There’s something irresistibly nostalgic and crowd-pleasing about French fancies.
Something to do with the fairground colours and the name and the way they’re so easy to eat. It’s cake but nobody can accuse you of being greedy when it’s such a dainty thing. And who’s counting anyway? Don’t be put off by the fact that they are a bit fiddly. You just need to know a few tricks for a pretty spiffy finish. 1.
Find a recipe from a reliable baker online or in one of your cookbooks and follow it to the letter.
We like Mary Berry - so here's her take on them2.
Give yourself plenty of time as there is lots of chilling and freezing in between stages.3.
Once baked, pop the sponge in the freezer for about half an hour before you start cutting it for nice clean edges. Use a ruler and a toothpick to mark out the squares… imagine Paul Hollywood is watching you.4.
It’s up to you whether you add jam or buttercream as a middle layer or not – maybe not if it’s your first attempt – however if you’re feeling confident then add the layer before it goes in the freezer and then cut it. Or just have the smooth layer of jam on the top with the marzipan. 5.
The distinctive dimple on the top is a blob of butter cream and you need a good consistency so it keeps its shape when you dip it in the icing. Which it should do, even more so after chilling for 30 minutes.6.
Strictly speaking marzipan should only be a thin slice on the top, and buttercream spread all around the sides, but this can leave you with a messy finish if ‘plastering’ is not your skill. Smoothing jam down the sides is another option. Pop in the fridge again of course. 7.
To make your fondant icing, follow the instructions carefully, especially the liquid measurements – this is not a time to be casual. You need plenty so you can dip your square in easily without touching the edges of the bowl. Choose whichever pretty colours appeal and start with a few drops and build up to the tone you’re after. 8.
Prop your cooling rack high up on four tins to give your arm plenty of manoeuvring space. Stick your fork in the side of a cake, dip fully and then it ease off the fork on to the rack. 9.
As it’s setting, prepare your tube of chocolate or white icing ready and do the trails across the top. 10.
Voila! Serve in plain paper cases on the prettiest plate you’ve got. Last thing, they’re not really from France after all. As you might imagine, Mr Kipling is hugely responsible for their incredible popularity.