When I recently threw my oldest friend, Emily, an engagement party, she was there with me throughout much of the planning process. She helped me design the invitations, finalize the menu, and create a playlist. Although she knew all of the details of the party, she was still a guest of honor and I felt like she needed to be delightfully surprised in some way. That’s when I remembered a request she had made months before about wanting to serve petit fours as dessert.
Having never made petit fours before, I was a little wary of serving them as a surprise dessert at an engagement party for forty people. But after extensive online research, well, it wasn’t that extensive, there’s not very much information out there, I decided petit fours couldn’t be too hard to assemble. The kind I was going to make were essentially like mini princess cakes, I thought, and I totally mastered the princess cake years ago.
The first couple of steps, baking the cake, layering with jam, and slicing into 1-inch cubes, were easy enough. However, things started to get crazy when I was making the petit fours icing. The recipe calls for 9 cups of sifted powdered sugar, so I had to use a gigantic metal bowl and make a huge double boiler.
The directions consisted of one step and were completely straight forward with no special tips. It was quite simply: “combine all the ingredients until smooth and warm, don’t overheat, and let cool slightly before using.” But it wasn’t that easy at all! The fondant was thick, goopy, and paste-like. It stuck to everything in a horrible gloppy way, not in a good pretty petit fours way. As it cooled, it hardened and couldn’t be used.
“MOM! HELP! ME! NOW!” I called for reinforcements, realizing that I needed to move as quickly as possible.
We had to reheat the fondant to get it to a pourable consistency over and over again and even then, it didn’t cover the cakes smoothly. When all the fondant was used up, none of the cakes were serveable; they were partially covered and looked like a kindergarten class had made them.
I was discouraged but found the whole thing to be extremely hilarious. I was covered in powdered sugar, had fondant stuck to my eyebrows, and my mom and I could not stop laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I wish there had been a video camera taping us as we frantically struggled to make the fondant work.
Luckily, earlier that week, I had shared my surprise plans for making petit fours with my second oldest friend, Melissa. She was coming over to help set up the party and arrange the flowers and offered to decorate the petit fours if I ran out of time and had to prepare other dishes. Melissa is incredibly artistic and somehow managed to turn the ugly petit fours into adorable little cakes that were praised and enjoyed by everyone at the party, including the bride who loved her surprise!
Here’s what she did: she pretended the petit fours were cake pops and carefully coated each one in melted chocolate. The cakes were delicate, but with the help of a couple skewers and a crab fork, Melissa was able to successfully coat most of them in chocolate. We also frosted some with almond cream cheese icing before Melissa decorated them with fresh raspberries and candy roses.