Seeing the Forest …

Lest you think this month is all about candy hearts and giant boxes of chocolate, I'm here to share one of my favorite Valentine's Day desserts. Now, those other things are grand in their own right too, but if you want to see me swoon, this should be what greets me when dinner's done:

Dark chocolate cake (just a mix, but you could use any homemade recipe you adore) gets infused with dark cherries and ruby port before being frosted with an incredibly light buttercream that's been blessed with whipped cream. Then dust a little cocoa on top and enjoy. Every bite blends rich dark chocolate, tangy fruit, and enough port to make you swoon. And unlike a lot of black forest cake recipes, this one's simple to make and isn't so cloyingly sweet that you feel a sugar-induced headache set in after one bite.

If this is the kind of dessert you want to work into a Valentine's Day feast, consider pairing it with simple decaf fixed with cream, a small glass of port to accentuate the alcohol in the cake, or even a small flute of champagne. Then enjoy a bit of extra time with your someone special. After all, you didn't need to invest too much of it in this amazing ending to your Valentine's Day festivities!

Black Forest Mini-Cakes

  • 1 box Devil's Food cake mix, mixed according to package instructions
  • 1/3 c. dark cherry preserves
  • 1 c. dark cherries (pitted or drained, depending on whether they are fresh or from a jar)
  • 1/4 c. ruby port
  • 1 c. butter
  • 4 c. confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. whipping cream
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Prepare the cake mix according to the package instructions and place into the greased, floured vessels of your choice. I chose 3 round mini-cake pans. Bake according to the instructions on the package, making sure not to over bake the cake(s).

While the baking is happening, combine the next two ingredients, preserves and cherries, in a medium-sized microwaveable dish. Microwave for 1-2 minutes on high. Stir well. The mixture will be hot. Add the port and stir again. After the oven is off and the baked goods have cooled for at least 10 minutes, poke the tops of the cakes with a toothpick and carefully pour some of the cherry mixture over each one, allowing the liquid to soak into the warm cake. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Cream shortening until fluffy. Add sugar and continue creaming until well-blended. Add salt, flavoring and whipping cream; blend on low speed until moistened. Beat at high speed until icing is fluffy. When the cakes are cooled, turn them out onto pretty serving plates and carefully frost them. Just before serving, dust them with a bit of cocoa powder.

  • Yields: Depends on how you set up your cake(s) for baking
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

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