Celebrating Sweetness + My Favorite Cake Recipe

Of all the holidays, none is so fraught with baggage as Valentines Day. Maybe it's the sacchriney sweet jewelry advertisements that portend love is only true when spelled out in diamonds...Or the impossibility of finding a decent place to eat dinner without reservations...And let's not forget the heightened pressure to compare our own love lives to the romantic ideals played out in the movies...

With standards like this, for couples and singles alike, the
opportunities for angst are endless.

And yet, I truly adore Valentines Day.  From the depths of snowy February, Valentines Day springs forth in all its glittering, ruffled, candy-covered glory and thaws our frozen monotony.  Drug stores are bedazzled in crepe paper hearts, and empty milk cartons are transformed to become homeroom Valentine mailboxes.  Pink carnations, the most pedestrian of flowers, have their shining moment in grocery aisle bouquets, and chalky candy hearts engage in tiny conversation.

The moment I stopped allowing Valentines Day to serve as a litmus test for the state of my love life was the moment I started enjoying it. The farmer and I are very happily coupled this Valentines Day, but I've spent many alone, and that's when I realized it doesn't have to be a holiday for lovers. Valentines is a great holiday to spoil your grandmother, or best friend, or your beloved yoga instructor. Take her to lunch, send flowers, whip up a cake and have her over for tea. Think of it as a holiday to celebrate sweetness...to show love and appreciation via gluesticks and doilies. Once the pressure of the perfect romance is set aside, it's a lot more fun.

If nothing else, it's a great excuse to blanket life in a pile of pink frosting...

My Absolute Favorite Cake Recipe
I am not a fancy cook or baker. I've given up on aiming for perfection. But this cake is a real crowd pleaser, because from-scratch, homemade layer cakes are rather uncommon these days. I worked in a bakery as a teenager, and have had a place in my heart for homemade, excessively feminine, butter-laden cakes ever since. I've been honing this recipe for more than a decade. Start to finish, it takes three hours to prepare, including icing it. A real labor of love! 

3 Layer Cake
1 cup butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1.5 cups self rising flour
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp almond extract

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one by one. Combine flours and add to mixture in equal parts. Add almond extract.

Divide batter into three and pour heart-shaped cake pans. Bake at 350 for 25 mins and check for doneness by inserting toothpick.

Chocolate Filling:
1 cup butter at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Syrup
Add confectioners sugar to butter gradually, mixing chocolate intermittently (to keep consistency moist). Beat to desired consistency.

Outside Icing
1 cup butter at room temperature
8 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Add confectioners sugar to butter gradually, mixing in milk and vanilla intermittently (to keep consistency moist). Beat to desired consistency. Divide and add coloring.

Allow cake to cool completely. Ice two inner layers with chocolate and refrigerate 15 minutes, to allow filling to set. Ice outside of cake with a thin layer of frosting, taking care to smooth over any cracks on top and in between layers. Refrigerate for 25 minutes before applying second layer of icing. Smooth and decorate with piped icing.

Anonymous –  (February 14, 2011 at 3:35 PM)  

so cute! hope i can work up the courage to try to make it some time (i'm really reeeeally not a baker either...

Emily (The Culinary Couple) (February 22, 2011 at 3:36 PM)  

You fooled me -- your cake certainly looks like it was made by a fancy baker! Yum.

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