Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Ode to Valentine's Day

Just a few more weeks until the "loveliest" holiday of the year... Valentine's Day! To me, Valentine's Day is a day to show others that you care about them and that they are special people to you (of course, it's also about your sweetie!). Over the next couple of weeks, I'll share some neat ideas with you for Valentine's Day treats for your significant others, children, friends, and co-workers.

My personal favorite: Mini Heart Cakes (courtesy of Matt Lewis from Baked and Martha

Here's the recipe for the cakes:

Ingredients (Makes six 4-inch heart-shaped cakes)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup melted dark chocolate, for decorating
Speckled Cinnamon Frosting (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with rack in the center of the oven. Butter an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet, line with parchment paper, butter parchment, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, food coloring, and 1/4 cup boiling water. Set aside to cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and shortening on high speed until smooth. Add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir buttermilk and vanilla into cocoa mixture. Into another medium bowl, sift together flour and salt. With the mixer on low, add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until incorporated.
In a small bowl, mix together vinegar and baking soda until baking soda dissolves; mixture will fizz. Add to batter and mix until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared baking sheet, smoothing the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes, rotating pan after 10 minutes.
Cook cake completely on a wire rack. Using a 4-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 12 hearts.
Place 4 strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy susan. Place 1 layer on the cake plate. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the cake; top with another heart, bottom side up. Cover entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and transfer to refrigerator for 10 minutes. Repeat process with remaining ingredients.
Remove cakes from the refrigerator and cover each cake with a generous layer of frosting, smoothing as you go around to create a flat surface.
Place chocolate in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip; decorate as desired.

Speckled Cinnamon Frosting

Ingredients (Makes enough for six 4-inch cakes)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Food coloring, in desired color

Whisk together sugar and flour in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add milk and cream and place over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes.
Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until cool. Reduce speed to low and add butter; mix until well incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and mix until frosting is light and fluffy. Add vanilla and cinnamon and continue mixing until combined. Add a couple drops of food coloring while continuing to mix, until desired color is reached. If frosting is too soft, chill slightly and then re-mix to proper consistency. If frosting becomes too firm, place bowl over a pot of simmering water and re-mix to proper consistency.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

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