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Chocolate Treats for Valentine’s Day!


Recipes / By Margaret M. Johnson

Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of poet Geoffrey Chaucer when the tradition of courtly love was very much in vogue. The day evolved into an occasion where lovers express their feelings for each other by giving flowers, sending cards, sipping Champagne, and offering confectionery, especially chocolate, which has grown to become synonymous with February 14. Buying a box of chocolates is always a sure thing but making a chocolate dessert is even better. These chocolate confections, two of which have connections to Ireland and one to Queen Elizabeth herself, are proven winners.

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This rich chocolate cake is served with both ice cream and whipped cream, but I love fruit compote, which can also be used to top pound cake or cupcakes. A Dublin home cook offered it to me for my cookbook Flavors of Ireland.

For the cake

9 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, roughly chopped

10 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup ground almonds

5 large eggs, separated

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

For the compote

1 1/4 cups dry white wine

1 cup pear nectar

1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

6 cloves

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-in. pieces

2 medium firm, ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-in. pieces

2 tablespoons pear brandy

  1. Make cake. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour; tap out excess.

  2. Microwave chocolate and butter and in a large glass bowl on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir once, and then return to microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in sugar. Remove from heat, add almonds, and then stir in egg yolks, one at a time.

  3. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Spoon one quarter of the egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, and then gently fold in remaining whites.

  4. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is firm. (Cake will rise, form a crust, the fall again.) Cool completely, and then run a knife around inside of pan and remove sides.

  5. Make compote. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine wine, pear nectar, brown sugar, zest and juice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until sugar dissolves. Remove cloves; set aside.

  6. Reduce heat, add apricots, raisins, cranberries, apples, and pears; simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until apples and pears are nearly tender.

  7. With a slotted spoon, transfer fruits to a bowl and return cooking liquid to pan along with cinnamon sticks and cloves. Boil liquid for about 15 minutes, or until mixture is syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup. Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves and stir in brandy.

  8. Pour liquid over fruit and stir gently to combine. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature and rewarm before serving.

  9. To serve, cut cake into slices, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve with compote.


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This tasty tart gets a boozy boost from the additional of Irish cream liqueur…you can’t bet that! The original recipe was the winner in a cooking competition sponsored by Bailey’s Irish Cream.


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk, beaten with 2 tablespoons water


8 ounces white chocolate

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur

2 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 tablespoons honey

Fresh berries, for topping

  1. Make pastry. Combine flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor. Pulse 5 to 6 times, or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half of the egg yolk mixture and process until soft dough forms. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  2. Preheat oven to 400º F. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Line a 12-inch tart pan with dough, leaving a small overlap in case of shrinkage. Cover dough with a piece of aluminum foil, fill it with pie weights, and bake for 15 minutes.

  3. Remove weights and foil, brush with remaining egg wash, and bake for 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside; reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.

  4. Make filling. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt chocolate and butter. Stir in Irish cream, remove from heat, and let cool for 20 minutes.

  5. In a large bowl, beat eggs, egg yolks, and honey with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture, and then pour into pastry shell. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling is set and top is golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

  6. To serve, cut tart into slices and serve with a few berries or fruit compote.



One of the most popular — and absolutely the most decadent — of chocolate desserts is this biscuit cake that requires no baking! I first found it on sale at Temple Bar Market, Dublin, and later discovered that it’s Queen Elizabeth’s favorite cake (Prince William also chose it as his groom’s cake for his marriage to Kate Middleton). Apparently, the Queen can’t travel without it so there’s always a tin filled with the cake nearby!

8 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped

4 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped

8 tablespoon, butter, cut into small pieces

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

8 ounces (1/2 package) digestive biscuits, such as McVitie’s brand, each biscuit broken into 2 to 3 pieces

  1. Line a 9-inch loaf tin with plastic wrap; set aside.

  2. Microwave chocolate and butter and in a large glass bowl on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir once, and then return to microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Let cool, and then stir in salt and condensed milk until smooth; stir in crumbled biscuits.

  3. Pour chocolate mixture into the prepared pan, pressing down evenly and firmly with a spatula. Smooth top and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours, or until set.

  4. To serve, cut into thin slices or small cubes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit www.irishcook.com.