- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

You know the old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder? After I have been traveling on a book tour for several days and arrive home, my family generally welcomes me warmly on the doorstep. They aren’t particularly fond of the baby sitter, the homework help they’ve been getting from Dad or the lackluster meals from the freezer.

Oh, I suppose they are fond of me, but a lot of it must be my food: the warm roasted chicken; the creamy mashed potatoes; even the broccoli cooked just so, then lightly salted and buttered. And when Valentine’s Day rolls around, we try to celebrate as a family with a meal everyone loves, capped off by a captivating dessert.

You will love this heart-shaped white chocolate cake covered with a creamy fresh strawberry or raspberry frosting and garnished with fresh berries and curls of white chocolate. It is perfect for sweethearts of all ages, and it travels easily to a party at your child’s school, as well as to the dinner table at the end of an intimate meal. You can make a smaller heart-shaped cake by using 8-inch pans.

Valentine’s supper for those you love

Roasted chicken or steaks on the grill

Real mashed potatoes

The green vegetable they love

Love cake

Love cake

CAKE:

Solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pans

Flour for dusting the pans

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut in pieces

1 6-ounce package white chocolate, finely chopped

1 18.25-ounce package plain white cake mix

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

BERRY BUTTER-CREAM FROSTING:

3/4 cup fresh strawberries or raspberries, rinsed and drained

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

33/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, or more if needed

Milk, if needed

GARNISH:

1 cup fresh small whole strawberries or raspberries, rinsed and drained

White chocolate curls

Generously grease one 9-inch round cake pan and one 9-inch square cake pan with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour. Set pans aside.

Place butter and white chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, until both have melted, 3 to 4 minutes.

Place cake mix, milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter and white chocolate mixture in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping sides down again, if needed. The batter should look well-blended. Divide batter between prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place pans in the oven, side by side.

Bake cakes on rack in center of preheated 350-degree oven until they are light brown and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 27 to 30 minutes.

Remove pans from oven and place on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around edge of each cake and invert each onto a rack, then invert them again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow them to cool completely, 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, prepare the berry butter-cream frosting. Cut green caps off strawberries; puree strawberries or raspberries in a food processor fitted with steel blade. You should have about cup puree.

If using raspberry puree, rub it through a fine-mesh strainer with the rubber spatula to remove the seeds. Place butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop machine, add sifted confectioners’ sugar and berry puree and blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is combined, 1 minute.

Increase mixer to medium speed, and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 tablespoon milk if frosting seems too stiff. Add more confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, if it seems too thin.

Place square cake layer on a serving platter so that one point faces you. Cut round cake layer in half, and place the halves on adjoining sides of the square to form a heart shape.

Spread frosting on the top and sides of the cake with clean, smooth strokes. Scatter chocolate curls on top of cake and fresh berries around it. Slice and serve. Place cake, uncovered, in refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. Cover cake with waxed paper and store in refrigerator for up to 4 days. Makes 16 servings.

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