GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 6, 2013

What a sweet gift: Cupcakes are a delicious treat to give for Valentine's Day

Pat's Kitchen
Patricia Altomare

---- — What does Valentine’s Day mean to me? I have always loved it, to tell you the truth. Some years it was a day of romantic love and gifts of perfume or a special piece of jewelry. Then there were the years with my young children making me a card, me tying red balloons to their chairs and making pancakes that I cut into valentine shapes. And there were the many years of receiving a favorite of mine; a vase of pink roses with white babies breath. In my childhood I loved scribbling my name on the back of those silly little valentine cards, one for everyone in my grade-school class, and a special one for the teacher.

Now, and for the past five years, I have enjoyed searching out, and making, a different treat for you to make for Valentine’s Day; last year a Chocolate Velvet dessert, the year before Chocolate Kiss Cookies that many readers wrote me to say were terrific, and so on.

These cupcakes were quick and easy to make as I chose a recipe that begins with a cake mix and has pieces of cherries in the batter.

These might bring you back to the soda shop.

They make the cutest, individual gifts for several people I want to give a treat to on Valentine’s Day. And when I saw these pastry gift boxes in Michaels Crafts Store, I had to pick up a few packages. Each box holds four cupcakes, perfect to bring in to my small office, for my neighbors, and a box for a family member and his wife who are home with a new baby.

So, yes I enjoy it all ... must be the romantic side of my nature.

Cherry-Malt Cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups malt powder

2/3 cup milk

1 package French Vanilla cake mix

4 large eggs

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup Comstock brand cherry pie filling (no sugar added, if store carries it)

Baking instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line regular size muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Combine 1 cup of the malt powder with milk and mix until malt powder is dissolved.

In a separate bowl, mix cake mix, eggs, water and oil with remaining 1 cup of malt powder.

Add liquid milk mixture to cake batter and blend.

Add cherry pie filling. Using a mixer, mix batter for 3 minutes until cherries are broken up and batter is fully combined.

Pour batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling them two-thirds full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes, and then turn out of pans to finish cooling on a rack.

Frosting

This is a very easy, frosting recipe that I received from a reader and have used for years.

Mix 1 cup milk, 1/2 pint heavy cream, and one package instant pudding mix, any flavor.

This will frost a two-layer cake or one sheet cake. Just combine any flavor cake mix with whatever frosting flavor you like.

Note from Pat: I used the vanilla pudding mix with a few drops of red food coloring to make a pastel pink.

Valentine’s ideas from friends and family

Strawberries stuffed with lightly-sweetened cream cheese and walnuts are perfect for that romantic evening. They go great with champagne!

Make a red velvet cake with an inner core of chocolate and frost with more chocolate. Top with candy hearts, kisses, or Xs and Os.

What you write in a valentine card can be as meaningful as the card itself. Remember what you love about your valentine — think of two happy moments you’ve shared this year and mention them in the card

The week before Valentine’s Day, a friend hosted a “craft-making party.” She decorated her kitchen, served finger foods, valentine cookies and chocolates, and we spent the afternoon laughing our way through the designing and making of some beautiful cards.

Good to hear

from you

Dear Pat,

I made the Peppermint Bark that you featured in a column before Christmas. It was great. I followed your recommendation and used less crushed peppermint and my husband, who is not a fan of peppermint, loved it. This is a keeper and will become part of our Christmas tradition!

Sharon, Methuen

Hi Pat, I had to write and tell you how delicious the cake was with the coconut-pecan frosting. It sounded so good I had to make it when we had company for the weekend. Absolutely terrific! Thanks a lot.

Laurie, Windham, N.H.

Dear Pat, I have never written before, but I had to tell you how interesting it was to read about the restaurant in Telluride, CO. I went skiing there a few years ago and it is a great place to be during February vacation (college). Your column brought back a fun memory; I just wished I had gone to that restaurant as I love Thai food too.

Stephanie, Haverhill

Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.