[I could not find this recipe on Martha’s site to link to. Here’s why I don’t include the recipes in my posts.]
Happy Valentine’s Day! This recipe is very involved and took over five hours to complete NOT including the time it took to bake, cool, and chill the different components (also not including the amount of time it took to clean up). By the time I got to the decorating step, I was so over it. I think if you’re going to make these and you don’t have an entire day (and I seriously mean AN ENTIRE FREAKING DAY) to devote to baking, making chocolate cut-outs, making chocolate glaze, making icing, and then constructing the individual cakes, THEN BY ALL MEANS bake the cakes and freeze them. Then hopefully that step of the process will be a distant memory when you finally get to the finishing steps, which are so fussy. And messy.
Get your scrolling finger ready, this is going to take a while.
The cake part is not that bad, although it’s no simple whip-it-all-together-in-the-mixer either. You will sift flour, you will separate eggs, you will fold the batter with egg whites, you will use almond paste.
You will butter, parchment, butter, and flour a shallow baking pan. This is a very important step!
I love working with almond paste – it smells like a dream.
My almond paste and sugar never mixed together 100% but I don’t think this mattered in the end. Just FYI.
The recipe calls for vanilla extract but I used this Princess Cake flavor instead. I’m kind of obsessed with it and thought it would work perfectly for these cakes (I was right).
So you make the batter by creaming your butter and sugar and almond paste and then adding your wet ingredients. The recipe then calls for folding in some whipped egg whites & sugar with a whisk but my batter was pretty thick so I opted to use a spatula. There was no way a whisk was getting through that.
Once the egg whites were folded in it was a much smoother batter that I poured out onto the prepared pan and smoothed with an offset spatula.
The cake is baked and cooled completely and then wrapped with plastic wrap (while still in the pan) and chilled in the refrigerator. Once it is done chilling, you flip it out onto the counter. I highly recommend using another piece of parchment underneath – the cake is very moist and sticky.
From here, the parchment is peeled off the top and you use cookie cutters to cut out the individual cakes. I had these special petits fours cutters from Ateco that I pulled out and planned to use. They are very tall, which was nice, but they were also incredibly small (about the width of two fingers) and it would have taken forever to use them for the entire pan of cake. I made some small ones and then used larger cookie cutters to make most of the individual cakes.
The cake is very easy to work with – dense and moist and fairly spongy.
Some of the pieces came out with the cutter, others I simply retrieved at the end with a spatula by breaking the unused part of the cake apart. You cannot go back and get more cut-outs from your scraps so one thing I learned was to try to place the cut-outs as closely together as possible to minimize wasted cake. I had a lot of wasted cake because I didn’t really pay attention while I was spacing and cutting.
The individual cakes go onto a rack above a piece of parchment.
You then bring some cream to a simmer on the stovetop and pour it over a bowl of white chocolate pieces. This melts the chocolate and with some stirring you get a thick chocolate glaze.
Or, that’s the idea anyhow. Not all my chocolate melted. A few things I learned: 1) You don’t need nearly as much chocolate or cream as the recipe calls for. Cut it by at least 25% or as much as half. Seriously, you don’t need that much. 2) Cut the white chocolate pieces as small as you can and use a large bowl so that the hot cream comes in contact with more surface area of the chocolate, melting it more quickly. My bowl was too small, crowding the chocolate pieces that were probably also too big.
Despite all that, I had plenty of glaze for the cakes. This is simply spooned over each, generously enough to allow the sides to get somewhat covered by spillage.
I had a lot of the glaze leftover, even without all my chocolate melting in. The cakes are then refrigerated again. I used this time to make the white chocolate cutouts. This is super simple and I didn’t bother to photograph the steps. Basically, you melt white chocolate in a double-boiler and then divide it according to how many colors you want. You add food coloring to the melted white chocolate and mix to blend.
Once that is done, you spread each color on to parchment paper and smooth it with an offset spatula.
Here’s another “Learn from Amber’s Mistakes” moment: don’t wait too long to mix the chocolate and spread it. Once I got to the batch I wanted to make red, the chocolate was too cool to mix and seized when I added the food coloring.
I decided to try to shape some decorations out of this red chocolate which didn’t go super-well. It did work a lot like fondant, however, so if you’re skilled at that sort of thing you could make it work.
These white chocolates were chilled until hard and then cut out in the exact shapes as the individual cakes. This was quite easy – the white chocolate cooperated perfectly!
The white chocolate cut-outs are placed on top of the corresponding cakes. The glaze helps them stick.
Once this is done you get to make some Royal Icing to decorate the tops. This is super simple, but I have to be honest I was pretty sick of this whole petits four endeavor by this point. Onward I went, though. You put confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder and water in your mixer and let ‘er rip.
It makes a perfect white fluffy frosting. Into a decorating bag it goes!
Then it’s simply a matter of decorating the tops of the cut-outs on each cake. Or if you’re me, it’s not simple at all because the bag will rip and icing will get everywhere and anything you try to do will end up looking kinda mucky. Decorating is an area of baking where I have absolutely no natural talent. I can’t even fake it, I’m the worst!
But, as for the taste? Well, they’re divine. Delicious. Heavenly. Like candy and cake and all that is good in the world came together in this little bite-sized treat. I think the Princess Cake flavor is responsible for a lot of what I like about how these taste, but you can tell the recipe itself if pretty amazing. The cakes are so moist and yet so light and despite all the sugar (cake, glaze, chocolate top, icing), they are not too sweet. I love that they are bite-size. Perfect!
If they weren’t so labor-intensive and they didn’t require a skill for decorating, they’d be one of my go-to desserts for impressing people. They taste so good and are super fun to eat. I think they’d taste even better if someone else did all the work.