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Off the Fork: For Valentine’s Day, have a heart

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTOS The cake that says, ‘be mine.’
CHARITY ROBEY PHOTOS The cake that says, ‘be mine.’

It’s all too easy to say, “I love you.” Making cake is harder.

On Valentine’s Day, when it’s especially important to let the one you love know it, one way to express affection is to make a heart-shaped, homemade butter cake, topped with pink whipped cream frosting. To make a cake like that requires not just love, but devotion.

Valentine’s Day is an ancient holiday, dating back at least to Roman times, but the creation of heart-shaped sweets for Valentine’s Day got started in the age of Queen Victoria. By the early 20th century, the Cadbury chocolate company was making heart-shaped boxes full of candy, and the mid-February issues of American newspapers and magazines were stuffed with recipes for heart-shaped cakes and cookies.

This homemade, old-fashioned way to express affection is even more effective today, when a more diffident lover could just order something heart-shaped online.

Since nothing takes the edge off romance like having to go out and buy special equipment, I’m happy to say that this cake can be created by anyone in possession of two 8-inch cake pans; one square and one round.

You form the heart by aligning the square cake and the two halves of the round cake, and applying a nice thick layer of the not-too-sweet pink raspberry frosting over the whole thing.

Smooth the frosting with the back of a spoon and decorate with raspberries to complete the message of love.

A Heart-shaped Cake
16 servings
The Cake
This basic yellow cake recipe is adapted from “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion,” the go-to baking reference.
1 and ½ sticks (6 ounces) of butter
4 eggs and 2 yolks
1 ¾ cups (12¼ ounces) sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ¾ cups (11½ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup plain yogurt
½ cup milk

Take the butter and eggs out of the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.

Position the racks near the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Prepare two 8-inch cake pans, one round and one square. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of each pan, or butter each pan and put a precut piece of parchment on the bottom, with a very thin coat of butter on top of the parchment.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla until it is fluffy and almost white in color. This will take at least five minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.

Whisk together the yogurt and milk.

The addition of the flour and the yogurt mixture to the creamed butter/sugar mixture is a gentle process, accomplished by hand and without athletic exertion. Fold one third of the flour into the butter/sugar mixture. Gently fold in half of the yogurt mixture. Fold in the second third of the flour, the rest of the yogurt mixture and finally the rest of the flour.

Spread the batter into the two prepared pans to the same depth. They should be no more than ¾ full.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, spread the batter slightly higher at the edges than in the center of the pans. This makes it more likely that the cakes will rise to the same height.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cakes pull away from the sides of the pans, and a toothpick inserted

into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes, and then take the cakes out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.

Split the 8-inch round cake in half and place the halves along two flat sides of the 8-inch square to form a heart.

Raspberry Frosting
Adapted from the “Big Pink Cake” in Tom Hudgens’ book of American home-cooking, “The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes + Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life.”
8 ounces mashed fresh raspberries and another 4 ounces of whole berries to decorate the cake.
¼ cup sugar
3 cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon lemon extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Mash the raspberries with the sugar and heat the mixture over a low heat or in a microwave for a minute or so — just until the sugar dissolves.

Strain the raspberry mixture, and capture the juice in a bowl, pressing down on the solids with the back of a spoon to remove the seeds.

Cool the raspberry juice and add the heavy cream, lemon and vanilla extracts.

Whip the raspberry cream mixture just until it holds its shape and is spreadable.

Coat the cake by mounding the frosting on top and spreading it to the edges and down the sides of the cake. Smooth the frosting and decorate with the rest of the berries.