8-Bit Heart Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

Hello friends! I hope you all had a happy Valentine's Day and that you're surviving the subsequent sugar comma.

In general, I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day. As someone who is obsessed with holidays, it's probably my least favorite. There is just so much pink (not a fan of the color). And it really is amateur hour. Plus, an overpriced prix fixe dinner at an overcrowded restaurant really doesn't make my list of enjoyable outings. Keep it.

Last year my office hosted a baking contest for Valentine's Day and, while most people brought in adorable heart cookies and cakes, my slightly twisted and morbid self whipped up a 4-layer bloody anatomical heart cake. Red velvet flavor. Super tasty.

I mean, it's a heart, so it fits, right? I ended up taking home first prize and my coworkers were simultaneously impressed and disgusted. Mission: success.

As far as holidays are concerned, we can skip ahead to Easter. And then take me quickly to my faves: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Please and thank you.

All that said, I never pass up the opportunity to bake something tasty and Valentine's Day is certainly an excuse to do so. If you're going to give a sweet treat for Valentine's Day I whole-heartily believe in going homemade. Anyone can go to the store and pick up candies. When it's homemade, it's more special because you took the time to make it. I go the homemade route whenever possible. And this year I decided to whip up a chocolate-covered strawberry cupcake recipe topped with an 8-bit heart appropriate for our nerdy household.

These tasty noms were the perfect addition to our simple Valentine's Day evening. Our usual Friday night is sushi and video games at home. This Friday was no different because, like I said, going out on Valentine's Day sounds awful and I wanted sushi. Despite the fact that we both pretty much agree we don't need to do much of anything for each other on Valentine's Day (he constantly spoils me throughout the year so it's really not necessary), I did come home to an unexpected gorgeous flower arrangement, a bottle of wine and a sweet card. 100% unnecessary but seriously, he is so thoughtful and I love him.

Of course, after that display, I got right to work on whipping up these cupcakes to repay him. I had made the 8-bit heart candies the night prior which I highly recommend you do as well. The candies need time to harden and if you decide to add the extra details to them, that part can get a bit time-consuming.

Of course, you could just go with more simplistic candies and skip the extra details I painted on but I felt like, for my candies, I needed that something extra to make that look more reminiscent of an 8-bit heart from the video games.

To make the edible paint for the detail on the hearts, I used a mixture of edible adhesive, luster dust and a little bit of water, applied with a paintbrush. There are many different methods you could use to get the same effect. Royal icing would work as well.

The cupcakes themselves have a strawberry filling in the center. I just used store-bought jam this time around. I do recommend picking up a jam that has some of the fruit mixed in, rather than a super sugary overprocessed jelly. I just think it balances much better with the chocolate and makes for a better cupcake.

The great thing about these cupcakes is they are pretty standard chocolate so, in reality, you can use any filling you want. I've actually made this same cupcake recipe previously with raspberry jam and also with peppermint cream cheese filling. It lends itself to experimentation and flexibility so have fun with it!

We also decided to pop open a bottle of creme de cassis we picked up at Cassis Monna & Filles when we were in Quebec City a few years ago. It made a delightful Valentine's cocktail to accompany the cupcakes: one shot of the creme de cassis topped off with champagne.

Whether you love celebrating Valentine's Day or you're like me and it's not really your thing, these cupcakes are sure to delight. Hope you all enjoy!

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~ Ingredients ~

(Makes 12)

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. sugar
½ c. cacao powder (cocoa will also work)
2 eggs
¾ c. vegetable oil
½ c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
Strawberry jam

Whipped Cream Icing

2 c. heavy whipping cream
½ c. confectioners sugar
1 package (3.6 oz.) Godiva dark chocolate pudding mix

8-Bit Hearts

Red candy melts
8-bit silicone heart mold (like this one from Amazon)
Edible adhesive
Silver luster dust

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~ Directions ~

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate larger bowl, beat together sugar and egg. Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and beat well. Mix in the cacao powder. Finally, slowly add dry ingredients and beat until combined. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners. Divide batter evenly among the cupcake liners.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the icing. In a large bowl, whip together all ingredients until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Use an apple corer or similar instrument to remove the centers from each of the cooled cupcakes. Pipe a bit of the strawberry jam into the center of each.

Recommend doing the day prior: To create the 8-bit hearts melt the red candy melts in a double-boiler until liquified. Pour the mixture into the silicone mold and place in the freezer to harden.

Once hardened, remove the hearts from the mold. Mix the luster dust with some of the edible adhesive and a little bit of water until you have a somewhat watery paste that is the right consistency to paint with. Use a paintbrush to apply the mixture to the candy hearts in whatever pattern you'd like. I painted a border around each heart and a little accent in the upper left corner.

Once all your elements are ready, pipe the whipped icing over each cupcake and top with the 8-bit heart.