Petit Fours are dainty French treats that are perfect for bridal showers, brunches, or anytime! I tested many recipes and honestly think this is the best and easiest way to make these sweet treats at home! Please see the how-to video in the recipe for flawless results, even if you’re a beginner baker!
Petit Fours (their name translates in French to “little oven”) are quintessential tea party/brunch/bridal shower treats. While these delicate desserts exist in both sweet and savory varieties, it’ll be no surprise to you that today I’m focusing on sweet treats.
While petit fours have a reputation for being fussy and difficult, I’ve worked very hard to make this recipe as simple as it possibly can be. The trickiest part is getting the icing to drape smoothly and beautifully over the cakes, and if you find yourself struggling I highly recommend you watch my video in the recipe card.
The cakes themselves needed to be sturdy but soft, so I opted for a scaled-down, cream cheese version of my favorite pound cake. It’s easy to work with, stacks beautifully, and has a tight but soft crumb that makes these petit fours all but melt in your mouth.
TIP: The cakes will most likely still look very pale (see below) even once they’re finished baking. Don’t over-bake or the layers will be dry!
How to Assemble Petit Fours
I bake the cakes in two jelly roll pans because it makes for perfectly level, thin cakes that don’t have to be obnoxiously sliced in half lengthwise (it’s difficult to do that evenly). I prefer to make two separate cakes because 1) it gives us the options to make half of our petit fours one flavor and half a completely different (though I did the same flavors for both here) and 2) if we’re going through all the effort of making petit fours, it’s not much more work to make twice as many!
Once baked, you’ll cut each cake into three even pieces (as even as possible, anyway, I struggled some). Two of the layers are covered with a thin covering (about ½ cup) of the filling of your choice and then are stacked and topped with a plain layer. You’ll end with 2 separate 3-layer stacks.
You can cut the petit fours into shapes with a large knife or with small cookie cutters. I used a 1 ½″ square cookie cutter for uniform cakes (see below).
TIP: before cutting into the cakes, gently but firmly press your hands over the surface to squeeze out any extra filling so that your layers don’t slide!
Other Filling Options
I used fresh lemon curd and homemade raspberry cake filling for today’s petit fours for a fresh, summery flavor. However, you can use just about any sturdy (read: not too runny) filling. You’ll need about two cups total (so if you’re going for two different flavors, one cup of each). Here are a few other great options:
- Salted caramel sauce (cool before using!)
- Chocolate ganache (cool to a thicker, spreadable consistency before using!)
- Peanut butter frosting
- Cream cheese frosting
Once cut into squares, it’s helpful to freeze the cakes while you’re preparing the icing. Doing so helps to keep the layers from sliding around and the cake firm and sturdy when you are covering with icing.
About That Icing
This is not a “traditional” petit four icing. Typically, these adorable mini cakes are covered with either a poured fondant (which is finicky, requires a candy thermometer, and doesn’t taste all that wonderful) or a white chocolate coating (which did not spread well and was much too sweet, even for me).
You ultimately want a frosting that coats smoothly and evenly, dries firm, and, most importantly, tastes excellent. It took me far too many attempt to get it right, but I finally found success. The icing that I use is essentially a melted buttercream frosting, only with corn syrup (this is not the same as high fructose corn syrup) added for a sleek, firm finish that you can easily pick up once cooled.
It complements the petit fours beautifully.
TIP: You can make this icing in the microwave or on a double boiler. I highly recommend a double boiler for best results. It keeps the icing fluid and allows you to most easily adjust the consistency as needed. If you use the microwave, you will frequently have to reheat your icing to keep the proper consistency.
If you wish, you can color the icing. I recommend a gel food coloring as a little goes a long way and doesn’t flavor the icing the same negative way that many liquid dyes do.
After the icing dries completely, you can decorate each petit four using my royal icing recipe, as I did here. I modeled the decorations here after my funfetti cake and used several small open star tips to decorate. This extra icing is completely optional and not needed for taste, as the cakes are sweet enough without the addition (but don’t they look pretty!?).
Petit fours should be stored in an airtight container. They will keep at room temperature for two days or refrigerated for up to a week. They may also be frozen for two to three months.
More Recipes For You To Try:
For best results I recommend you watch the video in the recipe card before beginning. Enjoy!
Petit Fours (easy step-by-step recipe!)
- I strongly recommend you read through the post and watch the video before beginning. It will help you, especially when it comes to icing the petit fours as flawlessly as possible!
- If making fillings listed from scratch, prepare these in advance of beginning the recipe.
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and grease and flour or spray with baking spray two 10x15” jelly roll pans (if you only have one, you can bake one cake at a time, just let the pan cool completely before washing it and re-using).
- Combine butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy, well-combined and lightened in color.
- Add eggs, one at a time, stirring wella after each addition (about 10 seconds on medium speed after each egg).
- Stir in vanilla extract. Mixture should be very smooth, light, and creamy when finished mixing. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl periodically to make sure all ingredients are well-combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- With mixer on low-speed, alternate adding flour and milk to the butter mixture until ingredients are completely combined (scrape sides and bottom of the bowl as needed).
- Divide batter evenly into prepared jelly roll pans and spread so the layers are even and smooth. Transfer to 350F (175C) oven to bake for 12-13 minutes (if baking one layer at a time) or 15 minutes (if baking both at the same time) or until baked through and cake springs back when lightly touched. Cake may still appear very pale even when baked completely through, don’t over-bake or it will be dry.
- Allow cakes to cool completely then, working with one cake at a time, cut first cake into three even pieces, each just under 5” wide.
- Transfer each piece to a clean surface. Evenly spread lemon curd or filling of choice on one third and raspberry cake filling or filling of choice on another. Leave the last third plain, this will be your top layer,
- Stack the cake thirds with the plain layer on top and gently press down all over wit your palms to gently squeeze out any excess filling. Using a 1 ½” round or square cookie cutter (or use a sharp knife to cut into even 1 ½” squares) firmly press down to cut out square and transfer to a wax paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you have cut out as many cakes as possible. Set aside and repeat with remaining cake.
- Cover petit four cakes with plastic wrap and place in the freezer while you prepare icing.
- Heat about 2-3” of water over medium-low heat in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a medium or large heat-proof bowl that fits snuggly over your saucepan without touching the water, combine butter, heavy cream and light corn syrup. Stir frequently over simmering water until melted.
- Add vanilla extract and gradually add sugar until combined and mixture is smooth. Test the consistency of the icing by lifting your spoon out of it. If it drizzles smoothly back into the bowl and holds its shape for a second before dissolving into the bowl of icing, it’s perfect. If it’s too stiff, add a splash more cream as needed. Stir in any food coloring here, if desired.
- Remove petit fours from the freezer and place on on a large fork over the bowl of icing (so that any drips fall back in the bowl to be re-used). Using a spoon, spoon icing over the petit four until it is completely covered. Use your first petit four as a gauge for testing how smoothly the icing covers and adjust as needed. Return cakes to the baking sheet, and repeat with remaining cakes until all are covered.
- Allow to cool completely for icing to harden before enjoying (this can be done at room temperature or in the refrigerator). If desired, after cooling completely decorate with royal icing.