Love it or hate it, last week it was difficult to avoid Valentines day.
Whether you decided to go for broke with dinner, champagne and roses or to ignore it completely because you resent the commercialism, you must have been hard pressed to miss the oceans of roses as you walked through the supermarket doors, and the conveniently placed cards by the tills.
This year my husband and I opted for something in the middle. With 2 children and a 5 year anniversary next month, the days of exclusive restaurants and pre-dinner champagne have gone by the wayside, replaced with a candle lit “dine in meal for 2” and a bottle of Asti.
The key thing for me when we decided to stay at home was that we should still have a romantic evening that felt different to a normal night in. This meant candles, music and something a bit special. The candles and music were easily sorted – heart shaped tealights spotted while doing the weekly shop and the Love Actually CD that was still on the side from last year when we did something similar. The final touch came in the form of home-made cupcakes with heart chocolates, inspired by a random picture on Facebook and the novel Chocolat by Joanne Harris.
The thought of making my own chocolate hearts appealed to me. Reading a book filled with descriptions of tempering and making chocolates somewhere in the french countryside fills you with romantic ideas of creating mountains of delicious truffles in the blink of an eye. Having said that the reality of 1st time chocolates would probably be less successful, so I decided to compromise on cupcakes which I know I can make well, combined with the easiest type of chocolates I had found to make.
Over the last few years I have taught myself – quite successfully, the art of cake decorating; from swirly butter cream cupcakes to Christmas cakes and Thomas the tank engine cakes, I’ve spent a decent amount of time and “fun money” on a hobby that pays dividends at birthdays and special occasions. The cupcakes are easy, combine Nigella Lawson’s fairy cake recipe with Hummingbird Bakery vanilla butter cream and you have calorific cupcakes to die for. The tricky bit was the chocolates which I had never tried before. I opted for Wilton Candy Melts, not real chocolate but a candy available in different colours that can be moulded. A tray of heart shapes and red candy was all I needed to get started and within an hour I had some presentable red hearts to go on top of my cupcakes. Ok so they had a few air bubbles in them and I cracked the mould a bit getting them out but overall I was pretty pleased with the results. With a bit of practice I think I could start regularly adding little moulded candies to my cakes and maybe even have a decent go at making real chocolates in the future.