Having missed posting a recipe for World Nutella Day, there was no way I was going to let Valentine's Day slip away from me. To be on the safe side, I decided to test these babies out ahead of the day itself and they turned out so well, I couldn't wait a minute more to post this. If you're planning to stay in this Sunday and are looking for something delectable but undemanding to make for your sweetheart, may I suggest these? 

Ironically, Valentine's Day was never on my list of annual highlights in my teens and early 20s; if anything, the impending day always filled me with mounting dread as I was usually the one without a date, let alone a beloved with whom to relish the day. Thankfully, the only constant is change; I have since spent many pink tinged days awash in roses, chocolate and wine, oh, and happily celebrated Valentine's Day too....

I was thinking of these little cream filled and chocolate coated sponge sandwich cakes I used to eat when I was in school, though I can't, for the life of me, remember what they were called. I haven't seen them in years and suspect they may have gone out of production. So, taunted by a childhood recollection smacking of Proust, and prompted by greed, I set about making my own version themed on the day lovers and florists everywhere live for.

I thought a buttery almond sponge cake coated with a white chocolate and rum icing would  make a nice deviation and they turned out feather light, though quite rich and subtly scented with vanilla, almonds and butter. I decided to forego the cream filling as hubby is lactose sensitive and having no cream in them meant that they could stay out of the fridge without fear of spoilage - something to always bear in mind, in steamy, tropical climes. And, I'm pretty lazy and don't believe in putting in more effort in the kitchen, than I have to. The number you end up with will depend on the size of the cookie cutter you use. Mine measured about 3cm (slightly over an inch) across and 3cm down.

The rum is entirely optional but I think that white chocolate usually needs something keener to cut through the sweetness and stop it from being cloying. These tasted very much like Madeleines, as it happens, but better, in my opinion, and were wonderful with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

You might have been expecting the usual milk or dark chocolate or pink something or other, this being in celebration of Valentine's Day but I wanted something slightly atypical and think the ivory white of the chocolate looks so pretty against the duck egg blue of the plate, and, the muted gleam of a single silver dragee on top.

Imagine feeding your swain or wench these heart shaped almond and white chocolate morsels, after dinner, between sips of coffee or  dessert wine. What better prelude could you hope for, and a prelude I promise you, it will be....

Prep 20 mins         Cook 15 mins          Makes 25 hearts

4 eggs
80 g (1/2 cup) fine sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 level tsp cream of tartar
35 g (1/3 cup) plain (all purpose) flour
1/2 level tsp baking soda
35 g (1/3 cup) finely ground almonds
5 Tbsp melted butter
200 g (about 9 oz) good quality plain white chocolate, broken into pieces
4 Tbsp white rum
Silver dragees to decorate


Preheat oven at 190 C (370 f) and grease and line a 20 cm (8 in) by 30 cm (12 in) swiss roll (jelly roll) tin.

Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and cream of tartar in a deep mixing bowl and whisk by hand or an electric mixer until very thick and mousselike and able to form ribbons when drizzled from the whisk. This will take about 20 minutes handwhisking or 10 minutes by machine.

Combine the flour, baking soda and ground almonds thoroughly. Sift the flour mixture over the eggs in two lots and fold in quickly but lightly using the whisk, in a cutting and lifting motion. When almost all the flour has been incorporated, pour the butter down the sides of the bowl and fold in quickly and lightly.

Pour batter gently into tin and level the top lightly. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until light gold and sides begin to pull away from tin. Remove from oven and cool briefly. Turn cake out onto a cake rack and cool completely.

Put chocolate and rum into a clean dry bowl and melt in microwave on High for 1 minute. Remove and stir. If not completely melted, give it another 30 seconds and stir until liquid. Set aside until cool but still liquid though slightly thickened.

Put cold cake on a board or piece of baking paper and stamp out hearts with a cookie cutter. Put hearts on cake rack with a large tray or baking paper underneath to catch the drips. Spoon melted chocolate over each heart, ensuring heart is completely covered. Decorate each heart with a silver dragee.

Allow chocolate to set before serving. Happy Valentine's Day!