Can you believe February is upon us already? Didn't we just have Christmas? It may be because I am getting older, but time seems to fly way too fast.......... but if February is here, then it must mean one thing....... Valentines Day!
Although the romantic connotations of Valentines Day date back to the Middle Ages, modern times dictate that as with pretty much any festival or celebration, this day of love should be yet another excuse for gift and card sellers to extract our well-earned cash in the interests of commercialism. According to figures, Britons spend somewhere close to a billion pounds a year on valentines gifts and treats, which given the state of the economy, is quite phenomenal.
Whilst I can honestly say that I see it as an unnecessary rip off and one that I generally don't buy into (at least at a retail level), the opportunity to celebrate love and affection through food is always appealing and is something which costs very little other than time and care. The added bonus of course, is that you get to share the deliciousness of your creations with your chosen mate, whilst taking extra credit for the effort (and therefore meaning) enshrined in your gastronomic treats.
Traditional heart shapes which come in all sizes - from pans and moulds to sprinkles and chocolates, make for attractive bakes. The colours of love (mostly seen to be pinks and reds) encourage vibrant, beautiful, eye-catching foodie treats. It is possibly one of the easiest events to cook for in a way that visibly marks emotional attachment.
If that doesn't encourage your enthusiasm, think chocolate! The need to throw chocolate into the mix for Valentines is almost compulsory........ No excuses needed....... This is the food of today's lovers be it dark, milk or white. An expectation that can be more than easily fulfilled in our house!
There are a number of recipes on this blog which can be used as valentines treats, either because of their shape, colour or attention to the detail of chocolate. All are gluten free and are perfect for saying 'I love you', whether to partners or the kids (who may equally want to feel part of the celebrated sentiment). Check out the following for inspiration :
Strawberry & White Chocolate Hearts
Zesty Drizzled Lemon Cake
Chocolate Kiss Cake
Pistachio Macaroons with Rose & Crushed Raspeberry Mascarpone Cream
Baci di Dama (Ladies Kisses)
Raspberry & White Chocolate Macaron
I now add to this list these wonderful, moist, chocolatey layer cakes which are ideal for Valentines sharing.
I confess that my layers didn't go quite to plan! The middle layer is meant to be 'red velvet', but I either added too much cocoa or not enough 'red'. Not having made red velvet anything before, I wasn't too sure about the ingredient balance and the recipes that I looked at for guidance seemed to vary both in ingredient quantities and shade. I have a little bit of a battle with the prospect of adding vast amounts of artificial colour to home-cooked food and did try to substitute with some natural colour in the form of beetroot powder...... clearly not enough....... However the addition of the beetroot added a slightly earthy flavour to the mix which nicely balanced with the chocolate, so I would definitely leave this in if you can get hold of any (mine came from Spice Mountain, but you can also get it from Healthy Supplies or check out your local health food stores).
To get that beautiful rich colour and hue associated with all things red velvet, there is a definite need to throw caution to the wind on the dye front and also to limit the darkening properties of the cocoa..... The recipe below has been very slightly amended to allow for a deeper red sponge than I achieved.
Unfortunately, on the day I made these layer cakes, I was limited for time and didn't get a chance to rectify the middle sponge for photo purposes, so I have had to live with the lack of intended colour variation for my bake...... Either way, the cakes taste amazing and certainly haven't suffered any ill-effects in terms of scrumptiousness. I think they still look pretty good too!
The sponges have been layered with a slathering of cherry conserve which gives a delightful fruity tang and contrasting texture. Drizzled with smooth, rich, dark chocolate ganache for pure decadence and topped with a big fat juicy strawberry, they can be shared by lovers or scoffed by families. Perfect!
I am offering these wonderful chocolate layer cakes to :
Cook Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes
Foodie Friday with Casa Costello
Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too
Love Cake with Ness at Jibber Jabber. This month she (and we) celebrate one full year since the challenge made its debut. The theme for February is 'For The Love Of Cake'...... Need we say more? Here's to many more cakes and a continued successful future for the challenge.
The Biscuit Barrel Challenge with The Lass in the Apron (on behalf of I'd Much Rather Bake Than). February's theme is "Loved Ones'. These were crafted with a desire to treat my family to something a little bit special..... Although I could fit them into the biscuit barrel, they didn't actually make it that far......
Treat Petite with Kat, The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi. This month the Theme is a seasonal 'love is in the air'.
Chocolate Valentines Cakes (makes 8-10 triple layer cakes)
Chocolate Sponge - double layer
130g gluten free plain flour (I used mix A from this post)
75g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
40g cocoa powder
220 ml milk
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
150g unsalted butter - room temperature
140g golden caster sugar
80g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs - room temperature
75 ml greek yoghurt
'Red Velvet' Sponge - single layer
75g gluten free plain flour
40g ground almonds
¾ teaspoon GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
large pinch fine sea salt
7g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon beetroot powder (if you don't have this, add an extra tablespoon flour instead)
120 ml milk
½ tablespoon white wine vinegar
75g unsalted butter - room temperature
70g golden caster sugar
40g soft light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg - room temperature
40 ml greek yoghurt
red food paste - to preference of colour
approx 100g good quality cherry conserve
225g good quality dark chocolate
240 ml double cream
8 to 10 strawberries
edible sprinkles and sparkles
Method (For Both Cakes)
- Sponge : Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4. Base line 2x 9 inch square baking tins (chocolate sponge) with baking paper (1x 9 inch for the red velvet).
- Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, salt, cocoa and beetroot powder (if using), ensuring all lumps are broken down.
- In a jug mix together the milk with the vinegar and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
- Cream together the butter and sugars with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla, followed by the eggs (one at a time) and beat until smooth.
- Add the yoghurt and beat again. If adding food colour, add at this stage and beat in. Use paste rather than liquid as it is more concentrated and will avoid the batter becoming too runny. Add colour to shade required.
- Fold in the milk-vinegar mix alternately with the flour about a third at a time until just combined (be careful not to over-mix).
- Spoon the batter into the tins and smooth the top so that the level is as even as possible.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top springs back to the touch. Remove from the oven and turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- When completely cool, chill the sponges for about 45 minutes to firm up slightly before cutting.
- Using a round cookie cutter (mine was 6½ cm diameter) carefully cut as many cake circles as you can from the sponge and set aside. Save the left overs for trifle!
- Warm the cherry conserve in a microwave (or small bowl over simmering water) and stir until smooth.
- Layer the sponges chocolate-red velvet-chocolate with cherry conserve between them.
- Ganache : Break or chop the chocolate into small pieces in a bowl.
- In a small saucepan, heat the cream until just coming to a simmer over a low to medium heat. Do not allow to boil.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate and leave to stand for a couple of minutes to melt, before stirring through until smooth.
- Allow the ganache to cool, but be careful to keep an eye on the consistency. You want it slightly thickened, but still fluid enough to pour and spread.
- Spoon some ganache over each cake (a little more than a tablespoon per cake), gently spreading whilst still liquid across the surface to allow a little to run down the sides.
- Decorate the top of each cake with sprinkles and leave to set.
- Whilst the ganache is still fluid, dip the strawberries to half-coat. Set aside on baking paper to allow the ganache to set.
- Place a strawberry on the top of each cake. Share and enjoy...
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