Valentine’s Day is almost here! It should come as no surprise that I am quite fond of this holiday. Not the processed, packaged, generic, store-sold Valentine’s Day stuff… well, except for those cards that kids pass out. I have a weak spot for those. They’re just so cute and silly, and remind me of being a kid. And some of them have stickers or holograms! So, so cool. But aside from those, I don’t like the Valentine’s Day that stores try to push on you. What I do absolutely adore is everyone dressed in pinks, reds, and whites. I’m smitten with all the hearts, hugs, smiles, songs, and handmade cards. And I truly treasure the celebration of friendship, appreciation, and love. What’s not to love about all of that?! Add the chance to make super cute, heart-themed treats and this becomes a holiday worth celebrating!
Ever since Katie sent me Megan Seling’s book, Bake it in a Cupcake, for my birthday, I’ve been obsessed with the heart-filled cupcakes that grace the cover. I’ve waited three months now for Valentine’s Day to come just so I could make these, and I’m so glad I did – they are adorable! You have to cut into them just right in order to see the heart, but the wonderful surprise of seeing a heart inside your cupcake never gets old and makes it 100% worth the effort.
You’ll need a small heart-shaped cookie cutter for this recipe. For me, this proved to be surprisingly difficult to find. After visiting numerous stores without luck, I finally ended up asking one of my labmates to help me make a cookie cutter in the lab’s machine shop. He is really talented and has made all sorts of utensils and whatnot, so I figured he would be up for the challenge. I wasn’t wrong! Check out this awesome, handmade cookie cutter he made for me:
Impressive, right?! He said he’s going to make an octopus next, so keep an eye out for some crazy cookies… ha!
The one downside to these cupcakes is that despite all their visual bravado, they are a bit on the bland side. I think the strawberry frosting included in the recipe would remedy this, but since I strongly dislike artificial strawberry flavoring and I am the baker, I decided to go with a buttercream frosting (which could also easily be tinted pink). I think next time I would make the hearts white and bake them into a red velvet cupcake, or keep the hearts pink/red and bake them into a chocolate cupcake. Don’t get me wrong – these are still very good, and their cuteness quota is off the charts, but I’m a chocolate loyalist at heart. Try whatever sounds best to you!
Megan has posted the recipe on her blog so follow this link to make the cupcakes: Pink Heart-Filled Cupcakes. Because I dislike artificial strawberry flavor, I topped them with this fluffy frosting recipe from Cooking Classy.
A few hints:
1.Vanilla beans are great but expensive; 1.5-2 tsp. vanilla extract can be used as a substitute.
2. When you’re cooking the small pink/red cake for the hearts, put the rest of the batter in the refrigerator. Do not leave it on the counter! I made two batches, and the first batch I didn’t refrigerate the batter (it doesn’t say to in the recipe) and half of the hearts floated to the top of the cupcakes during baking. Oops. The second time around, I refrigerated the batter and didn’t have any issues getting the hearts to stay upright in the batter. Much better. Learn from my mistake and you’ll save yourself the heartache of a bunch of cupcakes with rotated hearts!
3. On that note, once the small pink/red cake is done baking, pop it in the refrigerator/freezer for a few minutes to cool it down asap. The longer you wait, the “flatter” your batter in the refrigerator is going to get and the denser your final cupcakes will be.
4. These cupcakes won’t rise too much, but if you fill up the cupcake liners more than 4/5-ths full or so, the batter will run over the edges and cement the liner to the cupcake tray. I lost a cupcake that way: trying to pry it loose from tray, I ripped the cupcake in half. You win some, you learn some. On the upside, I got to do some quality assurance, so I can’t complain too much!
5. She provides a single baking time (20 for the small cake, 24 for the cupcakes) but you should start testing your treats earlier. Mine were done at 19 and 22 minutes; if you don’t know how your oven behaves, then just keep an eye on your cupcakes to make sure you don’t over-bake them.
6. For the buttercream frosting, use gel food coloring to dye it pink/red. Gel food coloring doesn’t affect the consistency like liquid food coloring does, and it gives the frosting a nice vibrant color. Since I made 24 cupcakes (2 batches), I frosted 8 with plain white frosting. Then I added some red food coloring to the remaining frosting and beat it until the frosting was light pink, and used that to decorate 8 more cupcakes. For the remaining cupcakes, I adding additional food coloring to the frosting and brought it to a darker pink color. The three shades of frosting looked quite cute sitting together on the cupcake tray!
Joyeuse Saint-Valentin! I hope you spread and receive lots of love this week!