Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’m so excited! It’s always been one of my favourite holidays because it’s all about celebrating love – not just romantic love, but love between family members, friends and even pets! I know a lot of people have negative associations with Valentine’s Day, and it can definitely be a hard one if you’re (unhappily) single, but I’ve always loved it, whether I was single or not. That’s why I really like the trend of Galentine’s Day parties – it just goes to show that this holiday is about way more than just romantic love. At the end of the day, we all deserve a reason to celebrate the love in our lives!
If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day at home – whether with your significant other, kids, family members or friends – and want to make a special dessert for the occasion, I have a few options that I think you’ll love!
I’ll start with something that’s always a showstopper and a favourite on Valentine’s Day: a beautiful, heart-shaped cake. On Friday we had our friends Jordan and Marie over for a Valentine’s weekend dinner, and I wanted to make a special dessert. A made-from-scratch cake is always a winner, and I’ve made plenty of them over the years… but sometimes when you’re short on time and ingredients, even the most accomplished baker needs a little help. So I’ll let you in on a little secret: the delicious cake pictured below was ridiculously easy to make – it started with a box mix, and required virtually no decorating skills!
You may have heard of the trend of ‘doctored cake mixes’. Essentially, it just refers to making a cake from a box mix, but instead of following the instructions exactly as on the package, you add in some extra ingredients to make the cake taste more ‘homemade’. I used this doctored cake mix formula from Family Savvy, which can be applied to any flavour of cake mix. The ‘secret ingredients’ that take the cake above and beyond include instant pudding mix, sour cream, and a little extra sugar (I also always substitute milk for water in any boxed cake to give it a richer flavour.) For this cake, I used strawberry cake mix with vanilla pudding mix. The first time I tried a ‘doctored cake mix’ hack, I’ll admit I was more than a little skeptical, but trust me when I say that the extra ingredients make a huge difference – I’ve baked and eaten a lot of cakes in my life (both from-scratch and box-mix) and if I didn’t know this cake wasn’t homemade, I honestly would never have been able to tell. It’s delicious!
The second tip I have for making a beautiful cake with minimal effort is to use a Bundt pan that does all the ‘decorative’ work for you. I purchased this Nordic Ware heart-shaped Bundt pan from Amazon – yes, it’s expensive, but Nordic Ware makes excellent quality bakeware and you won’t find a similar pan for less anywhere else (trust me, I looked!) Forget about stacking and icing cake layers – this pan makes creating a gorgeous cake so simple. Just let it cool in the pan, turn it over and voila – you’ve got a cake that would rival any bakery’s! Be sure you spray the pan liberally – and I do mean liberally – with a floured spray before filling it with batter. I use PAM Baking Spray. You should also let your cake cool for about 30 minutes in the pan before turning it out. Both of these things will help ensure that your cake comes out easily. Even if your cake doesn’t come out perfectly – you may notice mine has a crack towards the top – any imperfections can easily be covered when you decorate!
I topped the cake with a simple vanilla glaze: just mix 2-4 tablespoons of milk with 2 teaspoons of vanilla, add 2 cups powdered sugar, and whisk together until smooth. (I added a couple of drops of red food colouring to turn it pink!) Then I garnished the cake with heart-shaped sprinkles. It turned out beautifully and everyone really enjoyed it! Check out my Instagram reel here to watch me make this cake.
Another treat I like to make for Valentine’s Day is a dessert ‘charcuterie’ board. I started doing this a couple of years ago after seeing the idea on Pinterest, and since then it’s become a yearly tradition. This year I even found the perfect heart-shaped platter at HomeSense to put it on! This idea is perfect for a Galentine’s Day party or a larger gathering, but is also great to share with your honey for a decadent Valentine’s Day treat. I’ll usually prep and put this out around mid-day so Tania and I can snack on it all day… because let’s be real, Valentine’s calories don’t count!
The best thing about this ‘dessert charcuterie’ idea is that you can do it literally however you’d like: there are no rules! If you want to fill it with a variety of baked goods you made from scratch, go for it! If you’re short on time and just want to pick up some candy from the store, that’s great too! Only two things on this board are homemade and everything else is store-bought, so this was super easy to put together.
One of the things I made from scratch were the linzer cookies. Linzer cookies are one of my go-to Valentine’s Day recipes: not only are they delicious and a perennial favourite on any cookie plate, but the heart shape and raspberry filling make them the prettiest on-theme treat. In the past I’ve used this traditional almond shortbread recipe from Gimme Some Oven, but this year I decided to substitute the dough for this lemon sugar cookie recipe from Betty Crocker. Once baked, I dusted the tops of each cookie with powdered sugar, and filled with Greaves raspberry jam. You can really use any shortbread or sugar cookie dough for linzer cookies! Just remember to make a top and bottom half for each cookie – one with an inner heart cutout and one without – so you can ‘sandwich’ them together.
The other thing I made myself was coconut ice, using this recipe by Kitchen Sanctuary. I love coconut and all things pink, so when I saw this recipe on Pinterest I was immediately intrigued. I’ll definitely be making this again – it is SO easy to make and requires zero baking!
Here are the other items I put on my board:
- Lindt Lindor chocolates
- Fresh strawberries
- Heart-shaped macarons by Le Chic Patissier (available at Costco)
- Conversation hearts
- Heart gummies
- Yogurt-covered pretzels
Some other ideas for things you could include:
- Any sort of Valentine’s candy (cinnamon hearts, red & pink M&Ms, hot lips… just raid the Bulk Barn aisles!)
- Marshmallows (bonus if you can find heart-shaped ones!)
- Mini cupcakes
- Chocolate chip cookies
- White chocolate-dipped Oreos
- Strawberry wafers
- Mini donuts
- Caramel corn
- Chocolate-covered strawberries
- Chocolate-covered almonds
- Glazed nuts
…or literally any of your favourite cookies, candies, pastries or chocolates! The options are virtually endless. If you’re more of a savoury than a sweet person, you could also do a more traditional charcuterie board with meats and cheeses, but get a little creative with it: roll deli meats up into rose shapes, or use cookie cutters to cut your cheeses into heart shapes. A simple Pinterest search should give you plenty of inspiration!
I hope that this post was helpful and gave you some fun ideas for a delicious Valentine’s Day at home. However you’re celebrating the holiday, I hope you have a great one!
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