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Hearts and flowers are fast approaching

We can see easily that this baking pan will produce heart shapes
We can see easily that this baking pan will produce heart shapes

I was shopping today at Safeway in Tucson and I happened across a couple of items aimed at preparing for Valentine's Day. One was a set of heart-shaped cookie cutters in graduated sizes, which I bought, and the other was a muffin tin or cupcake baking pan in heart shapes. Seeing both of them at the same time drove my mind forward to the February holiday which is straight ahead.

I thought that the heart-shaped baking pan would be perfect for a red-and-white dessert, and for that you might want to think about making a Fairy Cake, or cupcakes from the same recipe. If I decide to do that I will have to keep my eyes open for another pan, which I am sure is being handled by several stores at this time of year.

A Fairy Cake is a white cake that is made to be the base for delicate decorations. When my mind goes to artistic cake decorations I always drop by Michael's in Tucson, because they have many ready-made items that can be applied to cakes and cookies. But another source for decorative items would be the King Arthur Flour Company online, because they rotate their baking items faithfully through the year. I just got their January catalog, and it features Valentine's Day and chocolate. Among the items they feature are pretty posies made of sugar that would look lovely on either cookies or cupcakes, heart-shaped cutters and many colored sugars that you might not find on the supermarket shelf.

Walmart in Tucson also has a cake-decorating section, and if I can judge from the traffic at the store nearest my house, they do a brisk business in cake-decorating gear. So if I am going to check them out, this week would be a good time because people who are specialists in decorating are going to clean those items out pretty soon.

Another option for a Fairy Cake is the Mary Ann pan. This is a pan with an indentation baked into the top so that you can top it with something like a light lemon curd or tinted frosting. A Mary Ann cake is very pretty, and you can get one from the King Arthur Flour Company online.

I am planning to make white rolled sugar cookies in various heart shapes to take to my church's Sunday coffee hour, but you may be up for much more than that. If you are, I definitely suggest the heart-shaped cupcake pan--it is quite elaborate--and the following recipe for Fairy Cake that will turn out something worthy of the most fetching bouquets of icing flowers.



2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg whites at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the baking pan for whatever form you will bake with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl and set it aside.

Beat the egg whites with the sugar until they become light and fluffy. Beat in the butter 1 stick at a time until the ingredients are completely combined. Beat in the vanilla and finally the milk.

Lower the mixer speed to its lowest setting and fold in the dry ingredients in three parts. Stop mixing as soon as the ingredients are mixed.

Transfer the batter to muffin tins, or a single 9-inch layer. Bake for 30 minutes and test to see if the center of the cake springs back when touched. Remove the cake(s) from the oven and let them cool in the pan on a wire rack until they have cooled. Frost and decorate.

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