From a batch of red velvet cupcakes to a simple heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie—there are few Valentine’s Day gestures more romantic and thoughtful than a surprise homemade dessert. And while not everyone can whisk flour, butter and sugar into a decadent three-tiered masterpiece, with a little bit of kitchen know-how baking a simple, sweet treat for your special someone at home can be, well, a piece of cake.
To steer you in the right direction, we asked our Executive Pastry Chef, Karys Logue, for her top baking tips. The dessert maven behind the devilishly decadent cakes at Butter, Logue has honed her craft at world-class establishments from New York to Hong Kong. Formerly the Executive Pastry Chef at Dominique Ansel Bakery, she now leads the dessert programmes across Black Sheep Restaurants, and has a few key pointers for the baking novice. Read on for her top tips, then tackle her Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake recipe below for a sure-fire way to sate any sweet tooth.
1. Don’t overcomplicate with a complex recipe.
If you are a first-time baker and want to impress your date this Valentine’s Day, now is probably not the best time to be experimenting with complex, multi-step recipes. Stick with something simple or a recipe you have made before, and you are halfway to a successful result. Better yet, use a recipe you can get real-time answers for if something goes awry in the kitchen (this might be a great excuse to call up your mum for that dessert recipe you loved as a kid!).
2. Find a way to personalise your dessert.
Perhaps you have a go-to brownie recipe that works every time. Take this fool-proof dessert then jazz it up with little pieces of candy hearts, or chop up his/her favourite candy bar and sprinkle on top just before you bake. Do you have an inside joke or sweet sentiment to express? Make a little piping cone using the corner of a plastic bag to write it out on your finished dessert for that extra personalised touch.
3. Use temperature contrast to make something show-stopping.
This is the easiest way I know to turn a simple cake into something that feels elegant and luxe: simply warm up your dessert, then add a scoop of ice cream or sorbet to it. Everyone loves the contrast of warm, fudgy chocolate cake with cool, melting ice cream. Or, think outside the box with your hot and cold contrast: warm fruit over a semifreddo, hot chocolate lava cake with chilly caramel whipped cream, etc.
4. Add a tableside touch.
Tableside theatrics are not just for restaurants. If you are serving up your Valentine’s Day meal at home, why not recreate the feeling of dining out with an elegant flourish, such as sprinkling edible flower petals on at the last minute, finishing with a pour of caramel or chocolate sauce, or even flambéeing your dessert (toasted meringue, anyone?).
5. Most importantly, go with your gut!
People tend to get stressed out about the precision of baking, but I have found that so long as you are using all of your senses to observe your ingredients and baking with heart, it will turn out great. At the end of the day, it is the thought and care put in that your special someone will surely appreciate!
Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake Recipe
- 330g sugar
- 215g all purpose-flour
- 80g cocoa powder
- 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 200ml milk
- 45ml grapeseed oil
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 45ml butter (melted)
- 185ml hot water
- ¼ tsp instant coffee
- Prepare a 9-inch round cake tin by spraying it with a non-stick spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
- Place the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- In a second mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, grapeseed oil and vanilla extract with a whisk.
- In a third mixing bowl, gently whisk the melted butter, hot water and coffee together until combined.
- Little by little, add the egg and milk mixture to the dry ingredients using an electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment, you can also do this by hand with a hand whisk. Mix on medium/high speed until the batter is smooth and homogeneous. Finally, slowly stir in the warm coffee mixture, just until combined.
- Pour all of the cake batter into your cake tin. Bake at 175°C, for 40 minutes, or until the cake feels just slightly springy in the centre.
Prefer to let our Butter team do the heavy lifting this Valentine’s Day? Pre-order our Milk Chocolate Sweetheart Cake with customised candy hearts (9-inch) or Strawberry Shortcake with meringue hearts (6-inch) from GO! now, for 10-14 February delivery date.