Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine's Day...It's Not All About That Bass

Nah....not really!
When I was a young girl I hated Mother's Day...mostly because I didn't have one. No pity here please, I had a great, loving father who did his best to be both parents (most times - there was that one Easter he bought us sugar crystal eggs instead of chocolate ones because he thought they were pretty. We didn't.) Funny, I can't remember why I went into the closet an hour ago, but I remember that disappointing Easter basket over 50 years ago.

Anyway, how two spring holidays worked into a February blog, is more about how my mind is working these days, then the relevance of holidays. Since my divorce, EVERY holiday is different, not bad, mind you, but different. Admittedly, none more than Valentine's Day. The constant stream of commercials for roses, dinners, chocolates, etc., can be hard to tolerate when your flying solo. So I did what I've come to do best when I find something in need of resurrection...I've re-purposed it.

With the help of my friend Judy, who hosts a fabulous dinner every February 14th,  I have stripped this holiday down to the core, reevaluated it's purpose, and built it back up with the many colors of love in my life! And Judy's party helped point me in that direction since its for everyone! Singles, couples, recently divorced, recently widowed, just got dumped, doesn't matter. We come together to share the many types of love between people. Friendship, and family. She has captured the true meaning of celebrating the contents of our hearts. Kudos to you, my friend.

As a matter of fact, I have now refocused my feelings about February in its entirety. Previously viewed as a cold, dark month wedged between winter and spring, I was always glad it was the shortest of the twelve months. But now, putting things in perspective, how could I not love this month? It gave me my two greatest loves bar none. Both of my sons were born in February. One son on the 17th and the other on the 29th...okay, I get that it only occurs every four years, but it is still in February. And they are both such a reason to celebrate! Then factor in that the mom I lost as a young girl was born on February 16th. Without her, I wouldn't be here, my boys wouldn't be here, and...be still my heart, my grandson wouldn't be on his way!

So, as you can see, February has become a very special time for me now. Even, its most famous holiday.  I can honestly say I have learned to appreciate its page on the calender. So, let's go into the kitchen and celebrate the right way, with chocolate. Valentine's Day is all about chocolate and red. Red velvet cakes are all about chocolate that is dyed red. How can this not be your go to choice for a holiday sweet.

This recipe originally came from one of my youngest sons culinary school books but, as written, it seemed a little dry. The two of us fooled around with it till we found the perfect combination. So successful were we, that after bringing them to a party, he got several orders for more. So, take a gander this Valentine's Day! Bake with your spouse, your partner, your kids (that one is the best)! But at the very, very least this weekend, open up your heart and celebrate with all the loves of your life!

Cake Ingredients;

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with an electric blender. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. (Ice cream scoop works perfectly.) Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick before removing to cool

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until blended. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Sprinkle on your favorite red topping! 

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