Sunday, April 29, 2012

Baking Challenge Week 17 - Layered - Almost Petit Fours

I say "almost" because, as you can see, there's no fondant.  Did I make fondant and dip a few?  Absolutely.  And they were awful.

Most petit fours recipes I've seen involve pouring the fondant (which is apparently a huge PITA) or dipping each side of the mini morsels of goodness in turn (which leads to a terminal case of fondant hand, a lesser-known cousin of deep-fry club hand.)  When I saw a video of a baker sticking the cake on a skewer and dipping the whole thing, I thought, this is the most brilliant thing ever!

Not so.  That one in the front, if you look really close, has a hole where the skewer went right through.  And trying to get the fondant to coat evenly?  Not possible no matter what method you use, as far as I can tell.  My fondant set up perfectly, so I can't have done it that wrong, but it has got to be one of the most tempermental things I've ever worked with.  Seeing as how I've never made souffle.

After doing these few (less than a quarter of the cake I had to work with) I decided to try one, since they were already setting up.  I spit it out.  I had no idea fondant was so nasty!  I like sugary things, don't get me wrong, but this nearly had me crying, it was so sweet.  Part of that reaction may be that the fondant was too thick--a thin layer, had I been able to achieve it, wouldn't have been so overpowering.  And I completely see the appeal of biting through a hard, candy-like casing to get at moist delicious cake within.  But next time I want to have cakey goodness, I'll skip the petit fours and just make a split layer cake!

Fondant failure aside, though, I still got the layered part right, and delicious, too.  Lemon sponge cake, soaked with Barenjager-spiked syrup, spread with blackberry jam, topped with cream cheese frosting.  I know buttercream is standard, but I had half a package of cream cheese left from the peppermint roses, and I hate food going to waste!  We had no problem eating the un-fondant-ed cakes as is.

Lemon Sponge Cake
(adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup + 1/2 cup sugar (each used in different steps)
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper, leaving some extra on the short ends to lift out the finished cake.

In one bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl with a mixer at high speed, beat the egg whites into soft peaks; gradually sprinkle in the 1/3 cup sugar while continuing to beat to stiff peaks.

In a large bowl with a mixer at high speed, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored; while continuing to beat, gradually sprinkle in the 1/2 cup sugar, then add the lemon extract.  Lower the speed and add the flour mixture, beating until just combined.  Gently fold in the beaten egg whites.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.  (And having never made a egg-white stiffened cake before, they really do mean "evenly" when they say it--I'm used to cake batters settling themselves in the oven, and this one won't.  Make it pretty now or your cake will be uneven forevermore!)

Bake 15 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched with a finger.

Immediately lift the cake out of the pan with the paper lining, and cool on a wire rack.

If you intend to make petit-fours with it, there are plenty of resources out there to tell you about splitting the cake and such....I'm not going to bother, because as far as I'm concerned, they're not worth the trouble.  The cake itself, however, definitely is!

Barenjager Syrup

During some consulting of other syrups for cake-drenching, I came across alcohol : sugar : water ratios all the way from 1:10:10 to 1:1:1.  I settled on 1:4:4--ie, 1/4 cup of liquor stirred into a cooled simple syrup made from 1 cup each of sugar and water.  I feel like the ratio was good--not too strong, not too bland--but the quantity was waaaaay more than I needed for a single batch of cake.  Be advised!

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and thoroughly combined.  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating each addition until fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Add the vanilla and milk with the last cup of sugar.  Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator.

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