A flavorful way to mark Feb. 14

Few things show you care more than a treat made with love, according to McCormick Kitchens, the flavor people.

Whether saying “XOXO” to the family or “Be Mine” to a new valentine, there is one dynamite flavor that fits the bill – red velvet, the McCormick people noted.

In recent years, the love of red velvet has blossomed beyond its traditional southern roots into a popular dessert with mass appeal.

In fact, last Valentine’s Day, enough red food color was sold – more than 555,000 ounces – to make enough red velvet cupcakes to circle the Earth 23 times.

“Amid a sea of pink holiday confections, red velvet stands alone with its vibrant hue and rich taste. It has a unique flavor that is not quite vanilla and not quite chocolate,” Mary Beth Harrington of the McCormick Kitchens said. “Red velvet is also surprisingly versatile, inspiring a range of creative presentations. Simply said, ‘People love it.'”

  • ????

These red velvet brownies are cut into heart shapes and frosted with red food coloring in a soft shade of pink, a rosy pink or a sparkling red. They can be decorated in many ways after they are frosted. This is one of McCormick’s recipes.

Red Velvet Brownie Conversation Hearts

Family-size package fudge brownie mix

1/2 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1-ounce bottle red food color

8 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

Assorted food colors

Decorating gel or 1-ounce white baking chocolate

Prepare brownie mix as directed on the package, adding sour cream, eggs and food color. Spoon batter into greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake and cool as directed on package. Cut out cooled brownies with heart-shaped cutter. Place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Mix confectioners’ sugar, water and corn syrup in medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until sugar is melted, stirring occasionally. Stir in vanilla and tint with desired food color. Spoon or pour icing over top and sides of brownies. If it becomes too stiff, gently reheat to pouring consistency. Let stand until icing is set. Use decorating gel or melted chocolate put in a small resealable plastic bag. Snip off a tiny piece of the corner. Squeeze chocolate through a hole in plastic bag to write or decorate on brownies. Makes 24.

Note: For easy clean-up, line pan with foil with ends of foil extending over the sides. Use foil handles to remove brownie from pan. Place on cutting board and cut hearts with cookie cutter. To make an easier frosting, use a 16-ounce container of white frosting and add six drops of red coloring. Add additional drops of food color until desired shade is reached. Do not cut the hearts out until it is frosted.

  • ????

Red Velvet cake has been a real winner for years, with its velvety texture and excellent taste. It is made into cupcakes that are filled with a vanilla cream cheese frosting – a real taste pleaser.

Red Velvet Cream-Filled Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1-ounce bottle red food color

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare vanilla cream cheese frosting. Make an indention in the center of each cupcake. Use the handle of a wooden spoon or a straw, making sure not to break through the bottom of the cupcakes. Spoon about 3/4 cup frosting into resealable plastic bag. Cut a small piece off one of the bottom corners of the bag. Pipe about 1 teaspoon frosting into each cupcake. Spread top of cupcakes with remaining frosting and sprinkle with red colored sugar or conversation hearts. Makes 30.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

Box of confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

In large bowl, beat all ingredients but confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

  • ????

If you are a lover of truffles, you will fall hard for this recipe that is made with half dark chocolate and half milk chocolate, making them just a tiny bit healthy. This recipe from Crave Brothers Mascarpone uses mascarpone cheese in the recipe, along with heavy cream, making the candies quite velvety.

Buttery Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles

4 ounces each of high-quality bittersweet and milk chocolate

4 ounces mascarpone, at room temperature

2/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier orange-flavored liqueur or any type of liqueur that suits your fancy

Put ingredients in a double boiler or place a bowl over simmering water without allowing the bowl to touch the water. Stir ingredients until the mixture is creamy, smooth and warm. Remove from heat, cover and chill overnight. To make the truffles, roll a bit of the mixture into 1-inch balls and then roll in 1 cup finely chopped walnuts. Some red and white sprinkles can be added to the nut mixture for a colorful look.

  • ????

Here is another red velvet recipe from McCormick. It is for a fluffy mousse with the color of the red velvet cakes and cookies. Using heavy cream gives it a rich taste.

Red Velvet Mousse with Vanilla Whipped Cream

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided

1 tablespoon red food color

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

Microwave chocolate in medium microwaveable bowl on high for1 minute; stir. Microwave additional 30 seconds at a time, stirring until chocolate is smooth and melted. Add 1/4 cup cream; stir until smooth. Stir in food color and vanilla. Let stand 10 minutes to cool slightly. Beat heavy cream and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Stir in half of the chocolate mixture until well blended. Gently stir in remaining chocolate mixture. Spoon into serving dishes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon whipped cream on mousse just before serving. Makes six servings.

  • ????

This is not a red velvet recipe but is a creamy chocolate pie recipe that will wow family and guests. It also tells how to make the crust for the single 9-inch pie crust and is from the Family Circle magazine.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Pie Crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup each cold unsalted butter and shortening, cut into small pieces

With a pastry blender, cut shortening and butter into flour mixture, or rub with fingertips until consistency of coarse meal. Mix in 3 tablespoons cold water with a fork. Gather into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees. On a floured surface, roll pastry into a 13-inch circle, coating with flour as needed. Run a spatula under crust if dough sticks. Roll pastry onto rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold crust under to form a stand-up edge. Pinch two fingers together against inside of crust and with opposite index finger press against outside edge to flute. Continue around crust. Chill until oven is heated. Use fork to make holes in the crust and then line with foil. Fill foil with pie weights or dry beans. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Bake 8 to 10 more minutes until golden brown. Cool before filling.


5.9-ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix

1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups half and half

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine pudding mix, cocoa powder, half and half, milk and vanilla. Whisk 2 to 3 minutes then pour into baked crust. Refrigerate. Combine 2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon water, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin in a small saucepan. Melt over low heat for 3 minutes. Cool slightly. Whip 1 cup heavy cream until frothy. While beating, add gelatin mixture in a thin stream. Beat until stiff peaks form. Spread over chocolate filling and dust with cocoa powder if desired.

  • ????

If you want to give a unique gift for Valentine’s Day, prepare a jar of chocolate cookie mix. It has most of the ingredients layered in a 2-quart jar and can be made in a hurry. Put a paper dollie over the jar lid and tie a red bow around it.

Layered Chocolate Cookie Mix

2-quart jar

2 3/4 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar

3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 cup red M&M candies

1 cup each semisweet chocolate and white chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, blend cocoa and remaining 1 cup flour. Begin layering by spooning half the flour-cocoa mixture into the jar. Press down to flatten ingredients. A small spice jar works well for this. Spoon half the plain flour mixture over cocoa layer and compact it down. Repeat.

Top with brown sugar layer and granulated sugar layer, compacting each time. Spoon on M&Ms. Toss both kinds of chips in a small bowl and add to the jar.

Attach a note to the jar with these baking instructions:

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup cooled, melted butter with 3 eggs, 1/3 cup milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir in contents of jar just until mixed. Drop by a heaping tablespoon onto baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes or until firm. Cool on sheet for 1 minute and remove to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

(McCoy can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com.)