Rachel's Table

Valentine’s Day and Afternoon Delight

As a youngster in elementary school, I enjoyed exchanging cards and candy with my friends while eating cupcakes and cheese doodles off heart-shaped plates.  But once I grew up, Valentine’s Day seemed all hype and no heart.

Take the obligatory Valentine’s Day dinner, for example. I have never felt anything other than pressure in the air while sitting among other couples nibbling on their dimly lit, overpriced five courses. Love has nothing to do with the overblown expectations of elaborately boxed chocolates, dozens of red roses, and heart-shaped jewelry.

vday tuxedo

Ugh. Source

Don’t even get me started on the clichéd Valentine’s Day desserts ending those expensive meals: oozing molten lava cake, chocolate mousse with a single raspberry on top, white chocolate roses for garnish, and the biggest culprit of them all – chocolate-covered strawberries, especially chocolate-covered strawberries dressed like tuxedos. It is February. Strawberries are not in season, and THEY DO NOT WEAR CLOTHES.

Valentine’s Day creates a wide divide among our society: on one side are those that celebrate it and on the other side are those that annihilate it. This isn’t just a couples versus singles issue. I know plenty of friends in secure, loving relationships who roll their eyes and call Valentine’s Day “a Hallmark holiday.”

As you can tell, I’m mostly on the annihilate side. Well, until I met my husband. I know what you think I’m going to say, “I met my husband and everything changed! SWOON!” Nope. I still don’t believe in all the hype, but he did change my mind about the essence, the heart of the day when he presented me with a poem on our first Valentine’s Day together. Because the poem was so full of playful language and internal rhyme and wasn’t accompanied by any tuxedo-ed strawberries, I knew we would be together for possibly forever. (In fact, he proposed three days later.) This was the line that got me:

“I found a perfect and most precious little rose of red…the red I saw, such red as this, that each petal claimed as art would take da Vinci seven Lisa’s just for a head start”

Okay, SWOON!

So while we won’t be going out for a romantic dinner on or near February 14, we will celebrate the day in our way: he will write me a poem and I will cook something special.

This year, just for him, I perfected the most clichéd Valentine’s Day dessert of all time – chocolate cake – by combining it with his favorite beverage, BEER!  But not just any beer – the aptly named Afternoon Delight, a coffee-infused porter brewed locally by Iron Hill Brewery.

All the hype aside, I guess I do see the heart in Valentine’s Day, especially since I’m blessed to spend it with my poem-writing, beer-loving husband. (Let’s just hope he doesn’t buy me any tuxedo-ed strawberries this year.) 

Don't mind if I do

Don’t mind if I do

Porter-Infused Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Whipped Cream (a.k.a Afternoon Delight)

Adapted from this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. I used less flour, less sugar, a different beer, and added chocolate chips.

1 cup porter or stout (Any super dark beer will do here. Although I made this with Iron Hill’s Belgian Tripel as well, and it was delicious.)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a 9 inch pan or a bundt pan ( I used a springform pan because I couldn’t find my bundt pan. It’s not as pretty as a bundt cake but it does the job.) Bring the porter and the butter to a simmer over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.

J.K. Rowling was onto something with this whole butter beer thing

J.K. Rowling was on to something with this whole butter beer thing

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add porter-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on low speed. Add the chocolate chips. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in the pan before turning it onto a serving dish.

The top of this cake gets all crystallized, crackly, and crunchy

The top of this cake gets all crystallized, crackly, and crunchy

For the whipped cream:

Pour the heavy cream into a chilled bowl. Using a whisk and some elbow grease, whisk the cream until peaks are just about to form. Add the confectioners sugar and the vanilla and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Serve a dollop or two on top of the cake.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!


{This post is part of the Weekly Writing Challenge: My Funny Valentine? on The Daily Post. Visit the post to read more stories and thoughts on Valentine’s Day.}


    • Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours (especially Miss J and the adorable C)!

      When I made this cake I ate it for breakfast, which is the best time of day to eat cake, in my opinion, especially beer cake.

  1. Hmmm, I do have some leftover Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter beer in the fridge. That would be one way to use it. Hope your Valentine’s day is sweet and full of rhyme. And no tuxed up berries!! 😉

    • Tuxed berries be damned, Misty! I say your beer would go perfectly in this cake – and you could make peanut butter frosting. I think we’re onto something here.

      Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Rachel, I love Smitten kitchen! That’s where I get my blondie recipe from (among others).
    But is it okay that I in fact love to make strawberries in tuxedos? I’m a Virgo, I can’t help myself!

    • I’m a Virgo, too, so why don’t I like tuxedo-ed berries? I just don’t think they’re that tasty – especially when strawberries are out of season. But give me in-season strawberries and MELTED chocolate. SWOON.

      Happy Valentine’s Day, Samara!

      • I meant, I’m just anal enough to enjoy the painstaking work of making the little suckers!

        I posted pics of my Christmas cookies on “In which I decide not to give up blogging” – you’ll see what a little stickler for detail I am!!!

        Happy Valentine’s day to you too! xo!

      • Ah yes, the perfection element in us makes these types of tasks more (and less sometimes) enjoyable.

        Those cookies look store-bought. Kudos to you and your Virgo-ness.

  3. You are both too cute for words and I have just officially made you both my Valentines. I have always been shamelessly enthusiastic about every bit of Valentine’s Day up to and including black tie-bearing fruit, no matter my relationship status, because what’s better than a holiday that celebrates love AND chocolate?!?!

    Local strawberries
    Are dapper and delicious;
    Let me feed you some.

    P.S. – I love those curtains.

    • You’re my Valentine every day, Jules! I know – the love part of the day got me too. But I’m still not giving in to this tuxedo thing–my practicality can’t comprehend taking the time to dress up fruit.

      You’re my Valentine
      For you I would wear a tux
      But fruit should be nude

      PS – Thanks for noticing!

  4. I am right there with you on Valentine’s Day — going out to a restaurant filled with other people trying to have THE MOST ROMANTIC NIGHT EVER always made me feel awkward and a bit sad.

    What started as my husband and I being grad students who were way too poor to afford restaurants, turned into a Valentine’s tradition that I love. We always stay in — he brings home some grocery store flowers and a nicer than usual bottle of red wine, I go to the fancy market and buy nicer than usual ingredients — and then we throw on some music, cook dinner together, and just hang out. It’s the best.

    And this year it will be even better since now I have a kickass chocolate cake recipe to use. Thanks!

    • Your comments are like a Valentine’s Day treat!

      Yes, it’s the pressure for everything to be perfect and like you said, for that one night to be THE MOST ROMANTIC AND MAGICAL DAY OF THE YEAR. That’s exactly why we stay in, too!

      I’ve already bought my nicer-than-usual bottle of wine – can’t wait to open it Friday night!

      Hope you enjoy the cake!

  5. I think I have kind of a similar mindset – the holiday may be crass in its creation and broad execution, but the essence of it is pretty great. It’s really just the same idea as Thanksgiving with a slightly more sexy inclination.

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  7. Oh no! I love chocolate covered strawberries (minus the tux)!!! I know they are not in season but they are still juicy and delish! Especially when a dark and handsome Mr. Brickhouse feeds them to me. 🙂

    • I do enjoy a really good chocolate covered strawberry, but I prefer strawberries with melted chocolate for dipping. I wonder how Mr. Brickhouse would feed you melted chocolate…:)

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