Last updated on September 3rd, 2021
Why do I make lots of 19th-century desserts? Because the ghosts who inhabit my house demand them. Today, for instance, Sarah Wild (1793-1872) requested little cakes, or Petit Fours, for Afternoon Tea. How could I refuse?
A little history: Sarah was married to Nathan Wild (1790-1867), an English immigrant who made a fortune in the textile-manufacturing trade. In 1826 he built this house that I call home.
Sarah and Nathan’s son, Charles, inherited the place in 1867. Charles was “well-heeled,” too. In 1870 he built a grand, Victorian addition to the house: a double parlor (above) that I now use as a music room.
I cheated quite a bit in order to make Sarah’s Petit Fours. Instead of preparing a traditional genoise batter, I simply sliced up a store-bought pound cake, and spread the layers with two kinds of preserves. Then I sealed the cakes in white chocolate, and drizzled the tops with Royal Icing.
You can make these tiny treasures, too. Here’s the recipe:
To start, make or purchase an all-butter pound cake.
Cut the cake into 1/4-inch slices. Be sure to cut straight down (not on the bias), so the pieces will be level from top to bottom. You’ll need 18 slices for 12 Petit Fours.
Next, spoon some apricot preserves (1/2 cup) into a glass bowl, and heat them in the microwave until bubbly — 30 to 45 seconds.
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Then add the warmed preserves, and push them down with a spoon. The sieve will hold back the bits of apricot peel, while the “good stuff” seeps into the bowl.
Also warm some seedless raspberry jam — about a 1/4 cup — in a small bowl. Mercifully, you won’t have to strain this jam.
Place 12 slices of cake on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and top 6 of them with a small spoonful of the filtered apricot preserves.
Spread out the preserves with the back of a spoon, or with an offset spatula.
Spread the next 6 slices with the raspberry preserves.
Place the raspberried slices atop the apricotted slices…
And finish with a third slice of cake.
Cover the cakes with plastic wrap, and weight them with a casserole dish. Then pop them into the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Now grab your 1 1/4-inch-diameter biscuit cutter, and use it to punch out 2 round cakes per layered “sandwich.” Avoid the crusts — you won’t want them in your Petit Fours.
Don’t throw away the scraps! Your Little People will enjoy playing in them. Further more, you can freeze the wreckage for later use in a trifle. Or, you can simply break the scraps into goblets, and top them with whipped cream for a fast, and definitely casual, dessert.
The punched-out rounds are beautiful to behold. Place them on a rack set over a parchment-lined baking sheet.
To glaze these suckers, put 8 ounces of white chocolate bits and 6 tablespoons butter in a stainless (or heat-proof glass) bowl.
Set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water…
And stir with a forest-green spatula until the chocolate and butter transform themselves into a luscious white lava — about 2 minutes.
Spoon or ladle the chocolate over the Petit Fours, letting it drip down the sides. The sauce will firm up as it cools.
Sarah Wild suggested that I pipe some Royal Icing onto the cakes.
Her wish, as always, is my command.
If you have ghosts in your house, by all means keep them happy. Otherwise they will hoot, howl, and slam doors in the middle of the night.
Royal Icing is a cinch to make: Put the white of a large egg into a bowl, and whisk it until foamy.
Then add 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, and stir until smooth. If the mix is too thick, add a teaspoon of water (or lemon juice) to thin it out.
I added a tiny drop of vegetable coloring to turn the icing pastel-blue. You might prefer pink or purple icing.
Scoop the icing into a plastic bag…
Cut off the corner tip…
And pipe out some swirls, spirals, or other nifty designs.
These Petit Fours aren’t just delicious — they are hauntingly-delicious. Don’t make me beg you to try them!
Think you’ll give these simple Petit Fours a whirl? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love to hear from you.
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Petit Fours with White Chocolate Glaze
For the layered cakes
- 1 9-inch x 4-inch pound cake, store-bought or homemade
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves, warmed and strained
- 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, warmed
For the white chocolate glaze
- 8 ounces white chocolate chips or bars (chop the bars)
- 6 tablespoons diced unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (optional)
For the royal icing:
- 1 large organic egg white at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted to remove lumps
- A drop of vegetable food coloring, such as blue, pink, or violet
Making the layered "sandwiches":
- Cut the pound cake into 18 1/4-inch slices. Place the slices on a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. Spread 6 slices with the warmed and strained apricot preserves, and another 6 slices with the warmed raspberry jam. Place the apricot-spread slices on top of the rasberry-spread slices. Top with the remaining unadorned slices. Cover the "sandwiches" with cling film, and weigh down with casserole dish or a platter. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
- Place a wire rack on a parchment or wax paper llined baking sheet. Using a 1 1/4-inch-diameter biscuit cutter, and taking care to avoid crusts, press out 2 petit fours per layered sandwich, and transfer them to the wire rack. (Don't throw out the scraps -- you can freeze them and serve later with whipped cream for a simple dessert.)
The white chocolate glaze:
- Put the chocolate, butter, and optional shortening in a heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over a sauce pan of very hot, but not simmering, water. Stirring with a metal spoon from time to time, allow the mixture to melt into a velvety white lava. Spoon or ladle the sauce over the petit fours, letting it drizzle down the sides. Cool for at least 30 minutes.
The royal icing:
- In a medium size bowl, whisk the egg white until it foams -- about 30 seconds. Add the sifted confectioners' sugar, and stir, with a spoon or spatula, until the mixture is perfectly smooth. If the icing is too thick, stir in droplets of water. Stir in a speck of the food coloring to achieve the desired tint.
Piping the icing:
- Scoop the icing into a plastic zip-lock bag. Squeeze the bag to force the icing into one corner. Snip off the corner tip, and pipe swirls, spirals, or dots onto the tops of the cakes. Allow the icing to dry for at least 1 hour.
Serving and storage:
- Serve the petit fours for Afternoon Tea -- Earl Grey is recommended. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week. For longer storage, omit the royal icing, and freeze the chocolate-covered cakes for 1-3 months. Pipe on the royal icing before serving.
What a great idea. They’re so beautiful! And I just happen to be heading to a fabulous kitchenware store in 13 minutes. I might need to look for a 1 1/4 inch diameter biscuit cutter! I’ve honestly just needed a good excuse to buy one, and now I’ve got it!
Perfect little addition to my approaching weekend family feast 🙂 I am sure the grandson will think it is his birthday lol. Our little people have disappearing luggage !
Brenda Johnson says
Clearly Sarah has good taste and knew you were up to the task! I was delighted to share in the tasting of these beautiful little morsels. Moist cake layered with jewel toned fruit (raspberry being one of my favorite flavors ever!) and sweet creamy white chocolate – such a great combination! A lovely feast for the palate as well as the eye- these are just lovely! Thanks for sharing!
PS- While I had good intentions for some of those “scraps” you shared… I ended up eating those right out of the bag!! Also delicious!
The spirits of Mrs. Young and Mary Kellar inhabit my home. Although I live in a rural area, my ladies (particularly Mrs. Young) appreciated the finer things in life and I’m sure they would approve of your recipe for petit fours. They are most definitely jealous of your two grand pianos (me too). Our house has but one piano…and it is merely an upright grand, although we have a player piano moving in in the spring. Once the snow goes away the movers will be delivering it to its new home (along with 130 piano rolls!)
OMG what a great idea!! These look beautiful and I never would have thought to make them myself – these are now on my bucket list!
For less waste, make ’em square! Even though these are beautiful….
Shirley B. says
Just beautiful! I SO want to have tea with you and Ms. Sarah!!!
Another Carolyn says
I LOVE petit fours but am way too cheap to buy them, and when I saw this post I didn’t know whether to be thrilled (finally – knowing how to make them myself!) or mad (assuming it was a very complicated cake recipe, with tiny amounts of expensive ingredients). I couldn’t believe it’s really that easy – can’t wait to try my hand at them!. You made my week!!! And I’d be very surprised if the scraps last long enough to be transformed into anything but an easy snack….
I am looking so forward to making these treats for Easter. They are perfectly beautiful! Thank you for all of your appealing posts.
Carol has a great idea for Easter, they will look lovely with pastel colored icing!
Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says
How handy to utilize the Fisher Price people for scale in the photos.
The finished product looks completely professional ! Bravo !
Great instructions and beautiful pics. As a health care worker you lost me at raw eggs in the Royal icing. Maybe special pasteurized eggs like the Food Network recommends.
Genius idea. I will make some as soon as I get a forest-green spatula. 😀
Catharine R. says
Hi Kevin! I have a Sara Lee pound cake in the freezer, so I’m going to make these beautiful Petit Fours today. Wish me luck!
Kevin, I just googled your house on the satellite view. Your formal gardens look wonderful from outer space.
Brooklyn Bob says
Ghosts and Fisher Price Little People — I like how you write recipes!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Deborah – Can you provide a link? I’d like to see my gardens from outer space, too!
Sue Brell says
Thanks for another elegant, easy-to-do dessert.
Note for Gloria, in comment #12: Kevin’s royal icing uses only one egg white. If you buy fresh, organic eggs, the raw white should be perfectly safe to eat.
Love your step by step recipes!
Amy Larousse says
No garden chores for me, too much snow on the ground. But I can make your Petit Fours this afternoon! Think I’ll use the seedless raspberry jam for both layers.
… these are so European, so gourmet, so perfect! <3
Addie B. in Florida says
Hi, Kevin – I’ll definitely make these – they look lovely and will taste divine, I’m sure. I’m supposed to be cutting down on sugar so hopefully I’ll be able to stop at one (not!).
I don’t know how you find enough time in a day to do all you do!
Addie B. in Florida says
P.S. Love your little people 🙂
patrice caden says
What a wonderful recipe. Thanks for making it easier with the step by steps and photos. I so look forward to your newsletter in my mailbox every week. Thanks for continuing to send our your newsletter
Sharon Bernstein says
I love your site and I am definitely going to make these petit fours. Thanks for the wonderful pictures and directions. I always promote your site in my garden group when people ask about winter sowing. I learned how from your WS 101. You have wonderful posts.
Catharine R. says
Made them! I was worried about the apricot jam, but it was really easy to strain. The chocolate sauce turned out beautifully, too, and I was glad that it dried on the cakes without any stickiness. The cakes stuck to the wire rack a little, but I nudged them off without much fuss. And should I tell you that I’ve already eaten most of the scraps and two of the (undecorated) cakes? So good. So good.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Catharine R – So glad you made — and liked — the Petit Fours!
These are absolutely beautiful! Have you ever made them with regular chocolate? My entire family has an aversion to White “Chocolate” ever since I won a 75 pound white chocolate Easter Bunny when I was 13 years old. It took our formerly white chocolate loving family of 10, more than one year to eat the ears and about 1/4th of the head. The bunny got very dusty and we could no longer eat any white chocolate. Thanks! I am looking forward to attempting a milk or dark chocolate version.
Joyce Bradley says
“Store bought” pound cake?? I didn’t think I’d ever see those words on your recipes!! Now, that’s my kind of baking!
I enjoyed the history lesson. Love the music room. Who plays the pianos??
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Judith – What a story! You can absolutely use non-white chocolate for the glaze!
Hi Joyce – I’m a musician as well as a cook. I play Bach…Rock…and Wok!
Tricia B. says
Kevin, I love your plastic bag substitute for a pastry bag. Can hardly wait to try it!
Martey Costello says
We used to live in the elegant little house that Mr. Wild built for his mum. The memory makes want little cakes! I wonder if you used a square cutter if you might get a few more out of the recipe?
Brilliant, simply brilliant! I see an Easter tea in my future. Thank you for this!
Arden Rembert Brink says
Well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said?!? A brilliant approach to a potentially tedious recipe and beautiful as well. So nice to have this stashed away as a recipe.
Rosette Guilfoyle says
I just want to congratulate you on your recipe for the petite fours. It sounds so delicious and simple, and I don’t think you need to force me to make them….tee hee.
Have a happy day
Leigh from Larrapin says
This just cheered me up this morning for reasons I can’t explain. Thanks!
Perfect winter project Kevin. I have been making these for years [being English!] and do not like white chocolate so use semi sweet good dark chocolate instead. Just as amazing and mixed with white covered ones on a plate is something else. Awesome.
Gorgeous! Just what I needed to see!
i must try this, but might modify by using marzipan, rolled out thin, instead of some of the frosting — this would be an 18th or 19th century thing, i think..
Anne Schomaker says
Shall serve this at the next garden club event!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I must say, these are simply darling.
Michele Reeves says
These look great and so much easier than the old way! Thanks!
Thanks for all the wonderful recipes
These will work perfect for my daughters wedding. We wanted little cakes on each table instead of the big traditional cake, more like a finger food tea sampler!
What a great idea. Definitely trying this for our next party! 🙂
Delightful, delicious, deceptively easy. I made a second batch, glazed with chocolate and adorned with a single crystalized violet from my garden. Definitely worth getting out the china cups & saucers. Thanks Kevin, your recipes never fail to delight.
I so want to make these. Your recipes are all so wonderful — and yet, simple. The directions are clear — and I don’t feel like I have to run out and buy “special” things to create what you have created. I have lots of cookbooks — and some are so complicated. I am looking forward to the publication of your cookbook.
I have a wonderful homemade pound cake recipe that I will definitely try with this! Thanks for simplifying this great little snack!
Samantha Gray says
Kevin, I just read this and laughed out loud at the “little people” playing in the pound cake holes. Never lose your wonderful sense of humor!
Theresa Velasquez says
Thanks for sharing your parents with us. Cherish them while you can. I don’t have my parents. I miss them so much. You look like your mom. I will definitely try this cuties.
Noreen Delsanno says
I adore petit fours. Thank you for this marvelous recipe. Peace. ☮
Cathy Nichols says
Love this recipe! I’m going to try it for my upcoming Tea Party. I’ll let you know how they turn out.
I want to make these for Easter this year. I think I will try creating tiny little flowers onto the frosted cakes. Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes!
Sandy Martinez says
Thanks for this hauntingly beautiful recipe! Perfect for Spring parties! (I’m happy to say I’m scheduled for my covid vaccine!)
Thanks for 12 years of inspiration, and especially for this last year. You have made isolating bearable.
All my love back to you, Sandy
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Sandy – Thank you for the kind comment. Congrats on scheduling your first vaccine!
Bonnie Slockett says
Omg, Kevin–great recipe but the best part was the Little People playing in the sandwich holes, ala the Seinfeld Pez scene: https://youtu.be/q4mOgqQqRos
You have a great writing style. Never disappoints. 🙂
I love these. I’m definitely going to make some next time we have people around. My imagination is wandering – mix of milk and white chocolate, different coloured icing, different jams in the middle. The possibilities are endless.
And for Gloria and anyone else worried about using raw egg: you can buy pasteurised egg white powder. I always use it instead of egg whites for meringue and icing as it’s sterile, you can measure accurately and you don’t end up with a bunch of egg yolks.
I love that you keep your ghosts happy by making era appropriate desserts and then share the details with us!
Your website/blog is a delight!
Hi Kevin, I read your posts all the time and you always make me smile. Thank you. I too had a ghost living in my home. She stayed upstairs in my small Cape Cod style house. She let me know when she was around one way or another but was never mean. My cat at the time was always aware of her and used to sit at the bottom of the stairs going up and just looked and did non stop zoomies at times. Had someone verify her “existance” and he allowed her to move on. I know this is going to sound crazy but I miss her. I could sense and feel her presence at times and once in a while there would be a pleasant scent. When I was renovating the inside of my home myself she would let me know if pleased or not and lol, acted as if she were my supervisor and would shut the electricity down if I was on the computer for too long while taking a break. I am by nature a logical person so I made sure all the little glitches that happened in the house were not due to any problems physically with the house. Please have a wonderful day and stay safe and have fun!
Morning Kevin and hello all!
With this cheat sheet for the petit fours, I feel I can conquer these seemingly overwhelming treats! Excited to try for our Easter celebration… wish me luck!
Always a pleasure to read your posts and learn handy tricks here and there.
Happy spring to you, Mr. Fox, all the creatures and spirits in the house.
Danella on the Canadian west coast says
Yum! Fun to try on an otherwise nasty (weatherwise) pandemic afternoon. This will cheer me up!
Vickie B. says
Hey kevin, this recipe looks so yummy! Today is my birthday, yep a big one…..so I’m going to try this recipe tomorrow so my hubby and I can celebrate a little longer. Thanks for everything.
I didn’t think I’d ever make petit fours but your recipe is so brilliant I will have to – when I can think of a good occasion. I even still have that little dog!!