In the 80s, my family would receive a catalog (name withheld to protect the colonial Swiss) that was filled with mail-order gifts like sausage and cheese. The highlight of the catalog were these perfect little tiny cakes called “petit fours.” I would dream of ordering the giant box of them, of course they would be more delicous than regular cakes: These are micro cakes! As an adult, I finally was able to try the catalog cakes, and they really are just tiny cakes. My partner and I had a chance to try the real thing at a tiny bakery near our house and we had to try our hands at making them.
(Side note: Petit fours is French for “small oven” and is a reference to early wood or coal ovens having only two temperatures: Roaring hot (the grand four), and cooling down. The petit fours were cooked during this cooling down period. Petit four now typically refers to a specific category of dessert. The petit fours we’re making are “petits four glace” or tiny cakes glazed with icing.
The secret to making a cake that works on such a tiny scale is to use a very dense cake that isn’t super spongy. We went with a frangipan. If you don’t like the taste of almonds, you would definitely want to go with a pound cake recipe. I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the taste of almonds, but it really went well with the cherry and chocolate. We did a layer of cherry and two layers of chocolate and used dark chocolate ganache for our coating. I think the small size coupled with the intense cherry / almond / chocolate was fantastic. They were the perfect accompaniment for a cup of coffee.
Some notes: This is not a quick recipe. The cake has to chill overnight. You'll also need a lot of pans and a lot of patience. You'll be making cakes and fillings and this is even with us taking a bunch of shortcuts. However, stay the course and you'll be rewarded with a delicious treat that no catalog could ever deliver.