Category: valentine’s day

Linzer tart cupcakes.

Ohhh, Valentine’s Day is here. Time for hearts. Hearts everywhere. Heart-shaped everything! And of course, here that includes… cupcakes.

I go batty for holidays ’round these here parts, in case you didn’t know notice.

These particular little cupcakes are inspired by Linzer tarts, or Linzer tortes. In America, you low them as the cookies with a hole cut out of the top piece… its filled with a red or pink colored jam or jelly and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. However in Austria those are considered Linzer sablés (Linzer Augen or “linzer eyes”). They’re also a riff on the cupcakes I posted last year; which were chocolate cupcakes filled with pink frosting, all in a heart-shape.

Linzer tart cupcakes for Valentine's Day.

There are a few ways of doing this neat little heart-shaped hole trick, but I just use the method I find easiest: I push the cutter down into the middle of the completely cooled (preferably refrigerated for a few hours) cupcake. After some wiggling, the heart-shaped piece should pop out when you remove the cookie cutter. Another way: cut the top of the cupcake off, add a layer of jam, then cut the hole out of the top and stick it back on.

Linzer tart cupcakes filled with strawberry jam.

Whatever way you choose, the end result is adorable. And sweet.

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Pink velvet hot cocoa for you & your Valentine.

Yep, it’s February. That means time for Valentine’s Day- get over it. It’s  freakin’ cute. Stop being so goddamn cynical and enjoy the loooooove.

Loooooove. Not love. Loooooove.

Pink velvet hot cocoa! Insanely easy and insanely pretty.

So yeah, you can hate on Valentine’s Day. But nobody can hate on hot cocoa. And this here just happens to be some PINK velvet hot cocoa. Thanks to A Beautiful Mess for the recipe idea!

Plus, how BEAUTIFUL does it look? Wouldn’t this be a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert beverage? I think so.

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Valentine’s Day recipe round-up!

Sweets for your sweet: Valentine's inspiration from Cupcake Rehab.

Typically, right around this time is when every blog in the world is shoving valentines down your throat. It’s probably already started in some places. All you’re gonna see for the next 11 days are hearts, everything pink & red, and the word ‘love.’ On blogs, websites, in stores and on magazine covers.

And really, as you can tell from the image above, this is one time I won’t be any different!

Sorry, guys. But I can’t help it. I love Valentine’s Day! So here’s a round-up of some of my favorite Valentine’s Day recipes, followed by some adorable recipes I’ve found on the web:

Valentine's Day recipe round-up!

  First, we have red velvet cupcakes with a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting (seen above). Classic. Can’t go wrong with ‘em.

  Second, there are some chocolate cupcakes filled with pink frosting, and a cute little heart-shaped window to see it through.

  Third, how about some blood orange curd? It’s not too Valentine-y, but it’s pink color still makes it a nice addition to breakfast on the 14th, as well as a perfect vanilla cake/cupcake filling.

  Or maybe an apple pie that looks like roses is more your speed.

  Heart-shaped cake pops are cute.

  Pink cupcakes are even cuter.

  Perhaps you don’t like baking? How about making a jar of hearts, aka strawberries in syrup?

  Linzer tart cookies filled with a red or pink jam/jelly is always a good choice.

  Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes are a good Valentine’s treat, too. Sugared flowers are optional!

  For you anti-Valentine people, there’s always something like a black cupcake with black & purple frosting, too (pardon the horrific photography & lame writing!).

  Pink M&M cookies are always a good choice- you can sub white & dark chocolate chips or dried cherries!

  Now for the first recipe from outside this blog: cinnamon Red Hots shortbread at Bakingdom.

  Red velvet whoopie pies from Annie’s Eats.

  And Cupid’s arrow cupcakes from Bakerella are just the cutest!

Saturday evening post Valentine's Day!

All you need is love. And cupcakes.

“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

- Julia Child

Just a short & sweet post today.

Nothing new. Nothing groundbreaking.

Just some good old fashioned Valentine’s stuff: red velvet cupcakes, little red hearts, etc. But with a twist… a black & white twist! And of course even the frosting had to have a little bit of black in it… so I made it a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting. Very simple: make a regular cream cheese frosting, and add the seeds from one half of a scraped out vanilla bean to it.

Black & white liners from sweet estelle’s baking supply, solid black liners from Layer Cake Shop. Cherry-flavored heart candies are from the drugstore, no idea what brand.

Tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d tell you all how much I appreciate & love you. You readers of mine make me blogging worth it. Your comments, both here & on my Facebook page & Instagram, and your tweets make my day. Every time. You’re all incredible. I say it all the time but it’s true- you make it worthwhile! I’ve met so many great people just through them commenting or following me on Social Media. It’s amazing.

So thank you, my hundreds & thousands of Valentines.

Fill your heart with frosting.

I wish I could say I love surprises, but I really don’t.

Deep down inside somewhere, I kinda do; I kinda do get excited about being surprised. But more often than not, it’s just an overwhelming sense of “What am I missing out on?!” and it drives me bananas. I hate not having control over things. I like knowing what’s happening, what time it’s happening, and where it’s going down… I like being dressed appropriately & I like being mentally prepared. Jay can tell you numerous times when I almost ruined birthday gifts, Christmas gifts or trips with this twisted way of thinking. I think the problem is when I know I’m going to be surprised. If you just spring a surprise on me, then I don’t have time to over-analyze or try & figure out what it is. Yeah I know- I’m a f#%!ing wack job who ruins everything. It’s not that I’m a control freak, though, not at all. I’m extremely laid back when it comes to most things. You can plan anything, take me anywhere, give me any gifts, etc, and I’ll be totally cool with it. I just really prefer to know ahead of time.

All that said, however, a cupcake surprise is a different story.

See, these cupcakes aren’t frosted traditionally. Instead, they’re filled with a surprise. And by that I mean they’re filled with a light, fluffy pink-colored vanilla buttercream through a convenient little cut-out heart shape. I used a little heart-shaped cookie cutter from Sur la Table that cost me a whopping $.76. I know, it almost bankrupted me.

Just bake your cupcakes, whatever kind you want, and when they’re all cooled cut out the shape using a small cookie cutter. I went down pretty deep so the entire cupcake would be filled, but you can just do a bit from the top. Then fill the cut-out shape with frosting using a piping bag & small round tip (for the size of my cookie cutter, Wilton’s 2A tip was perfect). Donesky. If you want to do the confectioner’s sugar thing, just dust them AFTER cutting out the shape but BEFORE filling with frosting. That would look awesome with a red velvet cupcake, too. Any & every combination works: chocolate with vanilla filling, red velvet with chocolate filling, red velvet with cream cheese filling, vanilla with strawberry filling, chocolate with strawberry filling, vanilla with chocolate filling, strawberry with chocolate filling… etc, etc. The sugar dusting just won’t be very visible on a vanilla cupcake, though. But that’s okay… it’s pretty without it, too. On that note, I’ve seen it done as a vanilla cupcake with lemon curd filling as well, which would be nice for spring.

*heart cake stand also from Sur La Table

You can use any flavor cupcake, any flavor or kind of frosting, and any shape cookie cutter. Stars, snowflakes, shamrocks, etc. Even just a circle! Here are some recipes, if you need them:

I used Wilton’s heart-shaped silicone baking cups to bake the cupcakes in. Any kind of shape will do, you don’t have to use hearts, nor do you have to use the same shape as your cookie cutter. A round cupcake with a heart cut-out is just as cute! Another excellent idea: letters. Cut out letters on top to spell out a message, or someone’s name, or just use one letter; maybe your kid’s initial for a birthday party. I’m partial to hearts, and the color pink, so obviously I was going to make ones like this for Valentine’s Day. But of course, this idea can extend far past Valentine’s Day.

I like the spelling out of a message idea, myself. Like maybe…

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Just a thought.


This little pie is the apple of my eye.

This pie is something I made after seeing a beautiful French apple tart David Lebovitz posted on his Instagram page. The apples had been cut into roses, and placed on top of a tart dough. It looked as if there was something else underneath the apples, but I couldn’t quite tell. It was stunning. The presentation alone was enough to make someone who didn’t even like pie want to dive right in.

Or at the very least it made me want to take a closer look!

As soon as I saw it, I thought it’d make a fantastic Valentine’s Day dish. Simple, easy, fairly healthy (all things considered) with very few basic ingredients… yet insanely impressive looking. It ends up looking like one of those things you learn in culinary school. And of course, I had these little tart pans I bought & never used, so I thought I’d make little individual rosey apple pies. Or tarts.

Apples contain a lot of symbolism, especially when it comes to love, sex & seduction, which make it perfect for the upcoming holiday of love. We all know what the apple really was in the Bible, don’t we?

Its association with knowledge is an allusion to the revelatory states described by some shamans and users of psychedelic mushrooms.[3][4][5] At times artists would co-opt the apple, as well as other religious symbology, whether for ironic effect or as a stock element of symbolic vocabulary. Thus, secular art as well made use of the apple as symbol of love and sexuality. It is often an attribute associated with Venus who is shown holding it.


Rosy cheeks is commonly a complimentary term. Plus, the old saying, “the apple of my eye” clearly means that you’re looking upon someone favorably. So the apple has long been attached to the sweeter side of life… however because of that, it’s also been tied to the lure of the not-so-sweet; i.e. in fairy tales such as Snow White.

But for our purposes, let’s just keep it happy… & rosy.



  • 1 batch pie crust dough (enough for one 9″ circle or whatever tart or pie pan(s) you’re using)
  • 5-6 apples (Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Macintosh or a combo) cored and sliced paper thin but NOT peeled (again, amount of apples depends on pan size/amount of pans)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F. Press your prepared pie crust into the pan or pie plate you’re using. You can use individual pie or tart tins as I did, a full-size pie plate, a full-size round tart pan or a rectangular tart pan.
  2. In a bowl, combine the super-thinly sliced apples with the lemon juice, butter, sugar & cinnamon, tossing to coat. Put them in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften them enough so they bend without snapping. Using them in order of size, make roses using the slices. I found it easier with the small tart pans to start from the outside and work my way inside to the center, but with larger pans or a pie plate you’d have to start from the center coil & work outwards. For small tarts, make one rose per pan, for larger pans make as many as you can fit/as many apples as you have. If you have extra slices, roll them in little coils & stick them in between the large roses (only if you’re making one large pie or tart). Alternately, if you want to, or need to, you can make leaves out of extra dough to fill in empty spots. Just use a cookie cutter or knife to cut the shape, brush with some egg and stick around the roses.
  3. Once you’re done, bake the pie or tart for 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven, allow to cool until room temperature, and serve with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. A side of whipped cream works too.

I’m telling you, this is not as hard as it looks or sounds. Yes, it takes time. Of course it does- you’re rolling thin apple slices into rose petals! But it’s not hard. It takes some patience, though, for sure. And you might have to re-zap them in the microwave to soften them again as you go along. You want them very soft & pliable, not crisp. Basically you want them the opposite of how you’d typically prefer your apples.

You can also make these into individual apple-rose garnishes by rolling the slices in a long strip of pie crust dough, then baking it until they’re golden. Just lay the strip down, brush it with egg white, and lay the slices next to one another, facing the same way (skin side up, cut side down). Make sure that they’re slightly overlapping. Then gently start to roll it from the edge, and when it’s all rolled just use some more egg white to “seal” the pastry to itself. Then bake. I’d say on a cookie sheet, at 325° or 350° until browned. You can then use them on top of cupcakes, or on top of an apple pie, etc.

And don’t worry- imperfection isn’t a bad thing. Nothing is perfect in nature, anyway, so as long as it even vaguely resembles a rose… you’re good! Mine aren’t that perfect.

Also, I’m aware this is not apple season. But you can still get some beautiful apples at the supermarket or local fruit markets for a decent price. Or, maybe you’ve got some in cold storage that you can use. Either way, it’d be a shame to miss out on making these gorgeous little pies… tarts… whatever. A combination of different colored apples would make for beautiful roses. You could even toss some Granny Smith’s in there if you like, maybe on the inner coils. For me, one Gala apple made roughly FOUR roses that perfectly fit in my mini-tart pans, which are almost 3″ in diameter. This will vary based on the variety & size of your apples, obviously, so I’d err on the side of buying more apples than you think you’ll need.

‘Cause really, you can never have too many pommes.


The Friday Fifteen: Hearts all over.

Happy February. Isn’t it crazy that Valentine’s Day is in two weeks?! I never really understood the deal with people who hate on it so much. What’s so bad about it? You shouldn’t need a special day to remind people you love them, no…

…but what’s wrong with a day that celebrates love?

(And there are people who not just hate the holiday, but they hate the hearts… hate the colors… hate the pink food, etc. And to them I say: screw off. Seriously. Get a F%*#ING sense of humor & enjoy your goddamn life; stop being so crabby & ornery. If you’re so miserable that you can’t lighten up a little and enjoy some hearts & Valentine’s, then you’re a lost cause. And frankly if that’s the case, this blog is probably not for you)

Okay so basically- in case you’re new here- every few weeks or so I do something called ‘The Friday Fifteen.’ I’ve been doing it since the first week in October & I have a lot of fun with it. Each edition features fifteen things I’m currently loving, cooking, wearing, buying, watching, etc. It’s not just about food for once! It gives me a chance to share awesome finds with my readers that go beyond the every day cookery of this blog.

This week (OBVIOUSLY) is the Valentine’s Day edition! Let’s get to it…

Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly known as Valentine’s Day,[1][2][3] or the Feast of Saint Valentine,[4] is observed on February 14 each year. Today Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, mostly in the West, although it remains a working day in all of them.

St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry, and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius and before his execution, according to the legendary account, he wrote, “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.[5] Today, Saint Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion,[6] as well as in the Lutheran Church.[7] The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6th and July 30th, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna.[8][9]

There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, added centuries later, and widely repeated.[26] On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “From your Valentine,” an expression still used to this day.[27] It has been published by both American Greetings and The History Channel.[28]

The day’s association with romantic love grew in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”).[1][3] Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[10]

  1. Since, like I said, there’s two weeks to Valentine’s Day, which is one of my favorite holidays (I say that about them all, don’t I?), so I thought my first thing on this edition of the F15 would be a list of Valentine’s sweets & treats I’ve made in years past, which can be found by clicking here! Cupcakes, cookies, canned fruits, syrups, cake pops, and other stuff… tons of ideas!
  2. I always give a few Etsy ideas, and this time is no different. I think this heart-shaped coffee scoop from beehivekitchenware is so freakin’ adorable! They’ve got measuring spoons too. Great for a coffee addict!
  3. So here’s another Etsy gift idea that I happen to ADORE. A custom cake stand from vesselsandwares with you & your loved ones names (or a couple you know) & a heart, available in a variety of colors. It’s listed as a “wedding” cake stand, but it’d be great for an anniversary gift or Valentine gift as well.
  4. I have to put this on my list this month: BEDS. Beds are divine. If I could live in bed, I would. No kidding. I love beds. What lovely inventions. If only all of life’s business could be conducted in one’s pajamas under a big duvet in a comfy bed… what a wonderful world this would be. I think everyone would be happier.
  5. On a whim last month I bought a season of Jem & The Holograms on DVD. I’m kind of obsessed now. It brings me back to being 6 years old again… how many things can do that in life? Not many. A worthwhile purchase.
  6. These heart bowls make my heart skip a beat. I have a thing for prep bowls… and appetizer plates… and measuring cups… and mugs. SuzannesPotteryFarm has a lot of other cute handmade pottery as well, but those bowls! What an absolutely adorbs V-Day gift, especially if paired with some of those measuring spoons I mentioned above…
  7. Another Etsy find: AHeirloom‘s New York State cutting board. I FUCKING LOVE THIS. SOMEONE BUY ME THIS.
  8. These Pantone tarts just knock me out. The artist in me & the “foodie” in me (obnoxious word) both got a chuckle out of it. Also, they’re just pretty to look at. I’d love some prints of those photographs for my kitchen.
  9. I’m lusting after the KitchenAid pasta maker attachments. All of them. And a flex-edge beater.
  10. I love using Starbucks® frappuccino bottles as little milk bottles. Instead of hunting them down from a supply website & spending more than you need to, just get some Starbucks drinks. Once they’re finished, wash them out, remove the labels (using Goo Gone if you must) & there you go… little milk bottles for food photography props or birthday parties. You can even paint the outside of the caps with a white enamel, if you plan on using them.
  11. Oh- how cute is this?! A heartwarmer. I think I have to make one or two.
  12. An apron that looks like a tutu. It could probably be worn as part of an outfit as well… be still my ex-ballerina heart.
  13. Another thing: glass beaker measuring cups. Reminds me of everything I loved about chemistry class & those kid’s science shows on PBS. Gah! Too much stuff to love, too much stuff to buy.
  14. Retronaut.
  15. Finally.. as always… vintage Valentines! I love all kinds of vintage stuff, but I think vintage holiday postcards are just awesome.


Simply put: I L♥VE Y♥U.

And sometimes that’s all you need to say.

But make sure you say it with a cupcake.

These are vanilla cake (Crumbs’ recipe) topped with a delicious chocolate sour cream frosting (Sprinkles’ recipe) made with 90% chocolate. Funny thing about that chocolate. A few weeks ago, me & Jay were out shopping & we saw that the Lindt store in our mall was closing. Ever since Jay went to Switzerland with his band in August, he’s been a fan of Swiss chocolate (thanks to me, who requested he bring me back some in the first place!) and Lindt is the most popular brand. Although I will say the chocolate he brought back from Europe tasted much better than the Lindt you buy here, I still like American Lindt. Same thing with Cadbury- when I go & buy the imported Cadbury chocolates, they’re so much better than the American version made by Hershey’s. Anyway, all of the chocolate in this Lindt store was 50% off, from the huge bittersweet bars to the little tiny milk chocolate bars. Needless to say, Jay went a bit cocoa- looney and purchased about $50.00 worth of chocolate (the full price would’ve been over $90.00) in a variety of flavors: dark chocolate mint, white chocolate with coconut, dark chocolate sea salt caramel, Mozartkuglen, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, etc. And of course, he bought a ton of crazy dark chocolate: 50%, 65%, 70% and 90%. Jay really likes dark chocolate, you see. However, this high percentage dark chocolate was more like baking chocolate. There was no sweetness about it. Excellent quality, yes, but way too bitter & chalky.

So I got to steal all those bars to bake with! And chocolate is love, right? Or at least it mimics the feeling of being in love, thanks to compounds like phenylethylamine.

So that’s how these cupcakes were born. I had some 90% Lindt chocolate I was looking to use up, I found a new (to me) frosting recipe, and I had all these white chocolate chips. I piped the frosting on with nothing but a disposable pastry bag (no tip) then used an offset spatula to smooth it out. Why, I don’t know, because I just ended up covering up my neat-o frosting job with chips & sprinkles. Best frosting ever, by the way; not sure if it was the Lindt or the recipe… but wow. Oh! And let me take a minute to say I used a small batch of homemade buttermilk that I keep in a little Ball® jar in my fridge to make the cupcakes, and I’ll never use anything else again. Who’da thunk that a homemade not-even-real version of buttermilk would make the cakes taste so much better than store bought buttermilk? Hm.


Makes enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes, can be halved


  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound plus 8 ounces powdered sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream


  1. Melt and cool chocolate (until just slightly warm). Beat butter until light and fluffy.
  2. With mixer on low speed, gradually add powdered sugar. Add salt, vanilla and sour cream and mix until very smooth.
  3. Add chocolate and mix until just incorporated.
*Don’t over-whip and add too much air into the frosting. The consistency should be rich and dense, like ice cream!

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Queen of Hearts’ Linzer tarts.

All I kept thinking of when I saw these Linzer cookies on a white plate was the Queen of Hearts.

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed the fairy tale theme, right? Snow White, the Twelve Dancing Princesses, now the Queen of Hearts? If you haven’t noticed, what do I have to do, beat you over the head with my 800+ page volume of the collected works of the Brothers Grimm? Anyway… the Queen of Hearts poem above was supposedly in reference to the motif, or rather the suit, of hearts in playing cards; the character had been subject of songs & poems long before Lewis Carroll used her for his stories (although there is an extension of the above poem that includes characters from each suit- i.e., “The King of Spades flirts with maids”, etc, and why they never gained popularity I don’t know). Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts (from Alice in Wonderland) has been interpreted many different ways. Disney’s popular red-faced fat woman & Tim Burton’s short squat big-headed version are just two of the many, many variations. Contrary to popular belief, she is not the same person as the Red Queen from Through The Looking Glass. She’s her own person, the embodiment of passion & fury. It used to be that the Queen was represented in a more flattering way, but even still, before Disney & Burton there were versions of her that weren’t so pretty. Some of my favorites are:

Although Lewis Carroll’s particular version of the Queen didn’t bake any tarts, unlike the poem’s version, she just bitched & moaned about her red roses being white roses painted red. At any rate, the original Queen of Hearts baked some tarts, and in many illustrations they were heart-shaped, so these cookies or “tarts” made me think of that right away. Of course, it’s not the real version, as it goes with most baked goods we’re familiar with:

The Linzer Torte (or Linzertorte) is an Austrian torte with a lattice design on top of the pastry.[1] It is named after the city of Linz, Austria.

Linzer Torte is a very short, crumbly pastry made of flour, unsalted butter, egg yolks, lemon zest, cinnamon and lemon juice, and ground nuts, usually hazelnuts, but even walnuts or almonds are used, covered with a filling of redcurrant jam or, alternatively, plum butter, thick raspberry,[2] or apricot jam. It is covered by a lattice of dough strips. The dough is rolled out in very thin strips of pastry and arranged to form a criss-cross design on top of the preserves. The pastry is brushed with lightly beaten egg whites, baked, and sometimes decorated with sliced almonds.

Linzer Torte is a holiday classic in the Austrian, Hungarian, Swiss, German, and Tirolean traditions, often eaten at Christmas. Linzer Torte is often made like small tarts or cookies in North American bakeries.

Linzer sablés (German: Linzer Augen, “Linzer eyes”) are a cookie-sized version, made by cutting a circle of a similar dough, covering it with jam, placing a donut-like circle with a hole in the center piece of dough on top, and dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

I used a heart-shaped cutter, obviously, but you can use whatever shapes you want; hearts, stars, circles, diamonds, flowers, etc. Even just circles will work.



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or one cup all-purpose and one cup almond flour)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract (or ¼ teaspoon if using almond flour)
  • Preserves for filling (raspberry, strawberry or quince work nicely, I also used candy apple- can be jelly, jam or thick preserves) or if you prefer, Nutella or a thick chocolate sauce


  1. In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla & almond extracts. Gently mix in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to around ¼”- inch thick. Cut into rounds or whatever shapes you wish using lightly floured cookie cutter, cutting out smaller shapes from the centers of some. Re-roll & re-cut all the scraps until finished. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then gently move to rack to cool completely.
  5. Once cooled, spread preserves or jam or jelly on top of the “bottom” pieces, or “whole” pieces, going almost to the edge. Place the “window” or cut-out pieces on top, being careful not to press too hard or break them. Use the cut-out shapes as extra cookies, or “glue” them on top with a little bit of jam as I did. Or, “glue” them on before baking using a dab of water. Then sprinkle all cookies lightly with confectioner’s sugar.

Psst.. if the sugar on the jelly part bothers you, here’s a secret: it disappears after a while, and all that’s left is the sugar on the cookie. Like magic.

Oh and I should warn you. THIS IS A SHORTBREAD DOUGH. Therefore, it is very delicate. It will break if you move them too fast. They have to be thoroughly cooled and even then, if you make large cookies & don’t support them as you move them, they will break. Be aware. Example:


You know The Island of Misfit Toys? That’s the island of broken cookies. Oh well. They tasted just as good. Lesson learned; don’t watch TV while making cookies. Stick with the music. Although they made a good excuse to snack on some while putting the rest of them together. And don’t worry if your top pieces are a bit differently shaped than the bottom, they look great anyway, trust me.

I used Wilton heart-shaped cutters that came four to a box; two smooth edged red heart cutters, and two scalloped edge heart cutters. I got them at Target, they were around 5 bucks I think. They’re quite large, about 4-5″ across for the biggest one, so I got less cookies out of the recipe. If you have small cutters, then you’ll get far more. Duh. I happen to think they’re amazing because they’re so much bigger than normal. I want to make some heart-shaped homemade pop-tarts with them next.

Everybody thinks of them as Christmas cookies, but once they’re done in heart-shapes they become perfect for Valentine’s Day. So easy, so pretty. I used homemade (of course) strawberry jam (the dark red) & homemade candy apple jelly (the lighter color), but anything goes. For this time of year though, the heart-theme with the red colored filling is nice, but lemon curd also works nicely, as does apricot jam or jelly. And for St. Patrick’s Day, what else but shamrock-shaped cookies filled with bright green, glistening mint jelly? Actually that’s a really good idea…

Anyway, they’re great to package up (gently) and give to someone special. But if anyone takes or eats your cookies without asking, off with their heads!

Ballerina babycakes.

This year I had a few Valentine’s Day ideas, and all of them, or almost all of them, reminded me of fairy tales. Or stories. All by coincidence. Months ago, maybe around Halloween, I ordered these ballerina toppers with absolutely no idea what I was going to use them for. And then, Pola (my wonderful reader, #1 commenter & all-around awesome friend!) sent me a lovely pink gift:

It’s a pink babycakes mini-cupcake maker, and I love it. What an amazing surprise gift to get! It matches Lola and it basically the cutest thing ever. Not to mention it came before Valentine’s Day… so together with those ballerinas, it inspired me. I decided I’d make bright red cupcakes, top ‘em with some thick white frosting, some sprinkles, and then those ballerinas; if that doesn’t say Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what does. Well there are probably other things that say it, but these do too. They also reminded me of that old fairy tale about the twelve dancing princesses.

When I was a kid, I had these little mini-books, European import type things. They were all fairy tales, and one of them was Kate Crackernuts; yes- admittedly a very amusing name but a good story:

A king had a daughter named Anne, and his queen had a daughter named Kate, who was less beautiful. (Jacobs’ notes reveal that in the original story both girls were called Kate and that he had changed one’s name to Anne.) The queen was jealous of Anne, but Kate loved her. The queen consulted with a henwife to ruin Anne’s beauty, and after three tries, they enchanted Anne’s head into a sheep’s head. Kate wrapped Anne’s head in a cloth, and they went out to seek their fortunes.

They found a castle where the king had two sons, one of whom was sickening, and whoever watched him by night vanished. Kate asked for shelter for herself and her “sick” sister, and offered to watch. At midnight, the sick prince rose and rode off. Kate sneaked onto his horse and collected nuts as they rode through the woods. A green hill where the fairies were dancing opened to receive the prince, and Kate rode in with him unnoticed. The second night is passed as the first but Kate found a fairy baby in the hill. It played with a wand, and she heard fairies say that three strokes of the wand would cure Anne. So she rolled nuts to distract the baby and get the wand, then cured her sister.

The third night, Kate said she would stay only if she could marry the prince, and that night, the baby played with a bird, three bites of which would cure the sick prince. She distracted the baby with the nuts again to get it. As soon as they returned to the castle, she cooked it, and the prince was cured by eating it. Meanwhile his brother had seen Anne and fell in love with her, so they all married — the sick brother to the well sister, and the well brother to the sick sister.

Cinderella-ish, in terms of the “ugly” sister & the “pretty” sister, but it also contains pieces of the Twelve Dancing Princesses story, which is a Brother’s Grimm tale. It’s German in origin (there I go again with the German..) and has been used in various adaptations, some of which reducing the number of sisters to 6 or even 3. It’s considerably longer to sum up than the Kate Crackernuts story, but it’s available online if you’re curious. It’s an interesting, magical story & as a child in ballet class, I was a fan of any & every story that mentioned dancing, or ballet.

I’m a sucker for teh cute, & all things retro, and these ballerina toppers fall into both those categories. They also remind me of when I was a kid & I’d get those bakery cupcakes with the thick frosting & the plastic ballerina’s painted gold or silver on top, and that feeling of nostalgia kinda fit in with the fairy tale thing too. These are my version of the twelve dancing princesses.

However, I admit- I made these just to try the cupcake maker, so my decorating job isn’t the best kinda sucks. But I’ll do better next time, I promise. That’s what happens when you decide to make cupcakes just to use your new cupcake maker & your pretty ballerina toppers.

But just wait until you see what else is going on for Valentine’s Day around here.

RED VELVET MINI-CUPCAKES (from the babycakes cupcake maker recipe book)

Supposedly akes about 16, I got 24


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • a dash of salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs until well blended. Beat in sour cream. Blend in dry ingredients. Blend in food coloring & vanilla.
  3. Fill each cup with about 2 tablespoons batter. Bake in cupcake maker for 6-7 minutes (or in oven, for 15-20 minutes) or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

It was really easy to use, although I found one heaping tablespoon was enough to fill each liner. However my liners were a bit smaller than the indentations, so maybe if you don’t use a liner you’ll end up using around 2 tablespoons. The cupcakes baked evenly, rose really nicely (as you can see) and didn’t overflow. They cooked evenly as well. The booklet says to check each cupcake because one part might heat quicker than another, but all of mine cooked evenly. I have to say, I enjoyed using it immensely. It was fun!

There are people online reviewing this saying it’s a terrible appliance; it doesn’t work, it doesn’t bake evenly, it’s hard to clean if you don’t use liners. They’re all nuts. One, it does work. Unless the person writing the review got a lemon or a broken one, they’re crazy. These photos were all taken from the first time I used it. I’m not a genius, I’m not a pastry chef, I’m not a mechanical whiz and yet WOW. Magically, it actually baked my cupcakes! How shocking. I plugged it in and it worked, imagine that. Two, my mini-liners fit just fine, yes they were a bit smaller but what difference does it make? Just adjust the amount you put in like I said above.. it’s not rocket science people. Three, I haven’t used it without liners yet so I can’t say either way, but judging from the removal of the small amount of excess batter I had to clean off mine, it shouldn’t be as hard as they say. It’s non-stick, so basically as soon as it cools, whatever batter is on it, you can just scrape it off gently. Duh. It actually seemed as though the cleanup was far easier than when I make traditional cupcakes.

If you know someone who likes to bake, or who likes cupcakes, this might make a really cute Valentine’s Day gift for them.

Pardon my boring white liners, the only mini-ones I had were white, black with ghosts or yellow with Easter eggs.

And the recipe was pretty good too. What is it about mini-cupcakes that makes you want to eat them all? I must have eaten 5-6 of them, unfrosted, during my little photo shoot here. Anyway, my poor self-control aside, like I said, the recipe was good. I used a regular vanilla confectioner’s sugar buttercream on top because I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting.

Basically, now I kinda want the donut maker, pie maker & cake pop maker too. Is that bad? Do I really need all these appliances? Will it make me lazy? I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I know is, it’s the time of year when people express their love, so here I am to say: I love my babycakes mini cupcake maker. Thank you Pola!