This infamous, though likely apocryphal, line is attributed to Marie Antoinette. It does make you want a slice of cake, or a bite-sized petit four, or an almondy financier.
A petit four literally means “little oven,” and is an exquisitely decorated tiny bite of cake with frosting. Pronounced “puh-tee-foor” rather than “pettifor,” these are perfect for parties because they allow guests to try several kinds of cake without having to commit to a giant slice of several flavors. They are pretty. Though generally squares, you will see petits fours in all shapes, from hearts to circles to stars. The squares are cut from one giant layer cake and individually frosted and coated with a silky glaze.
A financier (fee-nan-see-ay) is a small almond-based cake baked in its own individual tin. Originally made in Paris by Chef Lasne, he thought these resembled the gold bars found at the Stock Exchange, La Bourse, right next door to his bakery! Ooh la la!
pear cake provençal with Chantilly cream
- 1 tbsp lightly salted French butter, softened
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
- 8 tbsp lightly salted French butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla bean paste (Nielsen-Massey)
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp fine French sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp French cinnamon
- 4 fresh pears, peeled, cored, and grated
- 12 maraschino cherries, patted dry with stems for garnish
- 2 cups heavy cream, cold
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar (or to taste)
- 1 Madagasgar vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
- Preheat oven 325 degrees F.
- To prepare spring form cake pan, cut a piece of parchment paper the diameter to fit the bottom of a 8” or 9” pan. Coat spring form pan with 1 tablespoon softened butter, place parchment paper in pan and coat with butter. Make sure butter is spread evenly. Sprinkle pan with 2 tablespoons flour, shake around to coat bottom and side completely. Remove excess flour by tapping pan upside down over the sink. Set pan aside.
- In a food processor with metal blade, pulse pecans until chopped fine. Set aside in small bowl. In same work bowl, add butter and sugar and pulse until combined. Add egg and bean paste to butter and sugar mixture, pulse again two or three times. Using a strainer placed on top of the work bowl, sift dry ingredients over the mixture and continue to pulse until fully combined.
- Remove bowl from machine and fit a clean food processor bowl with grater attachment on machine and grate the pears (I grate the pears at this time to keep them from turning brown). You can also grate the pears with a box grater. Remove bowl with grated pears from machine and place bowl with batter mixture back on machine. Add the pears and pecans to the mixture and pulse until combined. Scrape sides of bowl and bottom to help combine; do not over mix batter.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top with spatula, and tap filled pan on counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, approximately 30–40 minutes.
- Remove from oven, place on baking rack for 10 minutes, run thin knife around edge of pan and unlock springform ring. Leave cake on rack to cool completely. When cool, remove cake with paper to selected serving platter.
- Place stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment (or beaters) in freezer for 15 minutes (or refrigerate 30 for minutes) before starting. In a mixing bowl add the cream sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Using a stand mixer with whisk or hand held mixer with beaters, start mixing on low speed, gradually increasing to medium-high speed. Whip the cream until you have reached desired peaks.
- Cut cake into wedge pieces place a spoonful of Chantilly cream on wider end of cake slice, sprinkle cake and plate with chopped pecans and top with cherry when ready to serve to prevent cherries from sliding off or sinking into Chantilly cream.
In my new cookbook Ooh la la! French Inspirations for Entertaining and Travel, available here, I share some of my favorite French cake recipes, such as French Yogurt Cake with Strawberries and Chantilly Cream, Lemon Cake with Honey Glaze, Raspberry Financiers, and my Pistachio Loaf. These cakes are easy to make in your home kitchen and delicious to share with friends and family.
For more great recipes, see my cookbook Ooh la la! French Inspirations for Entertaining and Travel, available here.