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Valentine delights Holiday treats are easy, fast

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

DESSERTS don't have to be a labor of love. Take the treats you adore and spruce them up a bit with some inexpensive ideas.

Valentine's Day, once exclusively reserved for sweethearts, has expanded to include parents, children, other relatives and frie list.

But you don't need a dozen red roses, expensive chocolates or a pricey dinner to celebrate. Our economical ideas are simple variations on the tried-and-true. Best of all, these recipes are elegant enough for a candlelight dinner but make enough to feed a group.

An ordinary cake, for example, takes on a whole new dimension baked in a heart-shaped pan. Nine-inch heart-shaped pans are selling at local cake decorating stores for about $6. For a special sensation, we offer an easy pound cake recipe, see below, sweetened with Chambord liqueur and raspberry preserves.

If you don't have a heart-shaped pan, try this neat trick. Using one two-layer box of cake mix, bake one 8-inch square and one 8-inch round cake. Cut the round cake in half and, following diagram below, place the halves on adjoining sides of the square cake. Frost the entire cake and serve. Tip: this cake will be difficult to move once it is assembled. Be sure to put it together on a very large cake plate or even a heavy-duty sheet of cardboard, covered with foil.

Even a round cake can look festive if festooned with hearts and flowers. A wide variety of edible hearts, flowers and Cupids are ready-made and available inexpensively at cake decorating stores.

For example, a package of six small red hearts is $1.79 at the Cake Cottage in Bel Air. Candy Cupids are available in packages of three, from 1- to 3-inches tall.

Nancy Wiggenhorn, manager, says cake decorations can be made from sugar or from royal icing. The royal icing decorations have a smoother taste, she says.

Another option is to buy holiday ribbon and wrap it around the cake, securing it with toothpicks or icing. For best results, rTC choose a ribbon that is at least 1/2 inch smaller than the height of the cake. Remove the ribbon before cutting the cake.

Cupcakes are an economical way to feed a bevy of sweethearts. Your favorite cupcake recipe will win rave revies baked in heart-shaped pans. A cupcake pan with six single-serving hearts is selling at cake decorating stores for about $8. One two-layer cake mix will make between 20 and 24 mini-heart cakes.

Give regular-size cupcakes a romantic edge with 6-inch-diameter lace doilies. Spray the entire cupcake tin, including the top, with a non-stick vegetable spray. Insert a pink paper liner into each tin. Fold the white paper doilies into eighths, fan-fashion. Unfold them and very carefully press them into the cupcake tins. Holding the doilies apart with your fingers, spoon your favorite cupcake batter into the tins, filling each tin about 2/3 full. Bake according to directions. Sift a little powdered sugar over the baked, cooled cupcakes.

Bake your favorite sugar cookie recipe, using a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place a dab of raspberry preserves in the center or decorate with heart-shaped candies. Attach the candies, available at any dime store, with a little white icing.

Ice cream is a favorite recipe any day of the year. It takes on extra appeal when molded into this pretty ice cream roll. This recipe has been adapted from "Pillsbury Classic Holiday Cookbooks" 1991.

Valentine's day ice cream roll

Makes about 10 servings.

1 quart vanilla ice cream

1 quart strawberry ice cream

1 package frozen strawberries, optional

1 can strawberry-flavored cake icing, optional

mint leaves and fresh berries for garnish

Line a jellyroll or baking pan, about 15-by-10-by-1-inch with waxed paper. Waxed paper should extend about 2 inches on either side. Soften vanilla ice cream and spread in pan. Let freeze for about one hour.

Let strawberry ice cream soften. Meanwhile, pulverize frozeberries, a little at a time, and sprinkle on top of vanilla ice cream. Spread softened strawberry ice cream on top of berries. Let freeze for about two hours. Ice cream should be solid but not rock hard. If the ice cream is too hard it will crack when you try to roll it.

Remove ice cream from pan. To roll, loosen long sides of ice cream from paper. Working quickly, lift short end of paper and turn over end of ice cream, pressing with fingers to start roll. Roll-up jelly roll fashion, peeling paper back and continuing to lift paper and roll ice cream to end. Discard paper. Place ice cream roll, seam side down on freezer proof platter. Freeze until firm. Working very quickly, spread roll with strawberry-flavored icing. If icing refuses to stick place entire roll in freezer and try again. Let icing harden and, if you like, use a fork to make a wavy pattern on top of ice cream roll.

Slice with very sharp knife. Dip knife in hot water between slices.

Garnish with berries and mint leaves.

Heart-shaped cake

Serves 12.

1 16-ounce pound cake mix

1 10-ounce jar seedless raspberry preserves

chambord, or other raspberry-flavored liqueur

confectioners sugar, sifted

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray sides and bottom of 9-inch heart-shaped pan with non-stick vegetable spray. Cut a sheet of wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan and also spray.

Prepare pound cake mix according to package directions and pour batter into pan.

Bake the cake for about 35 to 40 minutes, checking frequently after 30 minutes for doneness. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Loosen sides with a knife. Remove cake from pan and let sit until completely cool.

Slice cake in half horizontally. Sprinkle Chambord on bottom layer, using at least 1/4 cup and up to 3/4 cup. Warm raspberry preserves in microwave until soft and spreadable. Using a knife, spread the preserves on top of the Chambord-sprinkled cake. Replace top of cake. Decorate with sifted confectioners sugar.

This recipe, from Pillsbury, is a new twist on a time-honored dessert: brownies.

Brownie lover hearts

Makes eight to 10 brownies.

1 21 1/2 -ounce package brownie mix

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup oil

1 egg

1 can swirl vanilla or milk chocolate frosting with fudge swirl

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 13-by-9-inch pan with foil; grease bottom. In large bowl, combine all brownie ingredients; beat 50 strokes with spoon. Spread in greased pan. Bake for 33 to 35 minutes or until set. Do not overbake. Cool completely. Freeze brownies for a half hour.

Lift foil to remove brownies from pan; place on cutting board. Using 2 1/2 -inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out eight to 10 brownie hearts.

In small saucepan, melt frosting over low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth; keep warm. Line cookie sheet with waxed paper. Place wire rack on waxed paper. Place brownies on wire rack. Quickly spoon frosting over brownies, covering completely. Refrigerate 15 to 20 minutes or until frosting is set.

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