You guys, Portland totally fake-summered me. We had two weeks of glorious weather — 70 degrees every day with clear, cloudless skies. Not a drop of rain, and all the flowers and trees around town burst into bloom. Erlend went out and bought a bunch of starter plants and flowers for the garden, while I dug out my summer clothes and considered buying strappy leather sandals, even despite my fear of people thinking my toes are gross.
And then just like that, the skies closed up again and pelted us with rain. We woke up to near-freezing mornings and Erlend grumbled about bringing his baby plants inside every night. I sadly hid away my colorful dresses and retreated back into my waterproof gray-and-black wardrobe. The weather forecast on my phone tells me that it’s nothing but rain, rain, and even more rain for the next week. Yeesh.
Oh well. At least the flowers are still in bloom. Last weekend, we went to the farmer’s market and I picked up a gorgeous bundle of purple lilacs and these white, ball-shaped flowers:
The lady I bought them from told me their official name, but I really can’t remember it at all. In any case, they definitely add a much-needed cheer around my house. Because as usual, the house has been kind of a drag lately. I discovered a massive leak underneath the kitchen sink that’s warped and gnarled the wooden cupboards beneath it. I’ve got a plumber coming in next week, but I have the sneaking suspicion that it’s not going to be an easy fix.
In an effort to distract myself, I decided that it was time for me to make some mini cakes. Because what’s better than cake? Nothing… except MINI cakes! They are even more adorable and perfectly sized for guilt-free consumption without abandon — because it’s always okay to have more if it’s mini, right? It’s no secret that mini cakes have been making the rounds in the blogosphere lately — I mean, check out these beautiful renditions by Molly, Lindsey, Cynthia, Sarah, Erika and more. I decided finally to join those lovely ladies and jump in with these lavender and Earl Grey tea mini cakes, topped off with a lemon and white chocolate ganache:
To make these mini cakes, I baked the cake in a quarter sheet pan and used a 5-inch cookie cutter to stamp out cake circles. I ended up with six cake circles and a TON of cake scraps. Which gave me pause — because, yep, there are a ton of mini cake recipes floating around on the internet at the moment. So… what does everybody do with their cake scraps?! Does everybody just throw them out?! Oh no, I can’t bear to think of that. That seems like such a waste! So do we freeze them? Or save them for another baked good that’s even cuter than mini cakes? Is there something that I’m missing here?!
In the end, I ended up digging out my donut hole cutter and using that to punch out EVEN SMALLER CIRCLES from the scraps… to make petit fours!
I’d been wanting to make petit fours for a long time now, but was intimidated by the fondant frosting that I typically associate petit fours with — I guess I had too many of Mr. Kipling’s French Fancies when I was a little kid? I was initially hesitant to call my mini-mini cakes petit fours, but a quick search on Wikipedia reassured me that petit fours didn’t necessarily have to be covered in fondant. Which meant that these stamped out mini-MINI cakes could legitimately be classified as petit fours!
Now a quick note before I hand you the recipe: DON’T FEAR LAVENDER. I know that a lot of people associate it with soap and perfume; others have had desserts that have erred on the side of too much lavender and therefore taste too much like soap. But if used in the right amount — that is, sparingly — lavender can be really lovely, adding a subtle floral and tea-like flavor to the dish. In this particular recipe, the lavender is balanced out by the addition of Earl Grey tea in the cake, as well as the lemon ganache.
Some (more) baker’s notes:
- Culinary dried lavender is available online or in specialty tea or spice stores. I’ve also found it in the bulk and baking section of Whole Foods grocery stores.
- The batter is very unusual — when you’ve finished mixing it, it will seem like it’s too thick and that something must have gone wrong. Don’t worry! This texture is normal since it’s a very dense cake with a heavy crumb. Use an offset icing spatula to spread it evenly across the pan.
- The lemon and white chocolate ganache contains gelatin to help it set, thicken and retain its shape. You can omit the gelatin if you’d like, but I’m warning you now that the ganache will be more similar to glaze than frosting. A lot of people are put off by the process of blooming gelatin, but it’s a lot easier than it sounds. To bloom powdered gelatin, sprinkle it evenly onto the surface of cold water in a small cup. If you pour the gelatin into a pile on top of the water, the granules in the center will remain hard and will not bloom. Allow the granules to soften entirely in the cold water for a couple of minutes, but not so long that it becomes “overbloomed” and is so soft that it is falling apart.
- Make sure your cake is completely cooled before stamping out the mini cakes and petit fours! If you cut the cake when it’s still warm, you won’t get nice, clean edges and I will cry for you.
Get the Recipe: Lemon, Lavender and Earl Grey Mini Cakes and Petit Fours
For the Lavender and Earl Grey Cake
(makes one 13 x 9-inch cake, enough for 3 double-layer mini cakes and 12 petit fours)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons loose leaf Earl Grey tea
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoons dried lavender
- 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Lemon and White Chocolate Ganache
(makes about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
- 5.5 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 4 1/2 tablespoons (2.25 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-inch cubes
- zest from one lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- an offset icing spatula
- a 4 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (for the mini cakes)
- a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (for the petit fours)
For the Lavender and Earl Grey Cake
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepot, combine 1/2 tablespoons loose leaf Earl Grey tea and 1 cup unsalted butter. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, using a heatproof rubber spatula to swirl the butter around to ensure even melting. Once the butter is completely melted, remove from heat and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer and strain the tea leaves from the butter, using the rubber spatula to press gently on the tea leaves to get as much butter as possible. Discard the tea leaves and allow the infused butter to cool to room temperature or closeish.
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Prepare a 13 x 9-inch cake by spraying with cooking spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray as well.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoons dried lavender, 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.
- Add 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup to the freestanding electric mixer bowl containing the tea-infused butter (from the 1st step). Fit your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and cream the butter, sugar and corn syrup on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Whisk together 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons sour cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup, before pouring into the creamed butter and beating until smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and continue mixing until smooth.
- Turn the mixer on its lowest speed and add the dry ingredients (from the 3rd step) in three batches. Mix the dry ingredients until just incorporated, before adding the next batch. Once the dry ingredients have been mixed in, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl before mixing for another 15 seconds.
- Scrape the batter onto the prepared baking sheet. It will seem like it's too thick, but spread it evenly across the pan with the offset icing spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake bounces back when gently prodded with your finger. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool completely before using the cookie cutters to stamp out the mini cakes and petit fours.
For the Lemon and White Chocolate Ganache
- First, bloom the gelatin. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin over the surface of 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Let sit for 2-5 minutes, until the gelatin softens or “blooms”.
- Put 5.5 ounces finely chopped white chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl and set aside.
- Combine 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat the mixture just until it boils, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the bloomed gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Pour the cream over the white chocolate. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to stir the mixture in one direction, concentrating on the center, until the ganache is smooth and glistening. Add 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter and stir until the butter is completely melted. Once the butter is completely melted, add lemon zest and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice and stir. Allow the ganache to set in the coolest part of our kitchen, stirring occasionally to release heat. It will seem like it's too thin, but it will thicken as it cools — be sure to use when it's still spreadable, about 45 minutes to 1 hour after you've made it.