At first I was baffled about all the cupcake hoopla that has been going on for the past few years. I mean haven’t we all grown up eating them our whole lives? It just seemed to me that some people act like they had just invented the wheel. Cupcake insanity has taken over the world. . . thank goodness.
Well after thinking about it awhile I have come to the conclusion that we all just like something cute and small that belongs just to us. Who wouldn’t love a little individual cake that is all yours and that has been decorated with just as much love and care as a big cake? I have a friend Beverley that has a Facebook page, Something About Cupcakes, that is devoted to talking about cupcakes and I have to say I’ve seen some pretty amazing examples through her efforts.
The only thing that seems to be a notch up from cupcakes to me is the ever elegant little petit four. There has always been something super chic about these little cakes to me. Maybe it is that perfect ratio of icing to cake. I just love their size and that delicate little glaze that cracks slightly when you bite into them. Then, normally towards the middle they are crowned with a soft and buttery little decoration that melts on your tongue.
When I was deciding what sweet little treat I’d like to follow my coronation chicken up with for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I decided to pull these sinful little confections from the shadow of their cupcake cousins and give them the attention they deserve.
Since I have never made petit fours before I perused the internet and decided on trying a recipe from Land ‘O Lakes, figuring I couldn’t possible go wrong with a recipe from a butter company. This recipe wasn’t necessarily difficult to make, but since my old oven’s temperature is hard to regulate, my cake took about 10 minutes less time to cook than stated. I'm not sure if this was my oven or the recipe so please keep a close eye to avoid disappointment.
I also found that the icing had a perfect consistency, but also had a strong powdered sugar flavor that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I’m not saying that this isn’t a great recipe but if I make this again I will be adding just a pinch of salt to the glaze to cut the sweetness just a bit.
Once I had the cake baked and cooled, I trimmed the crusts from it and cut it into 2-½ “ x 2” squares with a very sharp serrated knife. This meant that my recipe yielded only about 18 larger petit fours but with my Union Jack decoration I needed a larger surface to work with.
To decorate I cut a Union Jack shaped stencil from a thin plastic cutting board that I had tucked away. After glazing the cakes I let them dry for 10 minutes or so, so they were dry to the touch before laying the stencil on top and lightly spraying them with some blue Wilton Color Mist food color spray. I then removed the stencil and added the red icing accents over the white icing to complete my Union Jacks. During this process I took great pains to take photographs only to discover after I had finished that I didn’t have a card in my camera, duh. Please accept my apologies.
The only other comment I have on this recipe is that I strongly recommend that these be made (or at least glazed) the day that they are to be served. If they are covered overnight the glaze softens and becomes a bit gooey. If they are left uncovered they can become stale. You can in a pinch make them the day before, cover them overnight then uncover them and expose them to the air to dry back out for at least an hour before serving or decorating. They will have that crisp texture again but the icing has a tendency to sink into the cake during the time they sit.
My conclusion is that whether or not you are making Union Jacks for the Queen or little birthday bites for your little prince or princess, these are really something special. Just like cupcakes, who doesn't love their own little cake with just the right amount of icing?
Union Jack Petit FoursThis is the original Land O Lakes recipe that I made with the only changes being those I mentioned above.
Cake3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
3 drops food color, if desired
Candy flowers, if desired
Frosting flowers, if desired
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 13x9-inch baking pan; set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Set aside.
Beat sugar and butter in large bowl at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until creamy. Add 1 egg white at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition just until mixed.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edge of cake by running knife around inside edge. Carefully remove cake from pan; cool completely.
Trim edges from cake; cut cake into 48 (1 1/2-inch square) pieces.
Combine sugar, cream of tartar and water in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil (12 to 14 minutes). Cover; boil 3 minutes. Uncover; continue cooking until candy thermometer reaches (228°F. to 234°F.) or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a 2-inch soft thread (15 to 20 minutes). Remove from heat; cool to 110°F. or until bottom of pan is slightly warm to touch (do not stir) ( 1 hour). Stir in powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon almond extract and food color, if desired.
Place wire cooling rack over waxed paper. Place 1 cake piece on fork; drizzle icing over top and sides of cake, making sure each side is covered. Place onto wire rack; let stand until icing is set. (If icing becomes too thick, reheat over low heat until thin consistency and easy to drizzle (2 to 3 minutes)). Garnish each petit four with candy flowers or frosting flowers, if desired.
- Package petits fours in a festive candy or cake box for gift giving.