Ever since St. Valentine drew a picture of a heart and wrote inside it "From your Valentine" back in 270 A.D., hearts have been a symbol of love. If this saint was still around today, his message would be even sweeter written in buttercream frosting on a heart-shape cake.
In honor of St. Valentine, hand some cake-decorating supplies to your kids and help them write sweet messages in icing.
HEART MAKERS: Start by baking your favorite cake mix according to package directions in a heart-shaped pan. You can buy these special pans, mini or regular size, from most kitchen supply and hardware stores. Or, bake your cake batter in a 9-inch square and a 9-inch circle pan (the square pan must have sides the same length as the circle's diameter). Cut the circular cake in half and set each semicircle against adjoining sides of the square to form the top of the heart. The other two sides of the square form the point.
THE ICING ON THE CAKE: With an electric mixer, cream the frosting ingredients together until smooth. Cool the cake completely, brush away the crumbs, and frost it, reserving a portion of the icing for decorating. Divide the leftover icing into small bowls and tint each one with a different color of food coloring (for stronger shades, use specialty pastes, which are available at kitchen supply and party stores).
DECORATING SUPPLIES: Fancy frosting designs are easy to create using an icing filled pastry bag with decorating tips. You can buy starter kits at grocery, kitchen supply, and party stores. Kits that come with disposable pastry bags, three to four tips, and a coupler for changing tips cost between $3 and $6. When choosing tips, keep in mind that the most versatile ones are the writing, star, and leaf. Before decorating the cake, kids should first practice writing with the frosting on waxed paper.
Use the writing tip's plain line for letters, leaf stems, squiggles, dots and outlines.
Make stars with the star tip by holding the tip straight down near the cake and squeezing until the star forms. For a neat finish, stop the pressure before pulling away. The star tip also makes a pretty border around the cake.
The leaf tip makes a ribbon with a ridge down the center. For a leaf, squeeze out the icing to form the bottom edge, then relax the pressure and pull the tip away to make a rippling leaf.