Baking spree: Spumoni Petit Fours Part 1: Make the Cakes

Trying to make petit fours has been on my short list for this blog for awhile now. At Christmas-time, I made Italian Rainbow Cookies, and I figured the process would be similar, although I didn’t want them to taste just like the almondy goodness of the rainbow cookies. I worked on some other projects, and continued to look for inspiration for an outside-the-box flavor combination to try. Around Valentine’s Day, when I was actually planning to try them out, I purchased some heart-shaped and square mini-cutters, thinking I would be able to use them to cut my sheet cakes into neat, little shapes to form the petit fours. Since I’m an event planner, getting them started before Valentine’s Day was a no-go, since I had 3 events happening at 2 locations that day. It worked out for the best though, because recently I was watching an episode of Food Network’s Duff Till Dawn when one of the contestants was using a pistachio cake. Inspiration struck immediately! My petit fours would be inspired by one of my favorite ice cream flavors: spumoni! I set to work researching cake recipes that would fit the flavor profile of pistachio, cherry, and chocolate. I went with a basic pound cake, inspired by Martha Stewart’s Classic Pound Cake recipe


Pistachio Pound Cake

makes 2 loaves, or 2 half-sheets, I made 1 of each

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour, packed then sifted
  • 1 1/2 C cake flour, packed then sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 C shelled pistachios, finely ground
  • 3 C granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-6 drops gel food coloring (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325º F. Prepare two pans, one half-sheet jelly-roll size, one loaf. When I’m baking, I get my best results using a cooking spray with flour in it such as Baker’s Joy. Set pans aside.
  2. Using a blender or food processor, grind pistachios until they form a thick paste and no large bits remain.

    IMG_2303

    Finely ground pistachios in my blender. They’re kind of green, but not as much as I anticipated…

  3. In an electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and pistachios. Allow the ingredients to cream together for about 5 minutes, on medium high.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium-high until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
  5. When the mixture is completely smooth, add the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla extract, mixing well after each addition.
  6. With mixer on low speed, add the reserved flour mixture a few spoonfuls at a time. Allow each spoonful of flour to combine thoroughly before adding more.
  7. If desired, add food coloring to desired color, mix well. Use more than you think you need, my cake didn’t end up quite as green as I would’ve liked.
  8. Spread batter over half-sheet pan, making sure to get it into the corners and smooth across the top. Fill loaf pan with remaining batter.
  9. Bake half-sheet until top is golden, about 10-15 minutes. Bake loaf about 1 hour 15 minutes. Loaf will be brown on top, and toothpick inserted will come out clean.
  10. Allow half sheet to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. The loaf will need to cool 15-20 minutes before it’s ready to cut & taste.
  11. Set aside sheet cake while you bake the next layer of the petit fours.

Cherry-Almond Pound Cake

makes 1 loaf, or 1 half-sheet cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour, packed then sifted
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 C dried cherries
  • 4-6 drops red gel food coloring (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat over to 350F.
  2. Meanwhile, soak dried cherries in hot water. I put my cherries into a large coffee mug and covered them with water I heated in my electric kettle. Allow to soak for about 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare sheet pan. For best results, grease pan with cooking spray with flour such as Baker’s Joy. Set pan aside.
  4.  In an electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until very light and fluffy (about 7 minutes). Scrape down bowl, and beat for 1 another minute more.
  5. Add almond extract, and eggs one at a time making sure each is incorporated before adding another and scraping down bowl as needed.
  6. With mixer on low speed, add the salt and reserved flour mixture a few spoonfuls at a time. Allow each spoonful of flour to combine thoroughly before adding more.
  7. Drain the water from the cherries using a colander and add them to the mixture, mix until incorporated.
  8. If desired, add food coloring to desired color, mix well.
  9. Spread batter over half-sheet pan, making sure to get it into the corners and smooth across the top.
  10. Bake half-sheet until top is golden, about 10-15 minutes.
  11. Allow half sheet to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  12. Set aside sheet cake for assembly of petit fours.

Once both cakes are made you will need some jam for in-between the cake layers. I chose some cherry jam that I had made about a year ago when I first got my canner. You can definitely use store-bought jam, but I would stick with cherry, to match with the spumoni flavor profile, and not use a jam that has bits of fruit in it. I made my cherry jam using a local cherry wine and this recipe


Cherry Wine Jam

makes 4-6 half-pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 2 C wine (cherry in this case)
  • 3 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin, such as Certo

Other stuff you may want to have:

  • 4-6 half-pint jars with lids
  • canning pot with rack
  • candy thermometer
  • tempered rubber spatula

Instructions:

  1. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of a large pot (thermometer should reach all the way to the bottom of the pot, and be sticking out of the liquid to be read).
  2. Heat the wine and sugar in the large pot over high heat. Stir mixture constantly stirring, until it mixture reaches 220F on the candy thermometer.
  3. Remove mixture from heat and carefully pour the hot liquid into a large glass measuring cup with a spout to make pouring it into jars easier.
  4. Pour hot jam into jars & cover with lids and tighten gently by hand.
  5. At this point you can process them using a water bath canner for 5 minutes, or leave them out at room temperature to cool and for mixture to gel properly for use.
  6. Jam should be ready for use in about 12 hours.
  7. Unprocessed jam, refrigerated will last for about 3 months. Processed jam will be shelf-stable for 2-3 years.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, assembling the petit fours!

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