Valentine's Day x3

Is it too late for a Valentine's post-mortem? How about for the past three Valentine's Days? Somehow I drafted posts for each of these years that never quite got done and never quite got posted. But there's some darn cute pictures in here, and a recipe for a chocolate cake that I've been promising someone for far too long now. So I'm forging ahead, hoping that the cake recipe at the end will make up for the three years' worth of sentimentality you are about to encounter. Ahem. Be forewarned, my friends, and be brave.


I actually have little to say about this year's day, except how could you not fall in love with a boy who wants to make a heart-shaped train track (and figures it out!) and a girl who smiles at even the barest hint of a smile? Finn got some homemade beanbags (the better to curb his throwing tendencies) and Willa a little handknit ring toy. We all got chocolate and love was in the air.

or The Year of Kisses

     He clambors up on the bed and hits his knee on the way, urgently declares himself "hurt" and then looks up hopefully. "Kiss?" And I love it. I love how quick he is to ask for what he needs, to declare his need for a kiss or a hug and then claim it, rightfully confident that we are eager to indulge.
     While this sweet boy of ours has never been one to linger on the lap or to cuddle extraneously, he is generous with his affection to others--quick to hug, to kiss, to hold hands. And not afraid to ask, either, or to drag us together so he can join a family hug.
     Somewhere along the way, we answered his curiosity about couples on the train by telling him that people hold hands because they love each other--he was tickled, and ever since has been much more eager to hold our hands on the crowded streets, especially if we remind him of that "loving each other" thing.
     I know that his hurts won't always be soothed by kisses, nor will he always eagerly grab my hand as we walk, but I'm enjoying it now.

(It's a good thing, too, because that boy no longer wants kisses to soothe his hurts ...)  

or, Pretty good for making do


     What do you do when it's Valentine's Day and you happen to have heart-shaped pans that fit in your oven and you really want to make a chocolate cake, but you don't have a mixer, nor do you have any chocolate or butter? Well, a normal person might just go to a bakery and buy something, or at least go to the grocery store and buy some proper ingredients. (Actually, first a normal person would wonder why in the world does a tiny, ill-equipped kitchen that doesn't even have a mixer or a proper oven have heart-shaped pans. I wonder too.)
     But I've always loved the challenge of making do, and I remembered one of the best cake mixes at KAF was a one-bowl, no-mixer-required chocolate cake, using cocoa instead of chocolate and oil instead of butter ... perfect for Hong Kong, and perfect for the state of my pantry.  So I hunted around, and found some recipes that looked similar. I tweaked them a bit, and now, several cakes later, I've got something just as moist and chocolatey as I remembered. (Even with no chocolate and no butter. I know, I know. Crazy, isn't it?)
     Now, normally I am totally against desserts that use oil instead of butter, since butter just makes everything taste better, and probably using melted butter in this cake would do that as well. But, the advantage of using oil is that the cake is just as tender straight from the refrigerator as it is at room temperature. (And exactly why that is an advantage ... ummm ... I don't remember. I'm not in the habit of eating my cakes straight from the refrigerator. Go ahead and use butter, and don't mind me. Unless you're out, that is--and then know that oil will be perfectly fine.)
     As for frosting, this is actually one of those neighborly cakes that's delicious as is, but if you have company or just can't stand the thought of a naked cake, a dallop of creme fraiche or whipped cream will dress it up quite nicely. It's pretty good for making do. 
Hong Kong Chocolate Cake      
I generally make a 9"x9" square pan plus a few cupcakes or those heart pans out of this (should you also be so lucky) but it also works well for 2 9" round pans or a 9" x 13" (should you live somewhere besides Hong Kong and have an oven that accommodates such sizes.)

Preheat oven to 350F (or 170C), and prepare your pans with parchment paper or grease.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Stir together dry ingredients, sifting the cocoa if it is lumpy. Make a well in the middle of the dry, and add the eggs, whisking them a bit to break up the yolks. Add the remaining wet ingredients, and beat until smooth. Add chocolate chips, if using. And that's all!

Pour into prepared pans, and bake for 20-40 minutes, depending on the pans you are using. A toothpick shouldn't be wet coming out, but there might be some moist crumbs on it. 

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