I LOVE cake, but what's better than cake? How about cake dipped in candy? There are a lot of ways to make petit fours. I like mine to have lots of layers with fruit fillings. These look impressive and taste great! I've also found a few shortcuts to take along the way. These are pretty labor intensive, but well worth the work.
I start off with baking the cake. The petit fours need a good strong cake to hold together so most people use pound cake. I make it from scratch or use a mix. It works well either way. I also cook my cake in a cookie sheet so I can get my thin layers. Start by spraying your cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and lining the pan with parchment paper (or wax paper). Make sure that you overlap the sides so you can lift the cake out easily.
Preheat your oven to 350 and spread your batter in the pan. Try to make it as even as possible. Bake 25-30 minutes until it starts pulling away from the sides and is a slight golden brown.
Cool the cake in the pan until it is only slightly warm. Grasp both edges of the parchment paper and carefully lift the cake out of the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut the hardened edges off the cake.
Then quarter the cake so you have four squares, as shown below.
Here's the secret to getting such nice small layers. Now I take each quarter of the cake and half it again, horizontally, like this.
This gives me two very thin layers. This can take a little practice, but just go slow and don't worry if they aren't perfect.
Next I take one layer, bottom side down, and cover it with filling. I like raspberry (I used seedless raspberry jam), or lemon curd (I usually do 1/2 a batch of each for variety).
I then place another layer of cake on the covered one and cover it with jam. I follow that up with a third layer, bottom up this time, and cover it with buttercream frosting. The scratch recipe I use doesn't rise as much as a mix, so I do four layers when I am making it.
I do this with all my remaining cake using either lemon or raspberry filling. As I finish the cake rectangles I put them in the freezer so they are easier to cut.
After freezing them for about a half hour I bring out one rectangle at a time and trim the edges.
Then I cut the remaining cake into about 1 inch squares and return them to the freezer. I let them sit in the freezer for several hours before I dip them because they are easier to work with if they are frozen.
After having frozen the individual cakes for several hours I prepare my dipping candy. I have tried several options for dipping and really favor this CandiQuik which I purchase at Walmart. Real chocolate doesn't set up as well (though it does work and tastes good) and this particular brand is less waxy and tastes better than other candy coatings I've tried. It's a bit more expensive, but comes with it's own dipping tray and tastes FABULOUS! Try dipping pretzels in it! It is heaven!
Another trick I use is to dip them individually. Some people place their cakes on a rack and drizzle fondant over them. I find this way to work much easier and have much less mess. I prepare a cooling rack to overlap my counter as shown below, and I melt the CandiQuik following it's instructions (adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening).
Then I pull the cakes out of the freezer a few at a time, place them on a toothpick, and start dipping them.
I cover the top and sides of the individual piece (not the bottom, though this pic isn't a very good representation of that, I fudged a bit while messing with the camera).
Then I place the toothpick through the top of the rack and pull it out the bottom. This leaves the cake to set up on the rack.
After the cakes have set up, decorate them as desired, and enjoy! :-) So good!