Although at P11 HQ, we're not much about the lovey dovey Valentine's Day stuff, they do say if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
So, because it's socially unacceptable to beat every one of those soppy, annoying Valentine's Day lovers with their overpriced long-stemmed roses, P11 is feeling the love this year with these Fondant Fancy Conversation Hearts.
Now, the fondant fancies (or French fancies) so enjoyed over the years at P11 HQ look like this, thanks to Mr Kipling. Basically, they have sponge inside, with a little buttercream dot on the top, covered in flavoured fondant. When the mother came home from the supermarket to P11 HQ, they barely made it out of the bags and into the cupboard. Actually, I'm wrong. They never ever made it into the cupboard!
Sadly they're not readily available around here anymore, so there was no choice but to make my own when I had a huge craving for my childhood treat. And being a time for getting all sentimental, I decided to make them all romantical for Valentine's Day. I know, my name is Christina and I'm a love-aholic!
Luckily the lovely Mary Berry from The Great British Bake Off showed everyone how to make the traditional square fancies on the show a little while ago, so using her instructions as a base, here's how to make Fondant Fancy Conversation Hearts.
First, make your sponge cake. Or buy one from the supermarket, I don't mind. I made this one from Mary's recipe.
Next cut out the hearts with a cookie cutter. As you can see below, my heart cutters were too shallow to cut all the way through the cake. If you have the same problem, push them in as far as they will go, then cut through the rest with a sharp knife.
Next, make the buttercream and slather the stuff all over your hearts. Rather than the little dots on the fancies above, I put a thick layer evenly over the top, of about 1/2 cm. Mainly because I love the stuff!
What I don't love is marzipan, so I left it out of Mary's recipe. I don't think Mr Kipling likes it either, cos his don't have them as I recall.
You also need to put a thin layer over the sides of the hearts so that the fondant will stick to them. It's a bit tricky given the shape, but you don't have to be too particular at first, so don't panic if they look at bit messy.
After applying the frosting, put the iced hearts in the fridge for 5-10 minutes, then remove them and smooth out the icing as best you can.
In the meantime, make the fondant to cover the hearts by placing one packet of fondant icing into a standing mixer, and gradually add water until it becomes runny enough to pour over the cakes.
Divide the fondant and water mixture into three bowls and colour and flavour each one. I used lemon essence, rosewater essence and cocoa to flavour these, but you can make them whatever flavour and colour you like.
Once you're happy with your fondant, place the cakes on a cooling tray set over a baking tray, then pour your fondant over the cakes to cover them. I found it best to pour a little at a time, then guide the fondant where you want it to go with a knife. For best results, pour one layer then put them in the fridge to set, then remove and add another layer.
If you find the fondant icing is too thick, particularly after adding more powder ingredients like cocoa, just add more water until your happy with it. Alternatively, if you find the fondant too thin and it's running off the cake, add some icing sugar and mix well.
Finally, decorate your hearts however your own heart desires. I made these by writing on them with an edible red pen. It wasn't my best work, I'm not as dexterous as I used to be before all this typing! Melted chocolate or sprinkles would work beautifully if you don't have an edible ink pen.
The good news is they worked, stayed in one piece and tasted fantastic, which made me a very happy Valentine indeed!