Monday, February 9, 2015

The Heart Wants What It Wants...and That Is Usually Cake.

I know it may come as literally no shock, but I do not celebrate Valentine's Day. Not just because I'm the exact opposite of a sappy romantic, but because I kind of always thought of it as a really clever scam from jewelry stores, flower shops, and greeting card companies everywhere. Real talk: I'd rather receive flowers from my husband 'just because' (or if he screwed up and erased my favorite TV show from the DVR), so contrived acts of romanticism are met with major side eye on my part. My idea of a romantic act is when my husband makes the bed for me in the morning. God, I really love that.

However, I realize the majority of the world finds it to be a happy-feel-good kind of day to celebrate with their partners. More real talk: That's all Geoffrey Chaucer's fault. If he wasn't so highly regarded in the literary world, I'd be hella pissed with him. But enough of this English teacher/blogger's lessons in literary history and greeting card scams, back to the day itself. When I was a wee lass in elementary school, Valentine's Day was a pretty big deal in homeroom, and although I was still the world's most cynical seven year old, I quickly made the connection between February 14 and boatloads of candy and desserts (a clever, cynical seven year old). So while I never could get on board with the overall idea of Valentine's Day, I think we all know I'll use any holiday as an excuse to bake things (really tried hard this year to come up with something for Groundhog's Day. Legitimately.).
But a groundhog cake didn't seem very visually appealing, so I went with heart cakes.
I was inspired to make these mini-heart cakes when I remembered how my mother used to do the same thing for our family when I was a teen...proving that although I was still the world's most clever, cynical teenager as well, I have a mind like it a steel trap when it comes to baked goods. And let's face it, my mother is exactly who inspired me to start on the path to baking stardom (that's a thing, right?) with all her wonderfully creative concoctions throughout the years. I may have been a disgruntled teenager, but my mother still loved (and tolerated) me enough to bake me cakes. So I figured I could pass on the love and do something ridiculously lovey-dovey (barf) for my husband, who is now the one that puts up with the clever, cynical, disgruntled adult I have turned into. Isn't love grand?
Oh look, a hollow metal cavity where a heart should be...

Aside from the fact that my husband will be gone snowboarding over the Valentine's weekend (my gift to my husband: Cakes, a break from my cynicism, and a chance to fling himself down a mountainside), I also wanted to bake these cakes early so I could blog about them in the event any of you are looking for something special to do for your loved ones on Saturday. You could always bake a 9x13 cake and cut out hearts yourself, or you could go to Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Walmart, etc. to look for heart pans like mine in the seasonal aisle. I bought mine on Amazon a while ago, and the prices have since SKYROCKETED up to about 40 bucks for this pan...yeah, I told you this holiday was a racket. So avoid Amazon (literally never said that in my life), and go to an actual store to look for these, or Wilton's website. While shopping for your pans, pick a cake mix of your choice, sprinkles, tubes of decorator frosting in pinks and reds, etc., whatever you want for decorating your hearts. Let me give you the rundown on tips, flavors, and more if you'd like to mimic any of my cakes!
Am I the only person who willingly still eats candy hearts?
I went with a strawberry cake mix (hijacked with all the extra butter, milk, and eggs) with strawberry filling (for that blood-pumping effect) and vanilla-almond frosting (my homemade stuff for the paper towel trick). I also purchased heart doilies because the Clovis Walmart had no heart-shaped trays...surprise, surprise...a bag of candy hearts, red sprinkles, white sprinkles, red dye, pink dye, and a can of white decorator frosting for borders. Preheat your oven to whatever the box says to, and make your cake batter. I figured the cupcake rule would work here, so I filled each heart 3/4 of the way full. The cupcake rule betrayed me. My hearts came out of the oven looking like something from an anime comic or a Katy Perry video, so I had to do some trimming. I suggest filling a tad over halfway and start checking for doneness around 20-25 minutes. that thing on the right doesn't happen to you.
I'm (sadly) human, so mistakes are most definitely made in my kitchen on a regular basis, but fixing them is usually simple so long as the kitchen hasn't caught fire. I took a long bread knife and simply placed it flush to the pan and gently sawed off the bursting tops of my hearts. I put all four cakes in the fridge to cool off while I made my filling.
Mix together 2 ounces of softened cream cheese, one cup of strawberry jelly or preserves, and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar in your stand mixer. Once things are mostly mixed, either place into a piping bag fitted with a long, narrow tip or...bust out the frosting gun. That's right, I finally used the Purple People Eater for the first time in ages.
I had forgotten the power of the frosting gun.
I definitely could've used more filling. I only stabbed the hearts directly in the center, and then filled with my mix until the hearts started to ooze a bit. While the middles are nicely filled, the rest of the hearts are still just plain. So if you're filling, stab the hearts all over the place while avoiding the edges. Once things feel "full" when you press the hearts with your palm, stop filling, and plug back up (taken out of context, this could be a really dark blog entry). I used some of the cake toppers I cut off to plug up the holes. I then let my cakes rest in the fridge while I cut out hearts from cardboard cake plates so I had somewhere to set my cakes down to decorate.
Things will get messy, I promise.
Be sure to slop down a few globs of frosting on your cardboard hearts so the cakes will stay in place while you frost. These are really light, so they will move around A LOT if you don't. I started by making my frosting and leaving it plain white to decorate my first cake. Don't forget the crumb coat! I actually had a bit of frosting leftover at the end, so feel free to go heavy with the crumb coats. Once you've crumb coated, frozen the cake for 15-30 minutes, final coated, frozen the cake for 15-30 minutes, you're ready to smooth out with the paper towel trick. I wanted to do cornelli lace for this first cake, so I left my decorator frosting plain white and fitted a piping bag with a Wilton #2 tip.
I have a better tutorial in the link above, but remember the whole idea here is to ensure you're making little ribbons of frosting in S and squiggly shapes all over the cake. Just make sure they don't intersect or cross over each other.
Finished top!
I dragged the edges down from the top so I could connect the sides and give a seamless look. I also had some crumbs that managed to peek through, so I also used the lace to cover these crumbs up. Frosting is forgiveness.
Here you can see how I've connected the edges from the top down to the sides.
Repeat on all sides, and you've got a cake fit for a bridal shower! Hmm...that's not a bad idea. The wheels are turning.
I then took my big bowl of frosting and added in a little bit of pink dye. I then took TWO of my cakes and crumb coated, froze for 15-30, final coated, froze for 15-30, and then completely smoothed with my versatile Viva paper towel. I'd like to thank Viva, without you, my cakes would still look like a two year old frosted them. I'd also like to thank Netflix for getting me through the 30-minute windows of wait time. Without you, I'd probably have a more productive social life. Shudder.

My next cake took all of five minutes to decorate, and after how crampy my damn hand was from that delightfully gorgeous cornelli lace I needed an easy cake. Ahh cornelli most gorgeous things, it will eventually cause you problems for some reason or another. My simple cake mimics a candy heart, so you could really put any message in there. Txt Me is by far my least favorite addition to the new candy heart messages. I'm surprised there wasn't also a "Tinder Me" or "Binge Drink L8R?" heart in there, too.
I went for the classic, "Be Mine." Not at all creepy in message, only in theory. I used a toothpick to draw out my message to make piping easier.
I used a Wilton #6 tip to write my message in decorator frosting dyed hot pink, and honestly, I think it is too big. I think a #3 or even the #2 from the cornelli lace would work better, but live and learn and eat the cake anyway.
I finished off the cake by adding a candy heart border along the bottom. Delightfully kitschy!!
Easy as..well..pie I guess, just tastier. The next pink cake is my runner-up favorite of the four, edged out slightly by my cornelli lace cake that could possibly bring me loads of money at future bridal showers ("Cha-ching!" -my next candy heart message). It and the fourth cake just say "Valentine's Day" like no other cake could. Mostly because cakes can't talk, but you get the gist.
I started by dying a small amount of decorator frosting red, loading a piping bag with a  #18 Wilton tip, and piping shells on to the other smoothed pink cake. I made my cardboard hearts a bit larger for this and the fourth cake to accommodate handling without ruining the border.
Then I followed suit and piped the bottom of the cake.
And you better believe I finished off by topping my cake with red sprinkles. Isn't it just so joyously romantical? Jesus..who the hell typed that?
While my pink cakes were cooling in the freezer with their final coats before I decorated them, I took the pink frosting, added a few drops of red dye, and mixed. Then I crumb coated my last cake red and set in the freezer while smoothing out both my pink cakes and then decorating the first one. Then I took the red cake out of the freezer and gave it a final coat and set it to rest in the freezer while I decorated the second pink cake. Head spinning yet? I did this so that I wasn't up until 1 a.m. on a Saturday decorating cakes, as it was already 10 p.m., with no clear socialization in sight. Not that I mind missing an audience when it comes to frosting. I end up covered in the stuff, and that's just embarrassing for everyone because I will still lick it off my arms whether you're in the room or not.

For my last cake, I fitted another #18 tip to a piping bag filled with decorator frosting dyed light pink. Instead of piping shells this time, I went for a rope border on the top and bottom of the cake.
Because one sappy candy heart message was enough, I finished this cake off with white sanding sugar on top.
Honestly, the thing that took longest about these cakes was the crumb coat-wait-final coat-wait-smoothing process for three different colors of cakes. If you wanted, you could make all your cakes in the same color to speed this process up, but I really liked the variety.
Thanks, doilies, for being a completely acceptable stage for my cakes once a year. Or maybe at bridal showers, too...they did come in a pack of like 50...
Since my cakes were filled with the cream cheese mix, I put them into a cake safe and left out in the garage fridge. My husband couldn't find them since we usually reserve that fridge for booze and soda, and I'm pretty sure there was a fleeting moment he was worried I ate all four without him while he was out playing poker. What can I say, I really know how to keep the guy on his toes.

Don't worry, I was just keeping
This was a really fun project, which in total took about 4 hours between baking, cooling, frosting, waiting, and decorating. I'd say 4 hours is a worthy amount of time to spend making someone a Valentine's Day gift, but I literally know nothing about making homemade Valentine's Day gifts, so who am I to talk? I'm just gonna shut up now and go figure out which of these cakes to sacrifice for dessert tonight. Because no matter how sappy people get about February 14, a cake is a cake, and I'll be damned if I'm not gonna have my cake and eat it, too...with my loving husband who puts up with my self-deprecating wit without trying to throw me down that mountainside this weekend, too. Let's all take a minute to be thankful my clumsiness works as an excellent precursor for avoiding winter sports while still allowing me to sit (carefully) at a computer to blog. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave me some love, some advice, tell me the meaning of life...whatever you fancy! You don't have to have a Blogger account, you can leave a comment by clicking "Anonymous" in the "Comment As" box..but if you're not a troll, leave me your name after your comment so I know who said what!