My husband’s 30th birthday is coming up this weekend. I was reminiscing about past birthdays in anticipation of this one and I thought I would share what I did for him a few years ago. There was a short period when I had to fill in and be the pastry department at work. I was leaving the house at hours previously unknown to me and I was not going to see Patrick at all on his birthday. I decided to make conversation heart cupcakes so that they could cheerfully greet him that morning in my absence. These would, of course, be the perfect addition to any Valentine’s Day party or even as a treat in a loved one’s lunch box. It’s a creative and yummy way to say “I love You.”
1 box of Cake Mix, your favorite flavor (look, these cupcakes are somewhat labor intensive in the decorating department, there is no need to go overboard and make a cake from scratch unless you have several hours to kill).
Eggs, as specified on box of Cake Mix
Oil, as specified on box of Cake Mix
Water, as specified on box of Cake Mix
1/2 cup Butter, softened
4 cups Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoon Vanilla
4 tablespoons Milk
4 ounces White Chocolate Chips
Silicone Heart Shaped Cupcake “Pan” (such as one sold by Wilton at craft stores)
Obviously the place to start is by making the cake batter. Follow the cupcake directions on the box and set the oven accordingly. Prior to pouring the batter into the hearts give the pan a quick coating of pan spray (yes it’s silicone, but you really don’t want it to stick).
While your cooked cupcakes are cooling (in the pan – they will fall apart if you remove them too early), go ahead and make your frosting. Using either a hand held or stand mixer whip your butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in stages and go slowly (you don’t want to be wearing it). Add the vanilla and then add the milk one tablespoon at a time until the consistency is creamy. Divide the frosting into 5 bowls. Using standard food coloring, make one bowl pink (red liquid food coloring never actually looks red), one yellow, one green, one orange (combine yellow and red), one purple (blue and red).
Carefully shave the crowned portion of each cupcake off so they are level with the top of the pan (this side will be the bottom of the finished cupcake so you want it to sit level). Run a butter knife around the outside of each heart and invert the pan. Your cupcakes should come out without much of a hassle. If you have a mini offset spatula this is the perfect time to pull it out, if not grab your trusty butter knife. Begin by frosting the sides and then the top of each cupcake, don’t go too thick with the frosting or the heart shape will get lost. Try to get the top in particular as smooth as possible so your letters will stand out.
When all the cupcakes are frosted, heat about 2 inches of water in a small sauce pan and place a small glass bowl above the simmering water. Melt your white chocolate chips. Once they are smooth place them in either a piping bag or a simple zip top bag. Make a very small cut at the tip so that you can create legible letters. Write your messages (such as “Be Mine,” “Kiss Me,” “Cutie,” etc.) on each cupcake in block lettering. Allow them to set for about 15 minutes and you are all set for a sweet and talkative treat.
Tips and Tricks:
If you are having trouble getting your white chocolate to melt (sometimes it is finicky, particularly if it has been sitting in your pantry for a while), add a little vegetable oil (one teaspoon at a time) until it has melted smoothly. The lecithin in the oil helps the white chocolate relax.
To aid in your frosting adventures, try freezing the cupcakes for an hour or so first. The cupcake will be a little easier to work with.
On that note, you could also make the cupcake portion of the recipe a few days in advance and keep the hearts frozen until you are ready to frost. There is a time limit on them though. I wouldn’t store them in the freezer for more than a week or you’ll risk freezer burn.