Va-va Valentines recipes: 6 chocolate classics with a sweetheart spin

Enjoy chocolate classics and lovin’ spoonfuls with a sweetheart spin and oodles of ooh factor…

Cherry amour chocolate cake


Chris Alack

KITCHEN KIT Select a heart-shaped cake tin about 22cm across at its widest part and about 7cm deep (or near equivalent). Lightly butter the tin and preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. You can also make a 20cm round cake if you wish.

1. Into the bowl of a food processor sift 175g self-raising flour, 50g good-quality cocoa powder and 2 tsp baking powder. Add 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and 225g golden caster sugar, followed by 225g diced unsalted butter, 4 medium eggs and 100ml whole milk. Whiz all the ingredients together for 1-2 minutes until smooth and combined.

2. Transfer the mixture to the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted at the centre comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Slit the cake horizontally into two layers using a bread knife.

3. For the filling, in a bowl combine 175g good-quality black cherry jam with 1 tbsp kirsch or cherry liqueur (leave this out if avoiding alcohol). In another bowl, whisk 175ml double cream until it just starts to form soft peaks, taking care not to overwhisk. Spread a very thin layer of jam on to the bottom layer of cake. Dollop the cream on top, followed by the remaining jam, and set the top layer of the cake in place. Use the remnants of jam in the bowl to glaze the top of the cake with a pastry brush, then scatter over a thin layer of finely grated dark chocolate to cover the top. The cake is best served on the day of making, but will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

Melting sticky toffee puds


Chris Alack

KITCHEN KIT Have ready 6 ramekins or heart-shaped dishes about 125ml-130ml capacity. You can also halve the quantities below and use mini heart-shaped dishes about 60ml capacity. Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and butter the dishes.

1. Gently melt 300g dark chocolate with sea salt (about 70 per cent cocoa) in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, whiz together 75g diced unsalted butter, 50g light muscovado sugar, 5 medium organic eggs, 40g sifted plain flour and ¼ tsp fine sea salt to produce a smooth batter. Add the melted chocolate and whiz again to combine. Have ready 12 Rolos.
3. Divide the mixture among the moulds so they are three quarters full. Gently submerge the Rolos into each one (larger ramekins will take two, one on top of the other; smaller ramekins will take one each). Dust with a little more sugar, place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes for larger puds or 5 minutes for smaller ones, or until just starting
to rise. There should be a rim of cooked cake with molten chocolate and toffee inside. Serve straight away, with crème fraîche if wished.

Double chocolate mousse hearts


Chris Alack

KITCHEN KIT Select a large shallow heart-shaped dish about 1 litre capacity (or similar round dish)
or 6 individual moulds about 125ml-130ml capacity.

1. Place 150ml double cream with 200g dark chocolate (broken into pieces) in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water. Melt together, stirring frequently until combined into a thick cream. Stir in 2 tbsp cooled strong black coffee until silky and combined. Leave to cool to room temperature. Coarsely grate 50g good-quality milk or white chocolate and set aside.
2. Separate 5 medium organic eggs. Whisk the egg yolks with 50g golden caster sugar in a medium bowl for several minutes until very thick and pale and at least doubled in volume. In a large bowl (using clean beaters) whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the egg and sugar mixture into the chocolate cream in two goes, followed by the egg whites, again in two goes, and the grated chocolate.
3. Pour the mousse evenly into the moulds. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight until set. When ready to serve, grate over 50g white or milk chocolate. You could also add heart-shaped decorations of your choice.

Chocolate Valentine’s cookies


Chris Alack

KITCHEN KIT Select two nonstick baking sheets and a heart-shaped cutter about 12cm across at the widest part, or alternatively a variety of heart sizes if you prefer. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and brush the baking sheets with vegetable oil.

1. Sift together 225g plain flour, 25g good-quality cocoa powder and ½ tsp each baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. In a small-medium pan gently heat 100g runny honey with 100g golden caster sugar and 50g unsalted butter, stirring until melted and smooth. Take off the heat, add the sifted dry ingredients and stir until crumbly, then add half a medium egg and work to a dough, adding a little more flour if it seems sticky. Tip on to a work surface, bring it into a ball and pat between your palms until you have a smooth and shiny dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to cool. Chill in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to roughly the thickness of a £1 coin, without turning it over, to avoid flouring the top. With your selected cutters, cut out cookies, arranging them on the baking sheets as you go. Bake for about 12-14 minutes for larger cookies, or 8-10 minutes for smaller ones, allowing the lower tray a couple of minutes longer as necessary. Loosen the cookies with a palette knife straight away (it’s important to do this before they Harden). Leave to cool.
3. You can serve the cookies plain or decorate as you wish. We used white writing icing and pink confetti heart sprinkles from Sainsbury’s. The cookies will be crisp on the day of making, turning soft and chewy the day after.

Chocolate orange love bites


Chris Alack

1. Break up 100g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa) and place in a small bowl. In a small pan, bring 100ml smooth orange juice to the boil. Pour this over the chocolate to submerge it. Leave for a minute or two until the chocolate is starting to melt, then give it a whisk. If necessary repeat until the chocolate has completely melted and you have a smooth, amalgamated sauce. Sweeten with a little caster sugar if wished. The sauce can be served hot the consistency of single cream, or cold when it will thicken to the consistency of whipped cream. It can also be reheated in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
2. Serve with your choice of dippers. Strawberries work well. We used mini meringues from Marks & Spencer, heart-shaped marshmallows from Dr Oetker and small versions of the Chocolate Valentine Cookies recipe.

Dream date fridge cake


KITCHEN KIT Select a brownie tin or similar about 23cm square and 4cm deep. Line the base and sides with clingfilm, with enough overhang to fold over the top.

1. Halve 100g pitted medjool dates and slice them thinly across. Have ready 100g sultanas. Cut 300g shortbread biscuits into 1cm dice. Chop 100g marshmallows, 75g Turkish delight and 75g pistachios and set aside 1 tbsp each of these three ingredients as a topping.
2. Break up 300g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa) and place in a large bowl with 175g diced unsalted butter, 2 tbsp golden syrup and a few drops of rose extract to taste. Set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water, and melt the ingredients together, stirring until smooth. Stir in the dates, separating out the pieces, then the sultanas and the biscuits, including any crumbs, followed by the Turkish delight, pistachios and marshmallows. Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined tin and scatter over the reserved topping ingredients. Fold the overhanging clingfilm over the top and chill for at least 2-3 hours until set.
3. Remove the fridge cake from the tin, peeling off the clingfilm, and place on a board. Dust with icing sugar if wished before slicing into small squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It will be good for a few days.

Recipes by Annie Bell. Food styling by Clare Lewis. Styling by Sue Radcliffe