So what is a petit fours?
A petit fours (pronounced "Petty Four") is any one of a number of different types of bite-sized baked goods, often served at tea. The main categories of petit fours are:
Petit fours glacés- These are essentially very tiny cakes. Usually the base cake is a sponge cake, but almost anything goes. The most common type of petit fours, it is usually cut into a a nice shape and frosted or glazed. Frosting decorations are the norm. I will primarily deal with this type, as it is what most people think of when they hear "petit fours."
Petit fours secs- These are tiny cookies, usually with some form of filling.
Petit fours frais- These are basically very small pastries. A tiny tart would qualify as a petit four.
Where do they come from?
The name "petit fours" originated in France. Since the tiny pastries were baked in an accordingly tiny oven (a fours), they became known as 'small ovens', petit fours. They probably arose in the 18th century and gained popularity as the custom of afternoon tea took hold in the 1800s. Though the term originally encompassed all tiny sweets eaten at tea, it slowly came to refer primarily to only little cakes. Now, petit fours is sometimes used to describe salty or hearty treats served at parties, not just sweets.
Though historically associated with the custom of high tea, petit fours were also served at the holidays. More recently, they have become a custom at wedding receptions and baby showers and are often eaten with coffee.
How do I make a petit fours?
There are a wealth of mouth-watering sounding recipes online for very specialized petit fours, but the traditional petit fours glacés is very easy to make. You simply need a good sponge or pound cake recipe, some glaze and associated tools, and a group of friends to devour the results.
First, just follow the instructions for the cake. Make sure it is only about an inch thick. Then, wait for it to set, remove it from the pan, and place it on some wax paper. Now you can cut the cake up however you choose. Most people just cut it into squares, but if you feel especially creative you can use cookie cutters in neat shapes. Make sure you have the glaze on hand, because the little cakes get stale fast. Once you've glazed them, use frosting, berries, jam, or whatever suits your fancy to decorate them.
For more detailed recipes, look at: