On Valentine's Day, say it with chocolate

Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Entertaining

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups cold water

1 cup corn oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

5 cups powdered sugar, divided

1/2 cup (about) whole milk

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Sift flour, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of the cocoa, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix the cold water, corn oil and 1 tablespoon of the vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture. Divide the batter equally among the pans (there will not be much in any of the pans). Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over the batter in each pan.

2. Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes (avoid putting tester in a chocolate chip; it will not come out clean even if fully baked). Cool pans on racks 15 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

3. For frosting: Beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups of the powdered sugar. Beat in the milk and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons cocoa and the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar; beat until blended, thinning with more milk if necessary.

4. Place 1 cake layer, chocolate-chips side up, on platter. Spreading 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with second cake layer, chocolate-chips side up. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over. Top with remaining cake layer, chocolate-chips side down. Spread remaining frosting over sides and top of cake. Can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.

Per serving (based on 10): 1,009 calories; 45 g fat; 17 g saturated fat; 32 mg cholesterol; 8 g protein; 153 g carbohydrate; 119 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 495 mg sodium; 30 mg calcium

Recipe from “The Bon Appétit Cookbook” by Barbara Fairchild


Yield: 6 servings

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup powdered sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped and melted

6 (6-inch) squares cheesecloth (or a 12-inch square for a large mold), dampened with water

6 (4-inch) coeur a la crème molds or 1 (8-inch) mold, see note

For the chocolate-dipped strawberries

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

12 fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried, at room temperature

Note: if you do not have a coeur a la crème mold, simply poke small holes in the bottom of 6 (3-inch) paper cups.

1. Put the cream and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

2. In another medium-size mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Fold in the whipped cream.

3. Line each mold with a square of the dampened cheesecloth. Divide the chocolate cream mixture evenly among the molds. Fold each overhanging cheesecloth over the top. Place the molds on a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.

4. Make the chocolate-dipped strawberries: Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Stir the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a metal mixing bowl set over hot (but not simmering) water until melted and smooth. Remove from the water. Holding a strawberry by the stem or hull, dip two-thirds of it into the chocolate. Shake gently to remove the excess. Place the strawberry on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining strawberries. (Set the chocolate over the hot water to soften if necessary while working.) Refrigerate the berries until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.

5. When ready to serve, carefully remove the hearts from the molds and gently remove the cheesecloth. Serve the hearts on individual plates with the chocolate-dipped strawberries. You can make this up to several days in advance.

Per serving: 460 calories; 29 g fat; 17 g saturated fat; 60 mg cholesterol; 7 g protein; 49 g carbohydrate; 38 g sugar; 8 g fiber; 127 mg sodium; 99 mg calcium

Recipe by Emeril Lagasse


Yield: 8 to 10 servings

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided

1 large egg yolk

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting, optional

10 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

2 ounces 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided


1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons malted milk powder, such as Ovaltine (yellow label, not chocolate-flavored), divided

1. For the crust: Place the butter and 1/3 cup of the sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula; if any lumps of hard butter are still visible, beat for another minute until completely blended. Add the yolk and beat well. Scrape down the bowl.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and 2 1/2 tablespoons of the cocoa powder. Add to the butter mixture all at once. Mix at the lowest speed and blend just until the dough comes together; some of the clumps will still be medium and small. The dough should look moist and have a dark, uniform color. Scrape down the bowl, mixing by hand with the spatula if there are patches of flour or unincorporated butter. If the dough is too sticky, chill 15 minutes before continuing.

3. Scrape the dough clumps into a 9- or 9 1/2-inch tart pan. Use the heel of your hand to press the dough into an even layer across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Press from the center of the pan upward, building up some extra dough where the bottom meets the side. Using your thumbs, press this excess up the sides of the pan to form the walls, making sure the dough is level with the pan at the rim. Make sure there are no cracks or thin spots. Reserve any small bits of leftover dough. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or 30 minutes in the freezer.

4. Bake the shell: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and check for cracks. Repair any cracks with a bit of the reserved dough. Bake 15 to 17 minutes longer; place on a rack to cool completely.

5. Prepare the filling: Combine the milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the malted milk powder until dissolved. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolates and let the mixture sit for 1 minute, then whisk the blend until completely combined. Pour into the cooled tart crust. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until the filling is set and firm.

6. Finish the tart: Use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand-held mixer to whip the remaining 1 1/2 cups cream, the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon malted milk powder to medium peaks (whipping it to stiff peaks will turn it grainy; if this happens, stir in a tablespoon or two of extra cream until it smooths out). Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag (or plastic bag with a small hole in one corner) fitted with a tip of your choice and pipe the whipped cream across the tart. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

7. To serve, use a fine-mesh sieve to dust the top with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cocoa powder, if desired. Cut the tart with a thin, sharp knife that has been warmed in hot water and wiped dry. The tart may be kept in a refrigerator for 3 days, however the whipped cream may start to break down.

Per serving (based on 10): 451 calories; 32 g fat; 20 g saturated fat; 84 mg cholesterol; 5 g protein; 38 g carbohydrate; 24 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 35 mg sodium; 88 mg calcium

From “The Art & Soul of Baking” by Cindy Mushet


Yield: 4 servings

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon table salt, divided

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

4 ripe medium bananas

1 cup strawberries

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

4 crepes (recipe follows, or use store-bought crepes)

1 pint vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup salted peanuts, optional

1. To make the chocolate sauce, combine 3/4 cup water, the granulated sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder; reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract.

2. Peel the bananas, cut in half crosswise and then split the halves lengthwise. Hull and quarter the strawberries.

3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the foam subsides. Add the bananas, increase the heat to high and sauté them for about 3 minutes, turning them until they are golden; transfer them to a plate using a slotted spoon.

4. Add the half-and-half, brown sugar and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of the salt to the skillet and cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Add the bananas and turn them until they are well coated; remove from the heat.

5. Place 1 crepe on each of 4 dessert plates; spoon one-quarter of the bananas and sauce onto each crepe and roll up. Top each with a scoop of ice cream and some strawberries, chocolate sauce and peanuts, if using.

Per serving: 810 calories; 40 g fat; 20 g saturated fat; 87 mg cholesterol; 14 g protein; 112 g carbohydrate; 84 g sugar; 10 g fiber; 286 mg sodium; 230 mg calcium

Recipe from “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners” by Sara Moulton


Yield: 8 servings (only 4 are needed for Hot Banana Split Crepes recipe)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1. Melt the butter; set aside 2 tablespoons and combine the remaining 3 tablespoons, the milk, flour, eggs and salt in a blender. Blend until smooth, cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Lightly brush a 10-inch nonstick skillet or crepe pan with some of the reserved melted butter and heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce the heat to medium.

3. Stir the batter and ladle a scant 1/4 cup into the pan, tilting and rotating the pan until the batter coats the bottom. Cook for 30 to 45 seconds, or until the surface of the crepe looks set and the bottom is barely golden. Turn the crepe and cook for 30 seconds more on the other side.

4. Transfer the crepes to a cooling rack as they are cooked Once they are cool, stack them until you are ready to use them. Wrap and freeze any extra crepes for later use.

Recipe from “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners” by Sara Moulton