The Dish: Heart Cakes to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day equates to expensive gifts, time with partners and the cutest day of the year for some people, others might think of it as the pagan celebration that has long been forgotten about the special day and has become a consumer holiday. Either way, Valentine’s Day is the greatest time of year to make every baked good red or pink and heart-shaped (although I still do those things year-round).

valentines cake
Rachel Brandel, teacher at Canyon Hills, holding a personal conversation heart cake for Valentine’s Day. (Betty Desta)

Chocolate covered strawberries, fruit baskets, heart shaped boxes of chocolates, etc are all cute ways to express your love and are beautifully put together; however what is better than making something yourself to signify your feelings to your friend, family or partner. Baking can demonstrate your devotion to others through putting time and effort into something special for them, and while I contemplated between heart kiss cookies, cheese danishes, and a jelly roll cake to make, I decided on something classic but sort of different: personal conversation heart cakes to gift your loved ones!

What you may need:

Cakes can be hard and time consuming to make and require some specific materials, but these mini ones can easily be made in under a few hours, with just a butter knife to smooth it and a small icing scraper. To make the cake, I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe and spread it on a jelly roll-cake pan. You can also use a cookie sheet pan, but you need to make sure the edges are high enough to keep the cake inside. After my cake was baked, I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut the hearts out and keep the cake small enough to fit the little sandwich boxes I use for mini/personal cakes.

My favorite frosting for cakes is a faux swiss meringue buttercream, and consists of 170 grams of pasteurized egg whites, 680 grams powdered sugar and 6 sticks of butter, a generous amount of vanilla extract and if I don’t forget, I’ll add half a teaspoon of salt. This buttercream isn’t as sweet as the traditional American buttercream and is way easier to manipulate on cakes in my opinion and just decorates beautifully and I recommend it.

I then did a crumb coat for each mini cake, and because chocolate cakes have a more delicate texture they can be more crumbly compared to vanilla which could ease up the effort to get your cake perfect. Then I just stuck them into the freezer for an hour or two (depending how crumbly it was). After the crumb coat is firm and in place, you can take your cakes to do your final layer by just smoothing the frosting all over your mini heart cake until the crumbly underneath is all covered and the final layer is smooth.

To make this a bit more cute, I piped on the little sayings you see on those conversation hearts, on the top of the cake and added colorful sprinkles on the cake’s parameter to make it a bit less plain.

Although I tend to do a lot of baking in the middle of the night and don’t get much sleep because of it, I think this made me remember how much I appreciate and love making cakes, and what better way to appreciate and love those around you, than from making something with your own devotion!