In all honesty, we’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators in our house. We’re a pretty close family, so Valentine’s Day is more of a chance to eat special sweets and get crafty than it is anything else. We never spend money for Valentine’s Day…only handmade cards allowed. It’s been a tradition for several years now, and I quite like it.
Food is also only homemade for Valentine’s Day. No fancy dinners out or boxed chocolates for us! Usually, the hubster does dinner, while I do dessert…and the kiddo likes to help with both. This year, I’m not 100% sure what the hubster has in mind for dinner, but I knew exactly what I wanted for dessert…
This sweet, unassuming little cake (and cupcakes) is my interpretation of the quintessential Valentine’s Day treat: chocolate covered strawberries. That’s right, this is a chocolate covered strawberry cake! I started out with my Devil’s Food cake recipe, filled it with rich chocolate ganache and fresh strawberry filling, then topped the whole thing with delicious strawberry buttercream! It’s seriously divine. Seriously.I’ve included the recipes for everything you need: strawberry filling, chocolate ganache, chocolate cake, and strawberry frosting. You can certainly skip the strawberry filling and/or ganache and just fill this with more of the frosting. No matter how you make it, I promise, it’s delicious!!
All you need for the cake is cake flour, all-purpose flour, unsalted butter (at room temperature), sour cream, cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch processed for this cake, but either will work), eggs (at room temperature), sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, salt, and water.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy (see my pretty new beater blade? I looooove it!), about three minutes. For the record, this is what creamed butter and sugar looks like when it’s light and fluffy. Also, I always use a beater blade for this step. Actually, I use a beater blade almost exclusively for cakes. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each one until just combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until combined.
In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking soda, and salt. Add in about a third of the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Next, add half of the chocolate mixture until just combined before adding another third of the flour. Again, beat until just combined, then add the remaining chocolate and mix until just combined. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir gently until thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter between two eight- or nine-inch round cake pans that have been greased, floured, and lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire cooling racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
This also makes delicious cupcakes. The entire recipe makes a little over two dozen cupcakes. These won’t be mounded, highly risen cupcakes, though. They’ll be flat on top, but they’re still very lovely and taste fantastic. In fact, I chose to make a small six-inch round cake (two layers) and 12 cupcakes, because I actually prefer the cupcakes.
Once the cakes have cooled completely, spread a layer of rich chocolate ganache (recipe below) on the top of one layer, then top that with strawberry filling (recipe below). In this photo, you’ll see that I used strawberry jam. I usually make this cake with a fresh strawberry filling, but there wasn’t a single strawberry to be had on the whole island. The jam was still quite good, though. Once I had the filling on top, I placed the second layer on top and frosted the cake as usual.
I used a really wonderful strawberry buttercream frosting that is based on my favorite frosting ever. I had to use strawberry flavoring in mine (you can use extract or flavoring oil), because I had so much trouble finding fresh or frozen strawberries, but it’s honestly delicious either way. The frosting made with flavoring has a slightly firmer texture, which makes it great for making lovely swirls on cupcakes, and pretty decorations – like roses.
I decided to go fully fondant-free on this cake, and I’m really glad that I did. The cake and frosting are so wonderful, it would have been a shame to muddy that great flavor with fondant. For the decorations, I simply drew pretty “heart-bursts” around the sides of the cake – some small, some tall. Then I topped the cake with swirls, hearts, and dots. Nothing especially fancy or elaborate. This wasn’t my original design plan…I had intended to do something a little more abstract and cool…and red. But, as often happens here in the Caribbean, the humidity got the best of me, and I had to work with what I had. This still made me happy and reminded me of Valentine’s Day, though.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear friends. No matter how you spend the day, I hope it’s relaxed, fun, and full of love of all kinds! And if you want to help that love along, I definitely recommend giving it a nudge with this cake! You’ll have more Valentines than you’ll know what to do with! Enjoy!
Chocolate Strawberry Cake
with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
Makes 2 8- or 9-inch rounds
FOR THE FILLING
2 cups strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
FOR THE CAKE
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water, plus 1 cup room temperature water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
FOR THE GANACHE T(This makes quite a bit, but it’s easily cut in half. It also keeps well in an airtight container, and is wonderful sandwiched between 2 cookies!)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
FOR THE FROSTING
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lb. (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon strawberry extract (or 1 dram strawberry flavoring oil), or you can replace the artificial flavoring with 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and pureed (this will be softer frosting)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)
To make the filling: Place a half cup of the hulled strawberries in a medium bowl crush them. Slice the remaining strawberries and stir into the bowl of crushed berries. Stir in the sugar; set aside.
To make the cake: Preheat 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and the 1/2 cup boiling water. Whisk to combine and dissolve the cocoa. Once dissolved, stir in the 1 cup of room temperature water; set aside.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until combined.
In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking soda, and salt. Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Next, add half of the chocolate mixture until just combined before adding another third of the flour. Again, beat until just combined, then add the remaining chocolate and mix until just combined. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir gently until thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire cooling racks and allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a small bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream and corn syrup to a simmer; remove from heat. Slowly pour the cream over the chocolate. Stir with a rubber spatula, pulling the chocolate up from the bottom of the bowl. Continue stirring gently until all of the chocolate is melted and combined with the cream. Allow the ganache to cool for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up.
To make the frosting: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter for about 30 seconds. Beat in the sugar and salt until combined. Add the heavy cream and whisk on high for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add more cream, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Stir in the vanilla, strawberry flavoring, and food coloring (if using).
Assemble the cake as directed above, decorate as desired.
Recipe by Darla