily there was a lot leftover but initially I had wanted to make blue and pink Petits Fours. The blue unfortunately turned a little, urm darker then I would have liked. Do not let your eyes off the chocolate people! Work quickly and stir, stir, stir!
This part is tricky because you need to keep the chocolate warm enough to work with, and not burn it. I would advise to stick to one colour and try to avoid fiddling around with the tint. Just melt the chocolate until the texture is smooth and runny, tint and pour. My shapes turned out a bit too thick because I was trying to get the “perfect shade of pink” so by the time I poured into the pan the chocolate had cooled quite a bit.
However, the other issue is that if the chocolate is two thin, the shapes will crack. The shapes that worked out best for me were the thicker ones. Whenever I tried to cut out thinner areas the chocolate would break. I think the problem was that I might have chilled the sheet of chocolate for too long. I would recommend chilling for no longer then 10 minutes, so hopefully this way you can have thin cut outs that will hold.
For the finishing touch you can use some Royal Icing to design pretty patterns on top. I thought the cakes were sweet enough and I liked the cool textured patterns that the chocolate created.
Ta-Da! There you have it – some delightful Petits Fours for your Mother’s Day tea party. No problem right? Phew! That was actually quite a lot of work. Martha likes to keep you on your toes! And how do they taste? Well I absolutely LOVE the almond cake. Yum, yum, yum, I had to restrain myself from eating all the cut out remains! The white chocolate glaze in addition to the cut outs does make this a very sweet dessert. Personally, I would be happy with just the glaze, but then again, I also have to perfect my glazing and cutout skills.
Martha Stewart's Petits Fours
These delectable little almond cakes are topped with white chocolate and are a pretty addition to any tea party.
- 1.5 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup) room temperature, plus more for the pan
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the pan
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup almond paste (not marzipan)
- 6 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 pounds white chocolate coarsely chopped
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- White Chocolate Cutouts
- Royal Icing, for decorating
For the White Chocolate Cutouts
- 2 1/4 pounds best-quality white chocolate finely chopped
- liquid or gel-paste food colouring
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 17x 12" baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Butter parchment and dust with flour, tapping off the excess. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 1 1/4 cups sugar and the almond paste on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add butter, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla; mix to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Set aside.
Prep sugar. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites until foamy. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle in remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and beat until soft peaks form. Add a third of the egg-white mixture to the egg-yolk mixture and fold with a whisk. Gently fold in remaining whites.
Spread batter evenly on prepared sheet, and bake, turning pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.
Invert the cake onto a large work surface, and peel off parchment paper. Using assorted 2-inch cookie cutters, cut out cakes. Place cakes on wire racks set over rimmed baking sheets; set aside.
Place the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour over white chocolate, and let sit for 1 minute. Stir until mixture is smooth. Spoon melted chocolate over cakes, letting some run down the sides; spread with a small offset spatula to coat completely. Transfer glazed cakes to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Place a White Chocolate Cutouts on top of each cake; decorate with Royal Icing, if desired. Cakes can be refiderated in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.
White Chocolate Cutouts
Line three rimmed baking sheets with parchment; set aside. In a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, melt white chocolate, stirring constantly. Divide melted chocolate evenly among three small bowls; tint each with food colouring to desired shade. Pour a coloured chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it with an offset spatula into a layer about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to the refrigerator; chill until chocolate is firm, 10-15 minutes. Repeat with remaining coloured chocolates.
Working with one colour at a time, cut out shapes; leave shapes in place on the sheet. (If chocolate is still soft in any area, return to the fridge to harden, 1-2 minutes). Refrigerate until completely firm. Separate the shapes from borders with a small offset spatula. (Scraps can be discarded or remelted and used again.) Cutouts can be refrigerated, between sheets or parchment paper, in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those amazing moms out there! It’s a hard job and I greatly admire all my friends who have taken on the responsibility. You deserve all the Petits Fours in the world!