Petits Fours: The Cake

The heart of petits fours is the cake. While you can use a variety of different cakes, I went with a good old traditional yellow cake. This is a light (when not over mixed!), sturdy cake that comes together quickly and can be used for an array for dessert bases.

Start with your usual first steps in baking a cake … greasing and flouring the pans and preheating the oven

Measure out and whisk together the usual suspects … sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.

Add in the butter. It’s your best friend.

After a quick whirl of the mixer you’ll get this wonderful sandy texture.

Pour in the milk and vanilla and mix some more. Now things will start looking like a batter.

Add in one egg like so.

Mix for 30 seconds on low, then 30 seconds on medium. And then scrape down the bowl. This is an important step so don’t try to rush it and over mix it by the speed up to 11. While I can’t scientifically explain to you why that is bad, you are going to have to trust me if you want don’t want a cake that is as dense as a ton of bricks.

Repeat the process with the three remaining eggs. You’ll end up with a lovely smooth batter.

Divide it evenly into your cake pans. Though be sure and do what I forgot to do and smooth out things out after pouring the batter into the pans.

While there could have been an issue with my oven (wouldn’t surprise me), I’m thinking my cakes decided to move to one side because I didn’t smooth out the tops before putting in the oven.

Look at the lean on my cakes!

But the cakes are perfectly golden and you can see where the edges pull away from the pan.

Once cool, remove the cakes from their pans and wrap them in parchment and foil and toss in the freezer. Frozen cake helps keeps the crumbs at bay for the filling, stacking, and icing stages of the petits fours.

Golden Vanilla Cake

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 2 cups/14oz sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups/13 3/4oz all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup/6oz unsalted butter at room temperature aka soft
  • 1 1/4 cups/10 oz milk at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat in butter with a mixer at low speed till it has a sandy texture.

In a large measuring cup, stir the milk and vanilla together. Pour into flour mixture and mix on low for about 30 seconds, then on medium for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.

Turn the mixer on low and add 1 egg. Then turn up the speed to medium for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl really well. Repeat process with the 3 remaining eggs. The batter should be very smooth at this point.

Pour evenly into the the two cake pans being sure to smooth out the tops.

Bake at 350ºF/180ºC for about 27 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cake will be golden and the edges will have started to pull away from the edge of the pan.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

To use for the petits fours: Once completely cool, remove from pan. Then wrap the cakes up in parchment paper and then in foil to create a good seal. Put in the freezer for a good 6 hours or overnight.

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