These pretty baby cakes with a tasty raspberry-lemon filling are a delightful way to say, “You’re special.” The lovely play between the sweet jam and the citrus whipped cream, cradled between two layers of vanilla cake, will make almost anyone feel pampered.
The dessert is made in two stages, so you can start preparing it well in advance. Bake the cake first; it can be wrapped airtight and chilled for a day or frozen for a week, just defrost it before proceeding with the recipe. Then, prepare and add the filling on the day you serve it.
Unfamiliar with lemon curd? It’s a rich, thick lemon custard that the English spoon onto everything from toast to scones to tart shells. You can find it in grocery stores, usually in either the jam section or the baking section of the store. If you don’t have time to whip the cream for the filling, just slather a little lemon curd on the raspberry jam; it will be quite good by itself.
I like to sprinkle a few fresh raspberries, moistened with raspberry liqueur, on the plate when I serve the sweethearts.
Makes 9 3-inch cakes or 4 4-inch cakes; total time: 2 hours
Adjusted for altitudes of 7,000 feet and above. Make on a 12-by-18-inch shiny metal baking sheet with sides that are at least 1-inch high.
For the cake:
2¼ cups flour (spoon and level in cup)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still slightly warm
1 cup whole milk
For the filling:
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla or paste
¼ cup of lemon curd, commercial or homemade
For optional decoration:
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pan with nonstick aluminum foil or with parchment paper, letting the foil/paper extend several inches beyond the pan on two sides to use as handles when removing the cake. If any part of the pan is not covered by the lining, grease it well.
Make the batter: Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Set the bowl aside. Combine the room-temperature eggs, the sugar and the vanilla in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very pale and thick enough to make a ribbon when the beaters are raised. With the mixer at medium-low speed, drizzle in the melted butter, then the milk until thoroughly mixed. Stop the mixer, add the flour mixture and, on low speed, beat only until the batter is combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling it half full (even if you have some batter left over).
Bake until the cake colors on top and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean, 25-28 minutes. Remove the cake to a cooling rack and cool completely. At this point, you can cover the cake and chill it for several hours or freeze before continuing with the recipe.
Cut out the hearts: Using a 3-inch or a 4-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many hearts as you can from the cooled cake. Try not to twist the cookie cutter as you cut the hearts as it may cause them to break or crack. Using the foil/paper handles, carefully remove the cake from the pan. Gently separate the hearts from the surrounding cake and, with a metal spatula, lift and place them on a sheet of waxed paper.
Make the filling: Stir the raspberry jam until it’s fluid and spreadable. If necessary, warm it slightly. Spread the jam on the bottom of each of the hearts and return them to the waxed paper, jam side up. Whip the cream, with the sugar and vanilla, until it forms firm peaks. Add two tablespoons of the lemon curd and stir to combine. Taste the filling and decide if it is sufficiently tart. If you desire, add more lemon curd. Spread about a teaspoon (for 3-inch hearts; a little more for 4-inch hearts) over the raspberry jam on half of the hearts. You may have some of the whipped cream mixture left over. Top this with another heart, raspberry jam-side down.
Serve them immediately or refrigerate them for up to a day before doing so. Sieve powdered sugar over each heart before serving. Decorate with fresh raspberries bathed, quickly, in raspberry liqueur (optional).
This is a variation of a Bon Appetit recipe.
Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe). Contact her at email@example.com.