One aspect of French patisserie that I truly admire is the dedication to making desserts look beautiful. Even if it’s a simple petit fours recipe like this, the French are sure to make it look darling.
Petit Fours Recipe
A petit fours cake is exactly that…a cake! It’s a small cake, to be exact.
The petit fours meaning, or literal translation, is small oven. It’s also the inspiration behind my blog name, in case you didn’t notice!
While you may be accustomed to baking a cake in an 8 inch or 10 inch pan, a petit four is much smaller (think 2 to 3 inches).
In the U.S., we call them petit fours, but I should tell you that proper French grammar would have you call them petits fours with an s after the word petit.
The pronunciation is the same, but in the U.S., you’ll often find it spelled as petit fours, which is why I’m doing so here in this recipe.
Chocolate Petit Fours
We also don’t have these little cakes everywhere in the U.S., leading many to wonder where to buy petit fours. You’re more likely to find cupcakes in the States than these small French cakes.
To be honest, I don’t make petit fours very often because cupcakes can be easier. But if you’re looking for a delicate or dainty dessert to serve at your next gathering, these s’mores, or chocolate petit fours, are a fabulous option.
I love mixing high-low elements like I’ve done in these s’mores petit fours recipe. In general, s’mores are a very basic, yet nostalgic dessert.
A s’more is literally just a sandwich of two graham crackers with a toasted marshmallow and piece of chocolate wedged in between. They’re a campfire treat and nothing remotely fancy.
But when you transform those delicious s’more flavors into a neatly stacked petit four, you’ve got a beautiful dessert that can even presented when you’re entertaining dinner party guests.
You could even turn these into a Christmas petit fours recipe by simply adding peppermint extract to the cake batter and swapping the graham cracker crust for an Oreo one, or gingersnap one.
A sprinkling of crushed peppermint candies on top of the marshmallows would make these hot cocoa petit fours! Oh, the possibilities!
Easiest Way to Make Petit Fours
I find that the easiest way to make these small little cakes is to bake the cake batter in a ramekin (these are the ramekins I use).
Ramekins are a type of bakeware that can easily be found and many home bakers already have. Unlike a special 2-inch cake tin or any other pastry finds, you’re likely to already own a set of ramekins in your kitchen, making them a convenient option.
Even if you’re making petit fours into square-shaped, petite cakes, you can still use a ramekin. It will simply require the extra step of slicing off the rounded edges to create a neat square.
Petit Fours Icing
While this easy petit fours recipe doesn’t have a coat of icing on it, it does have a delicious layer of chocolate mousse. I’m personally more fond of my petit fours sans icing, but it’s not uncommon to find them covered in some kind of glaze.
This probably stems from an aesthetic perspective than one of taste, as the petit fours icing isn’t always the most tasty.
The French place high regard on presentation. I’ve heard stories where French chefs sometimes won’t even taste students’ creations at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school if the food doesn’t look pretty. It immediately receives a negative score and it’s on to the next student’s food to judge.
This isn’t to say the French don’t value taste; they just also take appearances very seriously.
And I think that applies to all facets of their life. That’s why you’ll find a woman riding a bicycle in wedges and a dress, looking just as chic as someone who has been chauffeured around in a limo.
It’s also why petit fours are often covered in icing. Petit fours icing is typically made up of a sweet coating of some sort, such as a chocolate ganache or dyed confectioner’s sugar icing.
If you’ve ever created icing for a cake ball or a truffle, it’s a similar process.
For the sake of simplicity and staying true to the flavors of a s’mores, I’ve foregone any extra icing and focused on the task of giving a nostalgic treat a Frenchified twist.
While I love applying the concept of beauty and elegance to my desserts too, I do it to a certain degree. I tend to bake more like a French home baker than a French pastry chef.
Easy Petit Fours Recipe
If you’re the same way, then you will probably appreciate this easy petit fours recipe. If you’re also like me and find yourself craving a good American dessert, then this will also appeal to you.
I’ll sometimes find myself with a sudden craving for something with Oreos, or something equally American, and want to bake an American treat.
The problem is, Oreos and desserts like s’mores just aren’t that sophisticated or elegant in their appearance.
As delicious and satisfying as a s’mores sandwich is, it’s just not something that I’d really want to serve guests at a nice dinner, nor is it really conducive to doing that.
There’s the whole issue of everyone having to roast their own marshmallows, which for a casual get together is perfectly fine, but it’s not that nice when you’re looking to serve something that you could have put together in the kitchen on your own beforehand.
So the other day, when I was making little bite-size s’mores tarts as an afternoon pick-me-up, I got the idea for doing these s’mores petit fours.
Because petit fours are really just petite cakes, you can easily do this recipe the store-bought way too. If you’ve wondered how to bake petit fours from a cake mix, wonder no more.
You simply bake the cake batter in ramekins and continue with the rest of the ingredients to make these s’more petit fours.
This petit fours recipe consists of the mini chocolate cakes, a graham cracker crust, chocolate mousse filling, and toasted marshmallows on top.
To say these s’mores petit fours are absolutely scrumptious is an understatement. I don’t have to convey to you how wonderful the flavors of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker are together; you know this.
Instead, what I will tell you is that these s’mores petit fours really nail the idea of varying textures. This isn’t always a given with many petit fours recipes.
It’s my opinion that if you’re going to go the extra step of making making a cake into bite-size, stackable beauties, make sure you add some spunk and variety.
This is especially so when you go for a “naked” look with your petit fours. Not having that outside glaze or petit fours icing means that you can see all the pretty layers that make up your petit fours.
In this case, you’ve got this crisp, graham cracker crust, a creamy mousse filling, and then a fluffy, light chocolate cake all in one bite.
And if that wasn’t enough, you’ll lick your lips only to find the residue of sticky, sweet marshmallow lingering behind just long enough to send your fork back in for another bite.
I imagine these s’mores petit fours fit for those of us who prefer to go glamping rather than camping!
One last note: if you don’t have a kitchen torch to toast the top of your mini marshmallows with, no worries. Just be sure to check out the note at the end of the recipe card about how to proceed with that step.
You’ll be able to use your oven to toast the marshmallows with ease.
S'mores Petit Fours
chocolate mousse recipe adapted from Hershey’s
and chocolate cake recipe adapted from Sweetapolita
for the chocolate cake
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- mini marshmallows for on top
for the graham cracker base
- 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1 tsp brown sugar
for the chocolate mousse filling
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup cold whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Create the Chocolate Mousse Filling
Stir the sugar and gelatin together in a small saucepan off the heat. Add the milk and give it a stir; let stand for a few minutes to soften the gelatin. Transfer the saucepan to the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.
Remove the sugar-gelatin mixture from the heat and add the semisweet chocolate chips, stirring them in until they’re melted. Add the vanilla extract, mix, then let the entire mixture come to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or just using a bowl with an electric mixer, whisk the whipping cream on high speed until stiff. Gradually add the room temperature chocolate mousse batter, folding it in just until it’s all blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Create the Graham Cracker Crust
Combine graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir to combine until all the crumbs are slightly moist. Pack these crumbs among 4 greased, 4 oz. ramekins, smoothing them out on the bottom of the ramekins.
Bake the crusts for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, until they’ve puffed up a bit. Set them aside to cool; pop them out of the ramekin when they’re only slightly warm and no longer hot, using a sharp knife to nudge them out and flip them out onto your serving plate to cool completely.
Create the Chocolate Cakes
Create your cake batter by heating the sugar, butter, and water together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once they’ve come to slight boil, remove and add the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Add in the vanilla extract and mix. Cool for 5 minutes.
Add in the egg, mixing it in until combined. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda; whisk to combine. Distribute this batter among 4 empty (4 oz.) ramekins that have been greased, filling each ramekin with just enough batter to reach halfway up the ramekin. If you have some extra batter, just pour it into an extra ramekin or small baking pan if you desire.
Bake the cakes for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Run a sharp knife along the edges, flip the cakes out of the ramekins, and cool completely. Use a sharp knife to level off the uneven tops of the cakes.
When ready to assemble, spread a large dollop of chilled chocolate mousse onto each graham cracker base; you want a thick layer of mousse over each crust.
Place the cut-side of the cakes facing down onto the mousse (so the smooth side of the cakes that were sitting at the bottom of the ramekin are now facing up). Place some mini marshmallows on top and use a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallows (see note below if you don't have a kitchen torch).
If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can use your oven to toast the marshmallows. Before assembling the entire dessert, take your leveled cakes and place the cut-side of the cakes down on a baking sheet. Place the marshmallows on top and broil in your oven for about 30 seconds or so, until the marshmallows are toasted. Then remove from the oven and let them cool before placing them onto the mousse-covered graham cracker crusts.