Two delicious dessert ideas for Valentine’s Day

Spring Fling Cake is a popular dessert at Larimer Square Market in Denver, which unfortunately is no longer open. The cake is a perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy of Bill St. John.

If you want to serve something sweet to your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, I have two delicious recipes for you. One certainly looks the part, with its splayed, brightly colored red berries, but you can decorate the other for February 14 with a red currant jelly frosting or top it with a dollop of fresh cream that you have “dewed” with a drop of food coloring or cherry juice. But it is certainly festive in itself.

Tarte Tatin takes its name from the Hotel Tatin in the Loire Valley southwest of Paris and from a mistake. It’s one of those foods, like Worcestershire sauce, that wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been (in this case, purely) a flop.

Legend has it that in the 1880s, while baking standard crust apple pies, one of the Tatin sisters who ran the hotel hastily dropped a pie, then quickly reassembled it with the remaining crust on the bottom and the apples. at the top.

Tarte Tatin, a treat for Sweets on this Valentine's Day.
Tarte Tatin, a sweet treat for your darling on this Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy of Bill St. John.

For the tarte tatin, choose apples that won’t break down under nearly an hour of high heat: Braeburns, Jonagolds, or Granny Smiths work well.

Some tartes tatins are very fancy (read: time-consuming, patience-testing) renditions of thinly sliced ​​apples like curlicues on top of a pie or short crust. The classic is easier: apple chunks cooked in a skillet, with the crust on top, then flipped and inverted when cooked. For this purpose, puff pastry is even better and tastier than a simple pie crust, although either works well. And it’s totally fine to use store-bought, frozen crusts.

One of the first casualties of the global pandemic was The Market in Larimer Square, which closed in April 2020. A longtime delicious favorite was its Spring Fling Cake and what a cake it was. Dana Crawford, founder and first owner of The Market, remembers it as “totally delicious,” she wrote in an email. “Thick, almost resembling angel food”, its fruits “colorful and generous”.

The Spring Fling starts with a batter made from eggs, sugar and flour backed up with grated zucchini and ends with a bloom of spring-thrown fruits such as strawberries. But use whatever fruit you fancy, with “spring” always somewhere on a globe easily suited to airplane cargo holds, hence the grocers.

Measurements and timing are for Denver elevation, 5,280 feet. Those who more or less live and cook will need a consultation with the Google Chef. Also, you can peel the zucchini and grate them by hand on the large holes of the box grater and not use the food processor as the original recipe suggests (2 medium zukes equal about 2 and 1/2 cups grated ).

Spring Cake: A colorful Valentine’s Day dessert

Spring Fling Cake from the sadly defunct The Market in Denver's Larimer Square
Spring Fling Cake from the sadly defunct The Market in Denver’s Larimer Square. Photo courtesy of Bill St. John.

From The Market, Larimer Square, recipe as published in Rocky Mountain News, May 10, 2006, Courtesy of Denver Public Library City and County of Denver. For 12 to 14 people


2 and 1/2 cups grated zucchini

1 and 1/4 cup sugar

5 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sour cream

1/2 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (for the frosting)

3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

For the icing:

3/4 cup cream cheese

1/4 cup butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

Fruit for cake:

1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced

4 kiwis, peeled and sliced

2 mangoes, peeled and sliced

1 pint blueberries

Apricot glaze or apricot jelly diluted with a little warm water, optional


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch cake pan.

To prepare the cake: Grate the zucchini in a food processor. In a large mixing bowl, combine the grated zucchini, eggs, sugar, oil, sour cream and 1/2 tbsp vanilla. Once well mixed, combine all the dry ingredients and add to the bowl; mix well. The batter should be quite moist and easy to pour.

Pour the batter and bake for 50 to 70 minutes, testing with a toothpick in the center. Cool the finished cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove it from the pan and let it cool completely. (You can prepare the cake the day before and refrigerate it.)

Spring Fling Cake from the sadly defunct The Market in Denver's Larimer Square
Spring Fling Cake from the sadly defunct The Market in Denver’s Larimer Square. Photo courtesy of Bill St. John.

To prepare the frosting, whisk together the room temperature cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing until well blended. In another bowl, whip the cream until stiff, then fold it along with the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla into the frosting. Do not overmix.

To assemble the cake: Cut the cooled cake in half lengthwise, making two layers. (The market cuts the cake into three layers, which you can do if you like.) Spread an even layer of frosting over the first layer, then add a layer of the various pieces of fruit (repeat if three layers).

Put the top layer of the cake and glaze evenly. The sides of the cake are not frosted; use supplement to fill, if needed. Arrange the fruit in circles across the top of the cake, slightly overlapping the pieces of fruit.

To finish: Spread the apricot glaze over the fruit on top of the cake with a pastry brush.

Tarte Tatin: a New York dessert for Valentine’s Day

Notes Bill St. John, “This recipe comes from Executive Pastry Chef of Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City, Ron Paprocki, and a helpful reworking of his technique by Julia Moskin in The New York Times. I tweaked their work a bit and adapted the recipe to our higher altitude. Makes 1 pie.


8 large firm-fleshed, semi-sour apples (such as Braeburn, Jonathan, or Granny Smith)

7 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, very soft

2/3 cup granulated sugar or light brown sugar

1 sheet of all-butter puff pastry, about 8 ounces


Tarte Tatin is a one-pot dessert, started on the stove, finished baked.
Tarte Tatin is a one-pot dessert, started on the stove, finished baked. Photo courtesy of Bill St. John.

Prepare the apples at least a day before cooking them (even better, 2-3 days). Cut the bottom of each apple so that it has a flat base. Peel half of the apples, then cut them all into quarters, cutting off the stalks. Cut the seeds and hard material from the center of each quarter.

Spread the apple wedges on a plastic tray or baking sheet lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Cover them lightly with paper towel and put them in the fridge to dry. They will brown slightly but don’t mind that. They will still brown when cooked.

When you’re ready to assemble the pie, heat the oven to 370 degrees (340-350 if using convection). Use the butter to coat the bottom of a heavy 10-inch ovenproof skillet or skillet, preferably nonstick (seasoned cast iron is ideal), brushing the soft butter all the way around the bottom so it hides everything metal. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the butter. Find a bowl or plate the size of the pan and set it aside.

Take one of the apple wedges and round it off by cutting it off at both ends. This will be a “button” in the center of the pie; put it there. Now arrange the remaining apple wedges, dividing the arrangement evenly between peeled and unpeeled apples, each wedge standing on its flat side, in circles around the “button”. Place the quarters as close together as possible, like flower petals, so that they support each other upright.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to about 1/8 inch thick. Place the reserved bowl or plate on top of the dough and, using the tip of a sharp knife, cut out a circle. Gently lift the dough and drape it over the apples, tucking it around the edge.

Over medium heat, cook the pie until golden juices bubble around the edge. (If the juices continue to rise, spoon them out so that the bubbling juices are just at the edge of the batter.) caramel.

Place the skillet or skillet in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Let the pie cool for just 5 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a round serving plate, pastry side down, apples up, being careful of any hot caramel that may ooze or spill. If any apples stick to the pan, they are easily removed and replaced in the pie while it is hot.

Serve, cut into wedges, hot or at room temperature, topped with fresh cream, ice cream, Greek yogurt or extra heavy cream.

Contact Bill St. John at [email protected]

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