This post combines two things I don’t normally care about: tailoring blog recipes to specific seasonal food-related occasions, and Valentine’s Day. You won’t find me whipping up treats for National Tempura Day, National Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day or World Tripe Day (if you needed proof that these ‘food days’ are just the farcical inventions of bored and desperate PR companies and marketing boards, there it is: World Tripe Day), because there is apparently some silly culinary designation for every single day of the year now, so by that logic I would never ever be able to make a spontaneous decision regarding what I cook. I can also take or leave Valentine’s Day, and it certainly doesn’t inspire me with culinary ambition (if I see one more hackneyed recipe feature telling me that I must serve oysters and fillet steak on the special day, I might find a decidedly more violent use for my oyster knife).
But then Lindt sent me these sweet little heart-shaped chocolates, and it seemed only right to do something with them other than drag their consumption out over a six-month period (I have a notoriously low susceptibility to the addictive powers of chocolate) while sitting in front of War and Peace in my onesie.
These cakes, in true Valentine’s spirit, combine a few ingredients that I love. The butterscotch crunch of toasted pecans. The earthy, flapjack quality of warm oats. Sweet, copper maple syrup, with its notes of toffee and vanilla. Woody, spicy nutmeg, whose allure for me is clear from the title of this blog. They’re based on a recipe for madeleines from my favourite pastry blog, Pastry Studio, but are made in a muffin tin instead, and I added extra pecans and toasted the oats for more of a nutty flavour. While still warm, these little cakes are brushed with maple syrup and adorned with a milk chocolate heart. They’re quite understated – no fancy red velvet or smotherings of whipped cream here – but I love the warm, golden hues and the comforting aroma of toasted nuts and maple syrup.
The best part of these cakes is the moist, buttery centre, coupled with the smooth, velvety chocolate heart. They’re not too sweet, but instead are wonderfully fragrant with nuts, oats and vanilla, and a hint of nutmeg, a warming blanket for the rich Lindt chocolate. If you’re not fussed about overly fancy Valentine’s treats, you could do a lot worse than make these dainty little cakes for your loved ones (and if you eschew the idea of heart-shaped edibles, use chocolate buttons instead!)
Thank you to Elle and Lindt for the chocolate!
Little maple and pecan heart cakes (makes 12):
- 85g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp maple syrup, plus 2 tbsp extra to glaze
- 25g rolled oats
- 30g pecan nuts
- 75g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 40g golden caster sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 12 mini chocolate hearts, to decorate
- Icing sugar, to decorate
Pre-heat the oven to 190C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
Melt the butter and maple syrup in a small pan and set aside to cool.
Put the pecans in a baking dish and toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Add the oats and toast for another 2 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
Put the pecans, oats, flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a mini food processor and blitz to a fine powder.
Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar on high speed for around 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and frothy and the whisk leaves ribbons on the surface when removed. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
Fold a third of the flour mix into the eggs until incorporated, then another third, then the remainder, trying not to knock any air out of the batter. Fold in a third of the butter and syrup, then another third, then the remainder – again, do this gently until just incorporated each time.
Divide the mixture between the holes in the muffin tin. Bake for 12 minutes, until golden and the cakes spring back when pressed. Leave to cool for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack.
Brush the cakes with a little maple syrup while still hot, then press a chocolate heart onto the top of each cake. Leave to cool completely, then dust with icing sugar and serve.