These little French-style chocolate heart cakes make a delightful alternative to chocolates or truffles at a wedding reception or party.
- 24 small cakes made using 1⁄2 recipe quantities of rich dark chocolate sponge (see below), baked in miniature heart-shaped baking tins (about 5cm/2 inches across)
- 2 tablespoon sieved apricot jam
- icing sugar for dusting
- about 1kg dark-brown chocolate-flavoured sugar paste
- a little edible glue or alcohol
- small amount of royal icing
- pink food colour
- about 200g white sugar paste
- pink edible lustre
- Cake ingredients:
- 75g dark couverture chocolate drops
- 100ml milk
- 225g brown sugar
- 75g salted butter, softened
- 2 medium eggs, slightly beaten
- 300g plain flour
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
To make the cakes:
- Preheat the oven to 160°C, gas 3.
- Line the required baking tin/tins. For cup cakes place the muffin paper cases into the muffin trays.
- Place the chocolate, milk and half of the sugar into a deep saucepan and bring to the boil, while stirring occasionally.
- Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the remaining sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Slowly add the eggs.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and add to the mixture while mixing at a low speed.
- While the chocolate mix is still hot, using a measuring jug, slowly pour it into the dough while mixing at low speed.
- Once combined, pour the mixture from the bowl directly into the lined tin. For cup cakes, first transfer the cake mix into a measuring jug, as it is very liquid, and use to fill the paper cases about two-thirds full.
- Bake for 15 minutes for cup cakes, 25–45 minutes for large cakes, depending on size. It is cooked when it springs back to the touch and the sides are coming away from the tin. Or, insert a clean thin knife into the centre; it should come out clean.
- Once the cake is baked, let it rest for about 15 minutes. Once cool, remove from the tin.
To decorate the cakes:
- Level the top of the heart sponges by trimming off the top crust with a kitchen knife. Gently heat up the apricot jam and thinly brush it all over the little sponges.
- On a smooth surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out the chocolate sugar paste between the marzipan spacers to a piece large enough to cover the top and sides of the cakes. Lay it over them and carefully push it down the sides. Trim the excess paste off using a kitchen knife.
For the monogram heart cakes:
- Roll a small amount of chocolate paste to a sausage long enough to cover the circumference of the heart. Brush the base of each cake thinly with edible glue or alcohol and lay the sausage around the sides.
- Gently push the crimper all around the base, creating a continuous patterned border.
- Mix a small amount of royal icing with pink food colour and a bit of water to produce soft-peak consistency and put it into a piping bag. Pipe the monogram on top of each cake.
For the dotted heart cakes:
- Mix the white sugar paste with a small amount of pink food colour and roll it out on the plastic board dusted with icing sugar to a strip long enough to cover the base of each heart. Roll once over that with the lined rolling pin to give it a lined pattern, then cut it into a long strip about 1cm (1⁄2 inch) wide.
- Brush a thin strip around the base of each cake with edible glue and lay the pink strip around it.
- Pipe little dots of pink royal icing all over the top of the cakes. Let dry.
- For the hearts on heart cakes
- On a plastic board dusted lightly with icing sugar, roll out some pink sugar paste until very thin. Using the heart cutter, cut out little heart shapes and dust them with pink lustre.
- Brush the back of each heart thinly with edible glue and randomly arrange the pink hearts all over the cakes. Let dry.
Recipe taken from Romantic Cakes by Peggy Porschen (Quadrille Publishing, £12.99)
Top tip for making Romantic chocolate hearts
Use an old-fashioned crimping technique for the border design on the monogram heart, which gives this classic design a touch of ‘retro revival’