Petits fours are some of my favourite things to bake. Meringues, macarons and petits gateaux; there is just something about miniature baked items that is ultra satisfying. They are often layered or glazed and look so appetising that it’s lucky that they are traditionally served at the end of a meal when you are full, as if I wasn’t stuffed I could eat a whole plate of them myself.
The recipe for these cakes does not include any sort of raising agent. Instead, the butter, sugar and marzipan are vigorously beaten which incorporates tiny air bubbles into the mixture. The expansion of this air in the heat of the oven is what gives the cakes their rise. This is very similar to how pound cakes were made when the butter was beaten until it was soft and had increased massively in volume because air had been mixed into it. The natural rise means that, whilst light in texture, the cakes remain very moist and dense helping them cut cleanly and hold together when decorated.
What makes this recipe different from a standard sponge cake is the addition of marzipan. Marzipan is made of almonds, sugar and often egg whites. This is why the recipe doesn’t have the classic ratio of ingredients for a sponge cake but rather the flour, sugar and butter have been cut as they have been replaced by the ingredients in the marzipan. Ground almonds are a classic way of giving a cake a moist crumb so by adding not only those but also the egg white in the marzipan you can guarantee that the final product will have an amazing texture. The marzipan also helps weigh down the cake, fighting against the expanding air in the oven so the cake doesn’t rise too much.
The miniature cakes made from this recipe are the perfect end to a meal. They are not too heavy to eat and everyone gets their own individual cake. They would also sit beautifully on the final layer of an afternoon tea as, owing to their size, they can be eaten along with lots of other little things.
Let me know what you think of the recipe as it is a massive hit in my house.
Almond Cake Petit Gateaux
Time: 3 hours
90g cake flour
Pinch of salt
150g icing sugar
¼ tsp almond extract
1 tbsp milk
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
1 tbsp glucose syrup
Preheat an oven to gas mark 5 (190°C).
Line the base of a swiss roll pan with butter and baking paper.
Break the marzipan into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Do not worry if it feels a little grainy, this is from the marzipan and will melt out in the oven.
Mix in the salt.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated after each addition.
With the mixer running on slow, mix in the flour.
Spread the mixture evenly across the base of the tin ensuring that it does not dome in the centre.
Bake for 15 minutes or until it is golden and slightly risen. A skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin.
In a bowl, beat the butter for the icing until it is light and fluffy. It will go very pale and soft.
Sift in the icing sugar in three batches beating after each addition.
Add the almond extract and the milk and beat again until the buttercream is super soft.
Using a small, round biscuit cutter, cut as many circles of cake out of the sheet as possible.
If you do not wish to include a chocolate ganache:
Spread half of the cakes with buttercream and jam before topping them with another circle to make a mini sandwich cake.
Dust with icing sugar.
If you wish to coat with ganache:
Spread either jam or buttercream on half of the cakes and sandwich them in pairs.
Use a mini spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream around the outside and over the top of the cakes.
Place them in the freezer for 20 minutes.
While the cakes are setting, roughly chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl.
Heat the cream and glucose in a saucepan until the cream is just about to boil.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave for two minutes before mixing it together into a smooth ganache.
Leave this to cool down.
Before you coat the cakes, make sure that the ganache is not warm to the touch otherwise it will melt the buttercream and slide off the cakes.
Remove the cakes from the freezer and place them onto a wire rack. Place this rack over a tray with raised edges as this will catch the ganache that drips off.
Pour the ganache over the cakes endure that it has flowed down all the edges.
Place the cakes in the fridge to set for at least half an hour.
You can leave the cakes like this or use any excess buttercream to decorate them.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of petits fours, check out my macaron recipe. I also have one for meringues, both French and swiss style (you may as well try them both – that would be the scientific way to decide which is better).
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious pasta dish.