This Valentine’s Day heart cake is fantastic on its own. It really pops when you serve it on a pool of raspberry-Ancho chile sauce. This cake doesn’t use flour, so it’s gluten-free. The cake is somewhat soft on the inside and delicately crisp on the outside. The sauce can be quite spicy, so you could serve the sauce in a bowl on the side. This Valentine’s Day heart cake seems complicated, but once you’ve made it, you find it’s not difficult at all. You’ll want to try shapes and variations for other holidays and occasions.
Making a cake stencil
For the powdered-sugar design on the top, I found a heart stencil clip art online and used PowerPoint to create a file. Paste the clip art photo in the document and increase the size so it completely covers the page. That’s about the size of the heart cake pan. After running a few test prints on my printer to get the right size and shape, I printed it on a piece of card stock to make the stencil a bit stiffer. I used a fine-point exacto knife to cut out the design. If you wanted to make more than one of these, you could make the stencil on a sheet of thin, stiff plastic so it could be washed and re-used.
Using the cake stencil
The top of the cake is fairly uneven rather than very flat. I used a pastry brush to just moisten the top of the cake so the paper stencil would stick to the cake. That makes the edges of the design come out distinctly. Use powdered sugar in a shaker for best results, covering the top of the cake evenly. Try practicing on a piece of colored paper, if you’re uncertain of your skills, before doing it on the cake.
Valentine's Day heart cake
cake recipe by King Arthur Flour; raspberry-Ancho chile sauce recipe by Kathy Hiatt 2018
Use an 8" or 9" round or square pan or tart pan (heart-shaped) of a similar size. Trace the base of the pan on a sheet of parchment paper, then cut inside the line so it's slightly smaller and fits without buckling. Cut long strips of parchment paper about 1-2 wide for the sides. For help lifting the cake out of the pan without breaking, cut several very long strips of parchment paper. Spray the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Place the lifting strips crosswise in the pan. Place the parchment piece for the bottom in the cake pan. Line the sides of the pan with the other strips of parchment paper, overlapping, and cut to fit. Spray the parchment paper in the pan.
On low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring frequently. This can be done in a double boiler (bain-marie), with a microwave, or on a burner set over low heat. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Add the sugar, salt, and espresso powder. Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. To even out the batter in the cake pan, lift the cake pan about an inch off the counter and drop it quickly onto the counter about 6-8 times. This will make the cake batter spread to the edges of the pan.
Bake the cake for 25 minutes. (Don't test for doneness. The cake should be slightly soft in the middle.)
Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.
Loosen it from the edges of the pan, and turn it out onto a serving plate. You can use the parchment lifting pieces to assist in getting the cake out of the pan. Another method: put a flat cutting board on top of the cake in the pan. Holding the cake pan and cutting board together firmly, quickly flip it over. The cake should then be face down on the cutting board. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Place another flat cutting board or plate on top of the cake. Holding it together firmly, quickly flip it back over. The cake is now right side up. Allow the cake to cool completely, about 10-20 minutes.
Raspberry-ancho chile sauce
Place chile in a plastic bowl; cover with cling wrap. Microwave for 10 seconds; rinse the chile. Break into pieces, removing stem and seeds.
Put water and chile into a blender. Run on high for several minutes until smooth.
Put that mixture and the raspberry puree, jam and salt in a saucepan; bring to a simmer.
Whisk a little of hot mixture into the cornstarch mixture, then whisk that back into the sauce in the pan. Simmer, stirring constantly, for a minute or two for the mixture to thicken.
Lay a paper or plastic stencil on top of the cake. You may wish to brush the top of the cake lightly with water and a pastry brush to help the stencil stick to the cake. Sprinkle powdered sugar evenly over the design. Gently loosen the stencil from the cake, lift straight up, and move it carefully away from the cake.