Baked Sunday Mornings: Conversation Heart Cakes (Black Velvet Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting)

In honor of Valentine's Day, the gentlemen bakers offer a recipe for Conversation Heart Cakes -- two layers of heart-shaped black velvet cake filled and covered with vanilla cream cheese frosting.

People often ask me what makes my red velvet cake red. The answer is simple -- red food dye. In the same way, if you want to make this black velvet cake black, you need black food dye. I tested this recipe before Baked Occasions was published and included black dye. While the deep black color made for a striking presentation, I don't think artificially-colored black food is very appetizing. So I decided to skip the dye this time.

This dessert is essentially the cake from the Red Hot Velvet Cake combined with the cream cheese frosting from the Gonzo Cake. To make the cake batter, you cream room temperature butter and shortening; add sugar and beat until light and fluffy; add eggs; and then alternately add the sifted dry ingredients (cake flour and salt) and the liquid ingredients (buttermilk, vanilla, and cocoa powder that has been dissolved in boiling water). The recipe calls for a 50-50 mixture of dark cocoa powder and black cocoa powder, but Valrhona was all I had, so that's what I used. (There was a time when my standard cocoa powder was King Arthur Flour's Double Dutch Cocoa Powder, which is a mix of Dutch cocoa and black cocoa -- but now I buy Valrhona in bulk and so I don't keep any other cocoa on hand.) The final step is to incorporate baking soda that's been dissolved in cider vinegar. You pour the batter into a parchment-lined half sheet pan and bake. 
After the cake has cooled completely in the pan, you stick it in the freezer for a bit to firm up before cutting. I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter that is 4.5-inches across at the widest point and I was able to cut 11 hearts from the sheet; if I had been a bit more judicious about planning out my cuts, I probably could have managed to get 12.

The cream cheese frosting is the same used in the Purple Velvet Gonzo Cake -- a mixture of softened butter, softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. I dyed the frosting pink, assembled the cakes, and decorated them with ivory-colored Valentine's Day messages written in melted white chocolate.
This is a delicious cake. The cake had a delicate chocolate flavor. Of course, without the benefit of black dye, the color of the cake was not very dark due to the scant amount of cocoa. But what I love most about this cake is the extraordinary texture. This is the first"velvet" cake of any sort I've made where the texture was actually velvet-y; it was dense, but very soft and plush. It's strange, because when I made this exact same cake as part of the Red Hot Velvet Cake -- except with red dye and baked in three 8-inch pans instead of a half sheet pan -- I didn't think much of it. But the cake texture was definitely not as impressive the previous time that I made it. Perhaps this recipe just excels when baked in a half sheet pan (a half sheet pan does not have equivalent volume to three 8-inch round pans, so I would expect the cakes to bake differently between the different pan options).

And even though I couldn't a perfectly smooth finish on the finished cakes, the frosting is delicious. These cute little cakes are lovely, for Valentine's Day or any occasion.

Recipe: "Conversation Heart Cakes" from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

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Katrina said…
I love how your frosting and cursive white chocolate turned out! Now I see what I missed out on :)
Robyn said…
Your cake is so cute! It's interesting to see what the cake layers look like without all the black food colouring. I think I would leave it out next time too.
Sheri said…
So pretty. As always!
Drew Watts said…
Hey this heart cake is looking superb. I love the baby pink color. I am craving on this cute cake. Thanks dear for sharing the recipes. I will definitely try it at the home. At some popular party venues I just attended a fairy wedding and the fairy themed cake over there was also very pretty and delicious as well!
Anonymous said…
Gorgeous!! You are a master cake writer-- your script is just perfect. :) I left out the food coloring too, and I was surprised at how light the cake was. I agree on the lovely texture.