- There was the embarrassing Joan Walsh Anglund year (look it up).
- There was the year of the trail of chocolate boxes, empty aside from clever notes on where to go next, eventually leading to a hotel 45 miles away in the middle of a blizzard.
- There was the year we learned to make a soufflé and never read the directions all the way to end to know you couldn’t wait 20 minutes to bring it to the table.
- There was another year when someone couldn’t figure out which size Godiva heart box I wanted so he bought them all and we ate chocolate until way past Easter.
- There was the year we went out to dinner at a place that charged just slightly less than the French Laundry and thought it was the French Laundry. It was not.
- And then there was the year when roses were too expensive so I got a blender instead, which if you are Captain Awesome, makes perfect sense.
As the years moved on, we settled for making Valentine’s Day all about the food, and not food from a restaurant. Who needed to dine with 80 other strangers and eat stuff that was over the top in looks and ordinary in taste?
And then began the gluten free years where it was no good trying to eat anywhere but home anyway. And now, full circle with a retro twist, we are back to what makes us a little bit giddy in anticipation – gluten free cocoa cupcakes.
My love of cupcakes emerged when I was in kindergarten, a zillion years back. The teacher handed out a single heart shaped, frosted sugar cookie to each child. We were not allowed to eat them in class (smart teacher) and had to take them home in our valentine card bags.
The bags were at our feet (remember circle time?) when we were instructed to collect our stuff and get out the door, post-haste. Hands clapping, Mrs. C. startled the kid next to me who jumped at the noise and stomped on my bag. I could hear the cookie crumble.
I arrived home with my little bag rattling the broken cookie loud enough for my mom to hear. Before I could get out of my coat and boots and whine about the travesty, she placed a single cupcake, white with a little bit of pink frosting and tiny little red heart on top – right into my hands. She gave me a kiss and told me I was her littlest Valentine.
I could say that was the day I knew my mom loved me to pieces and all that, but frankly, that was the day I fell in love with all things cupcake and tossed that cookie (so to speak) aside like the poor imitation of sublime it was.
Seriously rich tasting cocoa and easy to make cupcakes are one of our Valentine staples. These go together in no time at all and topped with a dash of freshly whipped cream and a sweet little cherry right before serving, it is the easiest thing ever. I make the whole thing in one saucepan, a tiny bowl and a cupcake tin.
This recipe is an adaptation from The Essence of Chocolate by Scharffenberger/Steinberg with Stephanie Hersh.
- 2.5 tablespoons Valrhona or any unsweetened cocoa
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in cubes
- ½ cup brewed coffee
- 1 scant cup (180g) superfine white sugar
- ½ cup (58g) gluten free flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup full fat sour cream (don’t skimp)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Makes 8 cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350.
Place the cocoa, coffee and butter in a saucepan and simmer on low heat just until the butter is melted. Using a whisk, combine everything thoroughly. Add the sugar off heat and stir with the whisk until fully incorporated.
In a small bowl, mix the flour and baking soda and combine with fork. Add to the pot and blend with a whisk. Add the egg and incorporate. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the vanilla and mix well.
Let the batter sit for exactly 20 minutes without stirring. Using a regular sized cupcake tin, place paper liners in 8 cups. Fill each about ¾ full. Bake for about 15 minutes and check. Bake a few minutes more (between 4-5 minutes)and as soon as a toothpick comes out mostly clean, remove from oven.
Using the toothpick loosen any edges that baked over the rims but leave them to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack. When stone cold cool, and right before serving, top with whipped cream and add a cherry or raspberry on top.
Happy Valentine’s Day.