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« A Match Made in Delicatessen Heaven | Main | Couscous Makes an Easy, Go-To Meal »

Sweets for the Sweet on Valentine’s Day

By Sandy Hu

Years ago, when Steve and I were newly married and money was tight, we’d spend an occasional Saturday making a fancy dinner for ourselves (Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was our favorite resource.). We’d set the table with our good wedding china, arrange flowers, light candles and enjoy a special meal together. Before dessert, we’d get up from the table and do all the dishes, so they weren’t waiting for us when the meal was done. Once the kitchen was cleaned, we’d sit back again and enjoy dessert and coffee, feeling as pampered as if we had dined at an expensive New York restaurant.

Now our newlywed son Dave has started a different tradition with Lynn: date night. Every Tuesday, they take the time to enjoy each other’s company, either dining at a modest restaurant or by taking turns cooking something special for each other at home.

If you’re cooking for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, try No-Bake Ribbon Cake. You just make a ricotta and golden raisin filling, spread it between layers of store-bought pound cake and frost. Be sure to wash the dishes before you sit down to dessert.

For more Valentine’s ideas see:

To get the recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.

No-Bake Ribbon Cake
1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds, chopped
½ cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
½ to 1 teaspoon orange liqueur (optional)
1 package (11.5 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao), divided
Grated peel from 1 orange
1 pound cake (10 3/4 ounces), thawed if frozen
6 tablespoons strong black coffee
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled, cut in ½-inch pieces

To Make Cake: In a medium bowl combine ricotta, almonds, raisins, sugar, orange liqueur if using, and orange peel. Coarsely chop ½ cup of the chocolate chips and to ricotta mixture; mix thoroughly. With a serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 3 equal layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving platter and spread with half the ricotta mixture (about 1 ¼ cups), smoothing evenly. Top with middle cake layer and spread with remaining filling. Cover with top cake layer, cut side down. Smooth cake sides. Press layers together gently and chill 1 to 2 hours to firm.

To Make Frosting: When cake has chilled, combine remaining chocolate chips and coffee in a small, heavy pot and heat over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted, coffee is incorporated and mixture is smooth. Remove pan from heat and whisk in chilled butter, a few pieces at a time until the frosting is smooth. Chill about 15 minutes until frosting thickens to spreading consistency. Spread on top and sides of cake, covering completely. Refrigerate cake until frosting is set, about 4 hours, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cake can be served when frosting is set or if time permits, chill overnight to meld flavors.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: If you want to dress up your cake for Valentine’s Day, knead pink or red concentrated gel color into marzipan, roll out marzipan between two sheets of waxed paper and cut out hearts with cookie cutters to decorate your cake.

Tip to Toast Almonds: Place almonds in a single layer in a dry skillet, and turn heat to medium. Toast, stirring occasionally, until almonds are fragrant (Two to five minutes depending on the form of almonds you are toasting). If the almonds are blanched, let them turn golden brown; if they have skins, let their skins just begin to crackle.

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