Thursday, April 1, 2010

Valentine's Day - Pink heart shaped cupcakes and purple (meringue) Hearts, because love is a battlefield.

Original Post 2/13/10
Germans, in general, do not observe Valentine's Day.  However, over the last few years I have noticed more valentine items in the stores.  I think it's slowly catching on.   Since I am a one woman band for all things American here and the only actual American around for miles,  I did what I always do -  completely ignore what is or isn't celebrated here and made Valentine's Day treats to share with my family.

Pink Heart Shaped Cupcakes with Butter Cream Frosting

White cake is my favorite.  Forgive me chocoholics of the world but when faced with a choice, I would rather have a slice of deliciously light, moist white cake with yummy vanilla frosting than a brownie sundae.

I used this white cake recipe for these cupcakes and added some food coloring to pink 'em up.

This adorable cupcake pan was on sale for 5 Euro. Perfect for the occasion.

Admittedly late to the silicon pan baking party, this is the first time I have used one.  I know it's not rational but when I saw them in the store previously, all I could think about was poisonous breast implants and steered clear of them. Now I know what I've been missing.  I loved the non stick factor, because, let's face it, non stick is never non stick.  Ya still have to grease/flour the sucker. These slid out easily with no extra help.

I trimmed the tops off evening the surface to make them easier to frost

Using this butter cream frosting recipe from  Cupcake Creations, I divided the batch into a few bowls, colored them and sprinkled the tops with pretty things.  I recommend giving the frosting a different flavor, like raspberry, cherry, etc.  Unfortunately, I have limited access to extracts here in Germany.  The stores only carry rum, vanilla and almond.  Period.   All are artificial.  I bring as many different flavors as I can find back from the States. I used up my mint over the holidays so I am down to orange and vanilla.  Recently I have come across several recipes on how to make vanilla extract.  I am going to give that a try next time I can get my hands on a whole bunch of vanilla pods.  I just used up my last batch making ice cream.

I am fortunate enough to be able to pick up lots of spices on my travels to Egypt, SE Asia, Turkey, Morocco.   Also when I am traveling throughout Europe, my itinerary always goes something like this:

Museum. check.
Palace. Check.
Local  Flea and Food Markets.  Check
Ditch into local supermarket to raid the baking aisle. Check.
Department Stores bakeware section. Check.

I also research online beforehand to see if I can find baking supply stores as I am always on the hunt for different decorations. Some people may think it obsessive to be on the hunt for baking supplies while traveling.  I call it multi tasking :-)

Lavender Meringue Hearts Dipped in Chocolate

I had the idea of giving a "purple heart" for Valentine's Day.  I mean, how many people are wounded every minute on the battlefields of love? OK, I have been happily with my husband for almost nine years but these are in support of my single friends. Many have endured all sorts of dating insanity looking for Mr. Right. I realize it's war out there!

The meringue and the idea came from this Woman's Day recipe.  The original called for a raspberry flavor but as previously mentioned, I am extract challenged.

I used McCormicks neon purple to color the meringue. In hindsight, I should have used a paste coloring for a deeper hue. These do look much better in person than in the pictures. I didn't manage to capture their true color with my rudimentary photographic skills.

Using a heart shaped cooking cutter, I traced out the pattern on baking paper and then flipped it over.

I loaded the meringue into a pastry bag and following the pattern to create the heart shapes. Despite several attempts over the years I have yet to get meringue the right consistency for piping. So these turned out flatter than I wanted. Definitely need more practice.

The color looks better in real life.  I swear!

To snazz them up a bit, I decided to half dip them in chocolate. To make the dip, I used a bar of semi sweet baking chocolate, two pats of butter and a little hot water.  Melted it all over a double boiler and then dipped half the heart.

They came out surprisingly delicious.

I finished everything yesterday and as of this evening, all but a few remain. The family has gobbled them up so nothing will be left on the 14th, but that makes me happy.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!!!  XOXOX

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