Heart Inside Valentine’s Day Cake

Happy Valentine’s Day! For this faux holiday, I decided to make one of my “heart inside cakes”, even though I have made many of them over the last couple of years. This time, however, I actually photographed all the steps so that you would have a sense of what is involved (you actually have to make two cakes). After having done this so many times, it seems self explanatory to me, but if you have any questions, shoot me a note. Enjoy!

for the Red Velvet Hearts
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 ounces red gel food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

for the cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons table salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but slightly cool, cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs
3/4 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the frosting
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
M&Ms, nuts or other garnishes that you like

You will also need: a 4x4x9 inch Pullman Loaf pan and a 2 1/2 inch heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a foil sling for your 13 x 9 baking pan and spray liberally with baking spray.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.

In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula. The batter is shockingly red!

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz! Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Pour into prepared pan and for 38-40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 1 hour, then release remove with foil sling and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Towards the end of the cooling, make your vanilla batter. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar on low speed. Add the butter, 1 piece at a time, and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the eggs, 1 at time, and mix until fully combined. Add the milk and vanilla, increase the speed to medium, and mix until the batter is light, fluffy and free of lumps.

Reheat oven to 350F. Liberally spray your Pullman Loaf pan with baking spray (except the lid; spray that just before you cover.

To make your heart-center, Even out the top of your red velvet sheet cake. Then, using your cookie cutter, cut put as many hearts as you can (I came up with 10 or so). Stack as many as you can flush together, so you have a long row of hearts — essentially one piece, 7 inches long. Put one inch of the vanilla batter in the bottom of then pan, and then insert your “heart core”, pointy side up (the “tops” of the hearts should go in the bottom on the pan). Holding them in place as best you can, fill the pan round the hearts to just covering them (3/4 full). Put in the pull loaf lid.

Bake for 42-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted through comes out clean (of course you have to take it out and remove the lid to do this, but 45 minutes was perfect for me). cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting to a wire rack to cool completely. You should have an almost perfect rectangle that when you cut into slices, will have a heart inside (note that the heart may have shifted during baking and may not be straight. Go with it… part of the charm.

While the cake is completely cooled, make your frosting. Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Decorate as desired.


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