Bros, you have a Valentine and you’re not ready to buy a diamond. Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year, so there is no bragging to be had in flowers sent to her office. What’s a bro to do? You’re too cool to buy her a teddy bear and some Russell Stovers. You need something special but also not entirely committed to marriage.
Bro. Bake her a dessert.
But bros can’t bake! Bros never win “Cupcake Challenge”! Bro: yes, you can. You don’t have to make a three tier decorated “Great British Bake Off” cake. You can do some easy stuff to impress a lady with a heartfelt homemade sweets.
Baking is just measuring
Get the ingredients / measurements right and you’re halfway there. It’s a lot more scientific than cooking.
Pre-heat the oven
Rookie mistake, bro. Let that oven get toasty before you start baking. You don’t want the oven to be warming as the cake is baking. That just takes more time.
Practice makes perfect
Do a test run to see what works and what doesn’t. That’s why your grandma made the same cookies every Christmas: she made it frequently enough to perfect her technique. Only consequence is another batch to eat (or throw out if it’s a blackened smoky mess.)
Don’t be afraid of a mix
Alton Brown, patron saint of baking, will tell you there is no shame in using a cake mix. Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines worked hard to perfect that mix. It will be a lot better than a homemade cake mix, which usually turns out too dry. It’s the frosting and filling that sell a cake.
If you’re going to make a cake, here is Your Mom’s Pinterest Trick to make it a moister (heh) more fluffy cake:
- Use one box cake mix of your choice
- Add one (1) box instant pudding (it should ideally be the same flavor as your cake mix, but don’t be afraid to get crazy.) (Be sure it is INSTANT and not Cook and Serve.)
- Add 2 cups of milk (any kind, but in my experience, skim milk will make the cake a little more rubbery if overcooked.)
- Add two eggs.
Beat until smooth. Bake in two nine inch cake pans at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool, then frost and fill to your liking. Pro tip: Use a 9 X 9 square pan and a 9 inch round pan. Cut the circle cake in half when it’s done. With a little maneuvering and a lot of frosting construction, you can make a heart shaped cake without buying a special pan (click HERE to see these instructions in easy-to-follow pictures.
Speaking of frosting, buttercream icing is so easy you have no reason to buy a can (unless you are in the middle of a break-up and watching all the Nicholas Sparks movies. In that case, it is easiest to shovel Betty Crocker Fluffy Chocolate Icing directly into your mouth. There there. There there.)
Here’s your super easy buttercream recipe:
- 5 – 6 cups of confectioners sugar
- 1 stick of unsalted butter (melted)
- 2 tsp of vanilla (or like whatever flavor you want but if you’re making chocolate icing you’ll want to add half a cup of powdered cocoa instead of chocolate syrup or some shit)
- 2-6 tablespoons of milk
That’s it. Whip that all really well. If it’s too slimy, add more powdered sugar. If it’s too clumpy, add more milk (but remember a little goes a long way on the milk.) You will probably end up with way more icing than you need by the time you get your texture just right. That is fine, because icing is great.
Your lady not into dairy? Then you probably don’t want to make the cake with the cheat recipe I gave above. But you can also make it dairy free by replacing the butter with a quarter cup of shortening instead of butter and using almond milk.
But Cakes are for Birthdays and Valentine’s Day is for Candy
I know. I feel ya. So how about some easy candy? Son, you know how simple it is to make chocolate covered strawberries and cherries? (Not to mention SEXY?)
Chocolate covered strawberries are a piece of cake (but candy.) Get yourself some nice strawberries, a bag of chocolate chips (I like to use the Ghirardelli kind for special occasions) and some heavy cream. You’ll want some wax paper and skewers too.
So easy. Rinse off those strawberries and let them dry, then put a skewer through the top fat part with the leaves. (Or remove the leaves if you prefer your strawberries nude.)
Get them all set and ready to go, and get yourself a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet before you melt the chocolate.
Make sure you melt the chocolate in a double boiler (a pot with water is on the stove and the chocolate is in a smaller pot that had its bottom resting in the water so the water boils, not the chocolate. Sorry if I’m talking down to you, bro, but my cousin didn’t know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich till his 40s, so I am aware that mileage varies in the kitchen.)
Let the water get hot before adding the chocolate pot. Once the melting begins, you’ll want to stir pretty constantly. A splash or two of the heavy cream will help smooth out the chocolate, but be careful – too much will make your strawberry a drippy slime mess.
Once the chocolate has a nice shiny consistency, turn the heat off.
Dip the strawberries one at a time into the chocolate. Give a little twist as you take them out – you want chocolate but not a glob of excess. Then rest them on the wax paper.
If you have so many strawberries that the chocolate starts solidifying in the pot before you are done, all is not lost – you can turn the heat back on, add a little more heavy cream, and stir it again. It’ll get back to a nice dipping texture in no time.
When you’re all out of strawberries, pop that cookie tray into the refrigerator for a couple hours at the very least. So beautiful. Such easy. Wow.
Chocolate covered cherries are going to take a little more effort, but bro, worth it. They are still super easy, it’ll just take a day or two to make them.
You’ll need that wax paper and bag of chocolate chips again. You’ll also need maraschino cherries WITH stems (the big jar), corn syrup, butter, and confectioners sugar. So!
Take the cherries and drain them. (You can save a little of the syrup if you’re feeling wild.)
Combine 2 cups of the powdered sugar with three tablespoons of corn syrup and three tablespoons of melted butter. Mix it all together to make a dough. You can take that extra syrup and add that, but add a little more sugar if you do. Don’t get crazy. Just relax.
The dough shouldn’t be too crumbly – slimy is okay because you are going to pack about a teaspoon of dough around each cherry. (Let the stem hang out.)
Put your army of cherries on that wax paper covered cookie sheet and put it in the fridge. Let it Netflix and chill till the coated cherries feel firm–usually overnight.
Once those babies are set, melt that chocolate in the double boiler. When you get a nice smooth chocolate consistency, use the stems to dip each cherry in the chocolate. Give a little twist to shake off the excess again.
Place them on wax paper and refrigerate to set overnight. Once they are all good, put them in an airtight container. They’ll actually be better after a couple of days.
And don’t make a meringue
Leave it to a pastry chef. Don’t give your boo food poisoning for Valentine’s Day.