February 09, 2012

Two Valentine’s Days ago, I tried to get in the holiday spirit and make what else but a red-velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I had not baked a cake by myself before, but I decided it would be heart-shaped.

It was a cake wreck.

And, yes, that's a pizza pan. I was in college.

I didn’t wait for the cake to cool so the frosting mixed with the cake. I didn’t know how to frost a cake so it was lumpy and swirly and swooshy in all the wrong places.

But the craftsmanship of the cake was the worst. 

Maybe it’s all the gyros I’ve had—freshly cut from that rolling spindle of lamb—or all the art history classes I’ve taken on sculpture, but I thought I could just carve a heart out of cake.

First rule in heart-shaped cake baking: Put the knife down and get some cookie cutters.

Cookie cutters are uniform, not serrated and make pretty hearts of all sizes. If you make one wrong cut with a steak knife (Yes, I used a steak knife. I know. College.) you could take a Texas sheet cake down to a single serving.

The best part about using a cookie cutter with cake is that you usually get a smaller size than a regular slice of cake. That gives you room to pair it with something fun like pralines or fruit.

You could also invest in a heart-shaped pan and forego the cutting process completely. This would be best for large layer cakes

With a pan, the edges of your cake will be clean—not hacked at.

You could also pour a shallow layer of batter in a heart-shaped pan and make a big cookie or brownie.

If you’ve got knife skills, carve away...with the right knife. But for the rest of us, use a cookie cutter.

Have you ever carved a cake? What’s your cake wreck story?

More Heart-Shaped Treats:

Crispy Chocolate Hearts

Heart-Shaped Marshmallows

Meringue Hearts

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