Thank you Sarah for providing me the opportunity to finally buy whole vanilla beans! Somehow that is something I have always felt was too decadent and not worth the pay-off. I have to say I was wrong - they really make a difference. Since I missed last month's baking challenge (don't act like you didn't notice, I know you all are keeping track), I decided to make this Feeding Friendship into a bonus baking challenge by tackling petit fours.
I started by baking this "ultimate" fluffy vanilla cake (flying in the face of recommendations to use a dense cake for petite fours) from Sweetapolita. Instead of two 8-inch cakes, I baked a single layer in my half-sheet pan (both hold about 15 cups according to this handy conversion chart). I cooked it at the same temperature, but started checking it after 10 minutes. It took about 15 minutes to bake.
I only made a half recipe of Sweetapolita's whipped vanilla bean frosting but I still used two whole vanilla beans and left out the vanilla extract. I added the spent vanilla pods to some brown sugar and I'm looking forward to using it on oatmeal in a few weeks. I cut the 9"x17" cake in half and then topped one with a thick layer of frosting and inverted the other half on top. I wrapped it up and put this sandwich in the freezer for about an hour to make it easier to slice into 2 inch squares without smooshing out all the frosting.
For the topping, I used King Arthur Flour's white chocolate poured fondant recipe, because real poured fondant tastes like, well, fondant. Which is to say, kind of gross. This version didn't cover perfectly (see below), but it was really tasty!
Veronica just finished staring in a production of Happy Day's the Musical (she was awesome!) and her family was down to see the show. I decided to make these petit fours 50's themed in her honor.
I found some simple clip art I liked and then traced an outline in sharpie onto a sheet of waxed paper. I flipped the waxed paper over and and then filled in the shapes with royal icing in white, black, and pink. Left to dry overnight, they came right off the waxed paper relatively easily (although I made two more of each than I really needed and was glad when a few broke). The petit fours were a huge hit!
p.s. Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract?