Exactly how does a macaron qualify as a “petit four”?

That question from reader Phil H., and it’s good one. The thing is, in most of the English-speaking world, the term “petit four” refers to a very specific thing. That being a small, layered cake covered with poured fondant. Among the French, however, the term refers to an entire family of small sweets. The word “petit four” is thus used in the same way we might use the term “appetizer.”

In France, petits fours come in two types, “iced” (petits fours glacés) and “dry” (petits fours secs). The little cakes we know as petits fours fall into the former category, and macaroons — along with cookies and small, laminated pastries — fall into the latter.

4 thoughts on “Exactly how does a macaron qualify as a “petit four”?”

  1. Hi,

    I’m looking for a traditional French petit fours recipe. I specifically want the sponge cake petit four covered in fondant. I’ve heard some are covered with apricot jam and others with butter cream but which is traditional??

    1. Hey Mike! Do you mean that some have an under-coat of apricot jam (or buttercream) that’s applied before the poured fondant? If so I’m not aware of that step. Petits fours can be a lot of things, at least to the French. Small tarts, cream puffs, small cakes. For most of us who live outside France, petits fours are little layer cakes covered with fondant: four layers of thin spongecake layered with jam, topped with a thin sheet of marzipan and covered with poured fondant. Of course there’s plenty of room for improvisation within that basic formula. You can use buttercream instead of the jam, you can alternate with buttercream and jam. You can use chocolate-flavored spongecake, and of course the fondant can be flavored and/or colored with just about anything. There really are no hard and fast rules. I have a tutorial on the subject on the left side menu under Pastry. Let me know if you have any more questions! – Joe

  2. Thanks Joe! Yes I have heard that apricot jam was used instead of marzipan to coat the sponge cake. I read through your tutorial and will be trying it soon!

    1. Ah, right, I get it. Yes you can do that if you prefer. Just make sure the apricot glaze (jam) is set up so it won’t melt into the fondant. Let me know how it goes!

      – Joe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *