2/3 pound (300 grams) almond paste
2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated white sugar
2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (cut into pieces)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (about 4 large eggs) (190 grams without shell), at room temperature
2/3 cup (85 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) apricot preservies, heated and strained
1/4 cup (60 ml) seedless raspberry preserves, heated
White Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces (230 grams) white chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons (80 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon (13 grams) vegetable shortening
Royal Icing: (optional)
1 large egg white (30 grams), at room temperature
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) confectioners sugar (powdered or icing sugar), sifted
Almond Cake: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 1 inch (44 x 32 x 2.5 cm) baking pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Place the almond paste in your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, (or use a hand mixer) and beat until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until thoroughly combined. Gradually add the butter and continue to beat until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of your bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined. Finally, beat in the flour and salt.
Evenly spread the batter into your pan and bake for about 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5-10 minutes. Run a knife or spatula along the sides of the pan and then gently slide the cake, along with the parchment paper, onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Next, trim the edges of the cake with a sharp knife and divide the cake into three equal pieces. Take one layer and flip it onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment or wax paper. Peel off the parchment paper and spread the apricot preserves evenly over the top of the cake. Take a second layer of cake and turn it upside down on top of the apricot preserves. Peel off the parchment paper and spread the raspberry preserves evenly on the top of the cake. Then take the last layer of cake and turn it upside down on top of the raspberry preserves. Cover the whole cake with plastic wrap and then place a heavy plate or baking pan on top of the cake. This is done to compact the cake layers. Place in the refrigerator to chill until firm (2-3 hours or even overnight).
Once the cake is firm, remove from refrigerator, and using a 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) round cookie cutter, cut into shapes (you can also cut the cake into squares, rectangles, or diamonds). Place the mini cakes on a baking sheet, cover, and place in the refrigerator while you make the White Chocolate Glaze.
White Chocolate Glaze: Put the white chocolate, butter, and shortening in a stainless steel bowl. Place over a saucepan of barely simmering water and heat until smooth. (Watch carefully as white chocolate can easily over heat.) Remove from heat.
Place your small cakes on a wire rack that has been placed over a baking sheet. Using a small ladle pour the chocolate glaze over the cakes, making sure that the glaze completely covers each cake. If your glaze gets too thick, place it back over the heat to thin it out. Any glaze that drips onto the baking sheet can be strained and then it may have to be reheated. Place the frosted cakes into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes so the glaze can harden and become firm.
Royal Icing: Place the egg whites and lemon juice in a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and mix until smooth. If needed, add a few drops of water until you get the correct piping consistency. At this point you can add food coloring to the royal icing. Place the royal icing in a pastry bag fitted wth a small plain tip and decorate the tops of the cakes.
Store the Petit Fours in a covered container in the refrigerator for about 7-10 days. They can also be frozen for about a month. (If freezing, do not decorate with the royal icing.) To defrost, place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Makes about 24 - 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) Petit Fours.
What do small layer cakes, miniature tuiles, eclairs, macarons, candied fruits, chocolate covered fruits, tartlets, madeleines, and ladyfingers, have in common? They all belong to a category of small fancy cookies, pastries, or confections called "Petit Fours". The name 'Petit Four' (literally translated means 'small oven') seems to have originated in the 18th century when ovens were made of brick and once the large cakes were baked, small cakes were baked in the ovens as they were cooling down.
Petit fours can usually be eaten in one or two bites and are traditionally served with afternoon tea or after a fancy meal. These small fancy pastries are divided into two categories: "sec" and "glacé". "Sec" meaning "dry" and "glacé" meaning "iced or frosted". For this recipe we're making Petit Fours Glacé as they consist of three layers of almond cake that are filled with a layer of apricot preserves and raspberry preserves and then covered in a white chocolate glaze. The final touch is to decorate each cake with a drizzling of royal icing.
A few notes on ingredients. The Almond Cake we're making contains almond paste. Almond paste is a combination of equal parts ground blanched almonds and sugar, mixed with glucose, corn syrup or egg whites. It has a pliable yet grainy texture with a sweet almond flavor. Normally sold in cans or tubes, my personal preference is the canned variety as I prefer its flavor. Also, while I've filled the cake with apricot preserves and raspberry preserves, you could use other flavors of jam or preserves. And while I've cut the Almond Cake into circles, you could cut the cake into squares, rectangles, or even diamond shapes which will actually give you more cakes and less waste. For the White Chocolate Glaze, make sure to use a white chocolate that contains cocoa butter. After you pour on the glaze, if you like you can decorate the top of each cake with drizzle of royal icing. But other choices would be to drizzle the tops of the cake with melted dark chocolate, or you could use gum paste or royal icing flowers or decorations, colored sprinkles, sugar pearls, pearl sugar, candied glitter or sparkles.