Valentine’s Day Surprise Cake

I got a couple requests on my instagram to share the recipe I used for the Valentine’s Day heart surprise cake I baked a couple days ago, so I thought I’d share it here, on my poor neglected blog. If you haven’t seen one before, a surprise cake is a cake that reveals a shape, or maybe an unusual filling, baked inside the cake when you cut a slice. I’d never baked a cake like this before, so honestly… I just used box mixes to create this! I think sometimes it’s just better to use a box mix so you know what to expect, both in terms of cake texture and baking time, when you’re trying a new technique. Plus, while this cake is beginner-friendly, it is a bit time intensive, and who wants to spend extra time measuring anyway?

OK, so I sort of hate when a blogger puts their life story before a recipe, so I won’t do that to you, but there are a lot of steps to make this cake — and I’ve got a lot of tips and trick to help you pull it off. Read on for some (I hope) helpful pointers on exactly how I got an adorable pink heart to show up inside a chocolate cake.

What you’ll need:

A box of white cake mix
A box of chocolate cake mix
Eggs, oil, and water
red food dye
A medium or small heart-shaped cookie cutter
9×13 cake pan (or as big as you have)
9×5 (standard) loaf pan
Frosting and sprinkles (for decoration)

  1. Start by pre-heating your oven, and grease and lightly flour a 9″x13″ (or as large as you have) cake pan.
  2. Make a box of white cake batter according to the instructions on the box. Before mixing, add several drops of red food dye. You can eyeball this to get a shade you like. (Tip: Try to eliminate as many lumps as you can to help avoid white splotches inside your pink cake, but don’t worry to much about it — some lumps will be inevitable and you want to be careful not to over-mix the cake, or it will come out dense and flat.)
  3. Pour the cake batter into the greased and floured 9×13 cake pan and bake according to the box instructions.
  4. After it’s done baking, turn out onto a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely. (Tip: Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before trying to turn it out — long enough to let it set, but not so long that it sticks to the pan.)
  5. Once your cake is completely cool, use your cookie cutter to cut the shapes from the cake. Carefully use a knife to shave the browned “crust” edges off both sides to ensure pretty pink shapes. Alternately, you can use a long knife to level the top of the cake before you start cutting shapes. (Tip: A cold cake is easier to handle. Pop the cake in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before cutting.)
  6. Now that you have your shapes, prep your loaf pan and mix the chocolate cake batter per the box instructions.
  7. Spoon about an inch-thick layer of chocolate batter into the bottom of the loaf pan. Carefully place your hearts in the loaf pan, upright and side by side. Try to keep them even and aligned for best results. (Tip: They should be slightly nestled into the batter to keep them from tipping over, but should not touch the bottom of the pan.)
  8. Use a spoon to add the remaining chocolate batter along the sides of the hearts, then over the top. The loaf pan should be about three-quarters full and the batter should be as even as possible across the top. (Tip: Tap the side of the pan a few times to make eliminate air bubbles.)
  9. Bake according to box instructions — The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool completely, then frost and decorate with sprinkles, candy hearts or however you like! I think a thick layer of buttercream on top is probably best, but a nice icing/glaze could be pretty too. (Tip: Because the sides of a loaf pan are slanted, frosting the sides is probably more trouble than its worth, unless you like A LOT of frosting.)