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February 11, 2014

3 times the charm

Dress up plain chocolate layers for a cake worthy of your valentine

McALESTER — Love means never having to fuss over a Valentine’s Day dessert. It doesn’t mean ignoring the holiday’s sweet factor. Instead, take a basic chocolate cake and embellish it with pointers from a pastry pro, someone like Alice Medrich, author of “Seriously Bitter Sweet.”

“If you’re a pastry chef, you have this mental pantry of all kinds of cakes,” Medrich said. Think sponge cakes, butter cakes. And fillings, perhaps jam or a tart fruit curd, a mousse or whipped cream. And finishes, of course, a frosting or glaze plus a bit of decoration, say heart-shaped cookies or a stenciled dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Home bakers may not have a huge mental pantry, but they “do have some things that are tried-and-true that you love to make,” she says. You might take elements of those desserts and combine them in a new way.

“Plan the construction of the layers, flavors and textures so that when everything is put together, the result looks spectacular and tastes even better,” wrote Medrich.

Begin by baking a two-layer chocolate cake (a favorite recipe or a cake mix) or buying unfrosted layers from a bakery.

Then choose one of the approaches here that suits your culinary skills.

 

Simple

Skill level: You can handle a knife, a narrow spatula and own a whisk or electric mixer.

You’ll need: Fruit preserves (in this case, strawberry) whipping cream, sugar, fresh strawberries, melted semisweet chocolate

How to do it

Spread: Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread with a fruit preserve, such as strawberry. Top with second cake layer.

Frost: Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon sugar. Frost top with the whipped cream. Use a spatula or spoon to create decorative peaks.

Finish: Dip strawberry tips in melted chocolate. Let chocolate set. Place strawberries, tip up, in whipped cream.

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