Yesterday I posted our latest guest post featuring a gorgeous Valentines Day themed tri-color cupcake. And while I am not surprised some of our readers took issue with Jews celebrating Valentines Day, nevertheless I wanted to address it.
I did not grow up celebrating Purim, but I did grow up celebrating Valentine’s Day. Each year my dad would bring home a single red rose to my mother and a box of her favorite chocolates from a local chocolatier. He would also bring me a present – some years a fancy box of chocolates with a silk flower on the cover; other years a bouquet of my own flowers; and one year a small gold heart necklace. I loved these small tokens and have fond memories of my father’s simple romantic gesture to my mother.
I understand that for some Jews, celebrating a seemingly Christian holiday feels problematic, and frankly, I am not going to argue with anyone and try to convince them one way or the other. The amazing Rabbi Mike Uram offers his assessment of whether or not it is problematic for Jews to celebrate Valentine’s Day, so feel free to read his view, or any other that you like.
But what I want to say about this is: many Americans Jews (dare I say – the majority) feel the same way I do and like celebrating “Hallmark holidays” like Valentine’s Day. We are American, and we celebrate American holidays (and Jewish holidays too) even if they sometimes feel silly or superficial because something in these traditions connects us to one another.
I do celebrate Purim now, and can’t wait to dress up with my daughter and husband in a few weeks. And I do love making Hamantaschen, just like I enjoy a good box of drug-store-bought chocolates with a silk flower on top. At the end of the day, I respect all Jews’ choices and traditions and don’t care whether we agree on what those choices and traditions should be; my only hope and expectation is that other Jews will respect my choices in return.
But onto the really important stuff: what kind of Hamantaschen will I be making this year!?
Last year I made PB& Jelly Hamntaschen which were a huge it as well as a s’mores flavor with chocolate and mini marshmallows. Both these flavors deserve a repeat performance, and I am also thinking about a berries ‘n cream or chocolate caramel flavored Hamanhaschen. Stay tuned for what I cook up this year!
In need of THE BEST recipe for Hamantaschen? We’ve got that too so try out this recipe – it’s the only recipe I will use.
In this day and age, it’s hard to create a unique treat without consulting food magazines, blogs and social media sites like Pinterest. Ever since Carrie Bradshaw declared her love for Magnolia Bakery, cupcakes have been all the rage. I’ve always loved making cupcakes, as they are easy to serve, can take on little personalities of their own, and most importantly, I can try one before giving them to anyone else. (You can’t do that with an entire cake!)
For Valentine’s Day, I considered heart-shaped cupcakes or something red-velvet but while more frosting and more sprinkles make everything more delicious, for this project, I wanted to focus on simplicity. Multicolored cakes are all the rag these days, and I love anything pink so I decided to make mini three-layer cakes with fluffy buttercream frosting and a classic cherry heart lollipop to top it off. By definition, these aren’t exactly “cupcakes” but I don’t think you’ll get any complaints.
Brittany Wayne grew up in Weston, CT and enjoyed baking with her parents from a young age. In high school, Brittany completed a year-long independent study on cake decorating, culminating in a three-tiered wedding cake. The teacher who graded the study gave Brittany a D because she didn’t believe Brittany made the cakes she brought in each month. Brittany did make the cakes. You can follow Brittany and her cake creations on Twitter, and Instagram.
For the cake:
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened (plus more to grease pan)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ cups flour (plus more to dust the greased pan)
1 ¼ cup whole milk
Pink and red food coloring gel (I use Wilton)
For the frosting:
8 oz. Granulated Sugar
4 oz. Egg Whites
1.5 cups softened Butter (3 sticks)
Pinch of Salt
Pink food coloring gel (I use Wilton)
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Put butter in mixer and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and beat well. Add eggs and vanilla.
Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
Add 1/3 of dry ingredients to butter mixture followed by ½ of the milk. Alternate adding the dry mixture and milk until all is incorporated.
Separate batter equally into three bowls and add pink gel dye to one and red dye to another and leave the third white.
Grease and flour three 9” x 13” cake pans and spread batter evenly.
Bake cakes for 12-16 minutes (check after 10 minutes to make sure it’s not burning since these are such thin cakes) until a toothpick comes out clean. If the top of the cake is wiggly, leave it in for a couple more minutes.
Let cakes cool on wire racks while you make the frosting.
(An easier alternative is to fill cupcake tins about 2/3rds of the way with layers of red, pink and white batter to create a gradient effect once baked)
For the frosting:
Put sugar, egg whites and salt in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until sugar has dissolved.
Pour immediately into stand mixer (or remove from heat and beat using hand mixer) and whisk until it is shiny white and stiff peaks have formed. Let cool.
Switch to the paddle attachment on your stand mixer. Add butter in small cubes (make sure the mixture is completely cool otherwise the butter will melt when added) Beat until a smooth and fluffy buttercream has formed. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes.
Add a small amount of the pink gel to the buttercream and mix with a spatula. Careful, the gel is very concentrated, you don’t need to use a lot to get a strong color and you can always add more.
Before frosting cakes, flip each over so the “nice side” is up, not the side that was on the bottom of the cake pan.
Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top of the red cake, use a cutting board to help slide the pink layer on top of the red. Repeat and put the white layer on top. Refrigerate between two layers of parchment paper, put a cutting board with some heavy objects on top for around 10 minutes.
Remove from fridge and remove parchment paper. Cut off around half an inch of cake to make clean edges on all sides. Cut into two-inch squares (should make around 20 squares), cleaning the knife between cuts.
If using a piping bag, use a large star-shaped tip or you can put the frosting in a zip lock bag and cut off the end to form a tip.
While squeezing the bag, pipe frosting onto the cake in a small circular motion to create a small dollop of frosting. Top it off by inserting an unwrapped heart-shaped lollipop (or any pink or red lollipop) in the center of the cake.
Like other mainstream American holidays, Valentines Day always seem to spark a conversation on whether Jews should celebrate it or not, and if so – how? I won’t touch this debate, but if you are interested you can read Rabbi Mike Uram’s “To Send or Not to Send – Is That the Question?”
According to The Today Show’s Kathie Lee and Hoda, what most people want more than anything for V-Day is a good meal! Well, Jews are pretty good at that, so I say – why not whip up some romantic treats for your special someone.
Last year I made this unctuous Chicken Mole for my husband, and he loved it. What better way to show your love than through a rich, slow cooked chicken dish made with dark chocolate. I served the Mole with warm tortillas, and an arugula and blood orange salad.
But what about dessert, arguably the best part of a Valentines Day meal!?
I also love these S’mores Brownie Bites from Overtime Cook, which you can easily make using brownie mix, and can be pareve! S’mores also evokes sitting around a campfire or next to a cozy fire, which is pretty darn romantic to me.
Don’t feel like baking? Order your someone a sweet n salty treat from Salt of the Earth Bakery, who specializes in kosher sweets that use sea salt to bring out the flavor of their brownies, cookies and caramel.
Another easy option for dessert? A selection of chocolates from the Whole Foods chocolate counter. I particularly love their variety of chocolate covered pretzels, which is a guaranteed way into my heart!
And hey – if all else fails, a dozen roses and a can of whipped cream never hurt anyone either.