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If you’ve ever browsed Pinterest at the end of January/early February, then you are at least somewhat aware of the intricate details and immense effort behind some Valentine’s Day desserts. As someone who loves to eat sweets, I rarely find myself with enough patience to construct any sort of elaborate, edible masterpiece. This recipe for my heart-shaped chocolate cake with strawberries turned out surprisingly well for not having any sort of “real plan” before I began. Make sure you read through the explanations under each picture because I share some tips from my experience.
The first thing you need to do if you are using frozen strawberries takes place the night before. Before you go to bed, dump the bag of frozen strawberries into a glass bowl and leave them in the freezer overnight to thaw. In the morning, take the bowl of strawberries out of the fridge and leave them near the oven to continue to thaw as the oven preheats.
That being said, bake the cake exactly how the box tells you to (ESPECIALLY for cooling procedures – this will help out immensely later on). The only thing I did differently than how the box described was I sifted the cake mix into my mixing bowl to (a) get rid of any lumps of cake mix and (b) add air into the mix to help create a fluffier cake. I baked my cake in a 9 x 13 non-stick pan.
While the cake is cooking, get another clean bowl and strain the strawberries into the new bowl, but keep the strawberry juice. Put the strawberries aside and combine the entire tub of frosting with the strawberry juice – this frosting will cover the outside of the cake. I added 3ish drops of red food coloring to create a brighter pink color.
Once the cake is done baking, let it cool for at least one hour before you remove the cake from the pan. Allowing it to cool will help ensure that your cake will remove from the pan in one piece. After the cake has COMPLETELY cooled, cut out two hearts from the cake. To make this heart shaped stencil, I folded a piece of copy paper in half like a book and cut out a half-heart shape. When you unfold it, voila, it’s an entire heart!
In order to get a second heart out of this cake, I had to flip the stencil 180 degrees (opposite of what is seen in the picture above) on the remaining cake. Any scraps are fair game for snack time.
Once you have your two cakes cut out, it’s time to get them each in half – if you’re used to cooking meat, we want to “butterfly” these cakes open. IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO DO THIS SLOWLY. The first of these cakes I cut too quickly and the bottom layer was basically only crumbs. Hold your non-dominant hand on top of the cake to squish it down slightly and keep it in place. Take a sharp knife and begin cutting it from one side using a sawing motion. The goal is for each half of the cake to be relatively the same thickness, which is why it’s important to go slowly.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN FROSTING, touch the inside of both sides of the cake to make sure that they are cool. If either end if even slightly warm, cover them in plastic wrap and leave it alone until it cools. Frosting a warm cake, I learned, is incredibly messy and frustrating. Once the cake is completely cool take the other, unopened container of frosting and use about half of it to frost upward-facing part the bottom layer of cake. Cover the frosted part with the strawberries. Place the bottom of the top layer of cake on top of the strawberries by carefully flipping the unfrosted half over so that the smooth top is facing up.
In hindsight, I also would’ve added a thin layer of frosting to the bottom of the top layer of cake to help adhere to the strawberry layer.
Remember that pink frosting we made earlier? Now it’s time to frost the whole cake. In hindsight, I would’ve done two layers, one super thin to collect all of the loose crumbs (called a crumb coat, thanks Cake Wars for that terminology) and another one on top to appear more presentable.
If I were to bake this all over again, I would not have cut any cake in half. I would have just layered the two cakes on top of each other to make a gigantic cake.
1 box cake mix
2-3 containers of vanilla icing
1 bag of frozen strawberries
Red food coloring
- The night before defrost strawberries in a glass bowl in the refrigerator.
- Remove bowl of strawberries from refrigerator and place near oven.
- Bake cake according to box directions in a 9 x 13 in pan.
- Strain strawberries from any juice in the bowl.
- Combine juice with one tub of frosting and 3-4 drops of red food coloring. Set aside.
- Once cake is out of the oven, allow cake to completely cool before removing from pan.
- Remove cake from pan and cut out two large hearts.
- Using non-dominant hand to apply pressure to the top of the cake, cut one cake in half horizontally.
- Frost top of bottom layer of cake with other tub of frosting. Apply strawberries to the frosting.
- Cover strawberries with the other half of the cake ensuring that the smooth side is facing up.
- Frost entire cake with pink frosting.
- Repeat steps 8-11 with other cake.
Let me know what dessert you’ll be making for Valentine’s Day in the comments below or on Twitter!