Instead of a box of chocolates this year, bake up some surprise-filled mini-cupcakes for your valentines and make a heart-shaped box to put them in

MINI-DELIGHTS

Chocolate cake mix Mini-cupcake pan

48 red aluminum or paper mini-cupcake liners

1/8 c. each of mini-chocolate chips, candied green and red cherries, coconut, dried apricots, sliced almonds and walnut pieces

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray cupcake pan. Press liners into pan. Spray the inside of each liner. Prepare cake mix as indicated on the box. I used a teaspoon to fill each liner to just below the edge. Drop into that batter, one cherry, five mini-chocolate chips, half an apricot, three almond slices, a walnut piece OR a few strings of coconut. Make a map of the cupcake pan to help you recall the placement and contents of each. Bake 10 minutes. Repeat to complete 48 cupcakes — eight per one of the six fillings suggested.

CHOCOLATE ICING

1-oz. square semi-sweet chocolate

1 tsp. vegetable oil

1/2 c. sifted icing sugar

3 tbsp. warm whipping cream

In a small saucepan melt the chocolate square with the oil. Warm the cream in the microwave. Use a small whisk to blend in the icing sugar and cream to form a soft paste. If starting with green cherries filling, cut two green cherries into quarters, one piece per cupcake. Spread a small dab of icing onto the cupcake, smooth and top with a piece of cherry. For the others top with a piece of whatever the cupcake is filled with. Make some white icing and follow the same procedure.

HEART-SHAPED BOX

MATERIALS:

16×12-inch cardboard — firm but flexible One 12-inch red paper doily Purple aluminum foil Sticky tape Scissors

DIRECTIONS:

On a sheet of folded paper draw, and then cut out a heart shape approx. 14-1/2 inches at the widest point by 11 inches for overall height. Use this as a template. Draw the pattern on the cardboard and cut it out. Cut the heart-shaped template 1/2 inch

smaller; trace it onto the cardboard heart. Score this line with the point of the scissors. Snip the edge of the cardboard at 1-inch intervals stopping at the scored line. Fold on that line. Tape the upturned cardboard to form the side of your mini-delight box. Set the box onto the aluminum foil and cover the box allowing extra to be folded into the centre.

Cut another heart from cardboard using the new template. Cover it with foil and set inside the box.

With the doily, cut about 1 inch from the outside edge. This will give you a roughly 3-inch-wide scallop-shaped piece. Repeat. Starting at the centre top, tape these pieces of doily around the inside of the box; all the way around or just halfway as in the photo. Arrange your mini-delights in the gift box.

Dana Ramstedt is a freelance writer and preschool teacher of 18 years

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