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Sweet treats for a special holiday

Chocolate and Valentine's Day seem to go hand-in-hand, so this week I wanted to include some recipes especially for the holiday that feature both white and dark chocolates in varying forms.

Several of the recipes are from my favorite stash that I have compiled from the popular Taste of Home magazines through the years. These particular ones are a little more difficult to prepare, but well worth every ounce of extra fuss.

The Heart's Delight Éclair, with its easy, frozen pastry puff, is so melt-in-your-mouth good, complete with the real whipped cream and the strikingly pretty chocolate accent that tops it all off.

The Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse is a nice change of pace from heavier desserts and pies. This dessert is beautifully elegant served in a long stem cocktail glass, garnished with fresh raspberries, for an even more elegant look.

The Chocolate Cake is one of the very best recipes I've duplicated, with its rich, delectable and absolutely divine flavor.

The other two recipes are equally as spectacular and one's that fit the holiday nicely with their bright strawberry and cherry accents, mingled with the decadently sweet, chocolate confection.

Serve these up to your favorite valentine and he or she will definitely be back for more.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking.

Heart's Delight Éclairs

1 package (17 ¼ ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed

3 cups cold milk

1 package (5.1 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp. water

¼ tsp. almond extract

½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 tsp. shortening

On a lightly floured surface, roll each puff pastry sheet into a 12 inch square. Using an 11-inch heart pattern, cut each pastry into a heart shape. Place on greased baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, combine milk and pudding mix until thickened. In a mixing bowl, beat cream and ½ tsp. of vanilla until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold into pudding.

Split puff pastry hearts in half. Place one layer on serving plate. Top with a third of the pudding mixture. Repeat twice. Top with remaining pastry.

In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, water, almond extract and the remaining vanilla until smooth. Spread over the top.

Melt chocolate chips and shortening. Drizzle in diagonal lines in one direction over frosting. Beginning one inch from the side of the heart, use a sharp knife to draw right lines across the drizzled lines. Refrigerate until set. Serves 10-12.

Valentine Berries and Cream

8 squares (one ounce each) semi sweet chocolate

1 tbsp. shortening

2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

¼ cup butter, softened

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup baking cocoa

2 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream, divided

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, halved

Line a 9 inch heart-shaped or square baking pan with foil, set aside. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate and shortening, stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pan, swirling to coat bottom and 1 ½ inches up the side.

Refrigerate for one minute, then swirl the chocolate to reinforce sides of heart or square pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Using foil, lift from pan, remove foil and place chocolate heart on serving plate.

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Combine powdered sugar and cocoa, add to creamed mixture with milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Gently fold two-thirds of the whipped cream into cream cheese mixture. Spoon into heart. Fill plastic bag with remaining whipped cream. Pipe around the edge of the heart. Garnish with strawberries. Serves 8 to 10.

Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse

1 package (10 ounces) sweetened frozen raspberries, thawed

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. orange juice concentrate

2 cups whipping cream

6 ounces white baking chocolate

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¼ cup milk chocolate chips

1 tsp. vegetable oil

In a blender combine the raspberries, sugar and orange juice concentrate, cover and process until smooth. Press through sieve and discard seeds. Refrigerate sauce. In a saucepan, over low heat, cook and stir cream and white chocolate until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate for six hours or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Beat cream mixture on high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 ½ minutes (do not overbeat). Just before serving, melt chocolate chips and oil in microwave or saucepan. Spoon 2 tbps. of raspberry sauce on each plate. Pipe or spoon ½ cup chocolate mousse over sauce. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Serves 8.

Cupid's Chocolate Cake

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs

2 ½ tsp. vanilla extract, divided

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup baking cocoa

2 tsp. baking soda

1 ½ tsp. salt

2 cups water

1 cup whipping cream

¼ cup powdered sugar

Butter cream frosting recipe below

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Stir in 1 ½ tsp. vanilla. Combine dry ingredients, add to the creamed mixture alternately with water. Pour into three greased and floured 9 inch round baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. For filling, in a mixing bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Beat in powdered sugar and remaining vanilla. Place bottom cake layer on a serving plate, spread with half the filling. Repeat. Place top layer on cake, frost top and sides of cake, with butter cream frosting. Store in the refrigerator. Serves 12 to 14.

Butter Cream Frosting

1 cup butter, softened

6-7 cups powdered sugar

¼ tsp. salt

6-9 tbsp. milk

2 tsp. vanilla

In large bowl, cream butter until very fluffy. Add part of the sugar and salt and beat again. Continue adding sugar and milk in small batches, alternately, beating until very fluffy. Stir in vanilla and frost layers and side and top of cake.

Black Forest Pie

¾ cup sugar

1/3 cup baking cocoa

2 tbs. all-purpose flour

1/3 cup milk

¼ cup butter or margarine

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling, divided

1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)

Whipped topping, optional

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, flour and milk until smooth. Add butter. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for two minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into eggs. Return all to the pan. Fold in half of the pie filling. Pour into pastry shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until filling is almost set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Just before serving, top with remaining pie filling and whipped topping if desired. Serves 6 to 8.