Happy valentines, happy happy valentines dayyyy!!! Today is the best day of the entire year. Because today is about LOVE.
I know you are probably rolling your eyes at me, thinking ‘what a silly romantic goob.’ But listen, I hear what you're saying/muttering under your breath, and it's not like that. I love Valentine's Day, because I love LOVE. For best friends, neighbors, siblings, roommates, co-workers, kiddos, fellow human beings, and (yes, occasionally) romantic partners. I'm excited about a day that gives us an excuse to tell all the wonderful people in our lives “I love you, and I'm glad you're here.” The world can always use more of that. To observe the day back in college, I would make love-themed playlists (complete with love songs for single peeps, because those exist), and burn a buttload of CDs* with a pink heart scribbled on top, and distribute them to all my gal pals. This year, I am honoring that tradition in two ways: a Spotify playlist, and a conversation heart cookie tutorial. The playlist is a compilation of some of my favorite hip hop and R&B songs that employ metaphorical baked goods (shoutout to my roommate for helping me with this). The cookie tutorial is my favorite sugar cookie recipe—a salt brown butter cookie—with a marzipan topping. It's decorated with a food marker, and the salty cookie combined with the candy topping proves that something can be crazy cute, but not nauseatingly so. I'd even venture to say these are straight up delicious.
*Please don't send in the feds.
1 batch of sea salt brown butter sugar cookies, cut into hearts (whatever size you want)
7 oz almond paste
¾ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
Assorted food dye
Red edible marker**
Edible glue (typically used for fondant)**
**You can find these last two ingredients in the baking section of your local craft store. If you want to skip the glue, you can use a small brush and honey instead, but it might take a little longer to dry.
1. Make and cut cookie dough into little hearts, following the instructions here.
2. While the dough is chilling, make the marzipan: combine the almond paste, sugar, and syrup in a food processor. Blend until well-combined.
3. Remove the dough, and knead it by hand until it comes together. Divide it into equal parts, and add a few drops of food dye (I used 2-3) to each part, kneading the dough again to mix in the color.
4. Roll one ball of dough onto parchment paper to about ¼” thickness, dusting the dough and rolling pin with powdered sugar to prevent stocking. Use your cookie cutter to make little hearts (the same one you used for the cookies, but clean!). Set them aside in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Gather dough scraps together, and repeat rolling and cutting process until no dough remains. Repeat with your other colors of marzipan.
5. Put the marzipan hearts aside, and go back to your cookies! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cookies on trays lined with silicone mats for about 10 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom, and front to back halfway through (this ensures even baking, and remember if you use parchment paper to line instead of mats, decrease your baking time). This recipe doesn't spread while baking, so you can put your cookies pretty close to each other while they bake — ½ an inch or so.
6. While your cookies are cooling, use your edible marker to write little sayings on your marzipan toppers. I found it hard to make the letters perfect, but nothing's wrong with a little elementary school Valentine's vibe, right?
7. After the cookies have cooled completely, dab 3-4 drops of glue around one cookie, and gently place a marzipan heart on top. Repeat with remaining cookies and marzipan hearts.
8. Allow the cookies to sit out for at least 30 minutes, to let the glue dry. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Or, package them up and SPREAD THE LOVE! ❤️
Arley Arrington is the owner of Arley Cakes, which provides unique baked goods for celebrations, events, or just because you need a pie! Arley hopes to someday open a bakery that empowers women from low-income neighborhoods by providing job opportunities and mentoring. You can find her baked goods at the Charlottesville grocery Keevil & Keevil.