Valentine’s day is just around the corner. Flowers, sweets, and hearts all swathed in bright red are hard to miss in the approach to this carnival of romance and love.

Tradition suggests a heart shaped box of chocolates along with some flowers as the gift that will win the favor of your loved one. Give hand dipped truffles or a cream center assortment, a perky floral arrangement or a bouquet of long stem roses. Match them up with a carefully chosen card for a successful offering. You can’t escape the Valentine’s gift-giving options in the leadup to February 14.

But a look off the beaten path can yield an original gift that ticks the traditional boxes: Chocolate, check; sweet, check; flowers, well, they look like flowers; red, check; delicious, delightful, and pleasing to your Valentine, I think so!

The Valentine's Dozen

The Valentine’s Dozen

You may know that I have a special place in my heart for bakeries. So it’s no surprise that a bakery is the source for my new wrinkle in Valentine giving. The Forever Sweet Bakery Forever Sweet (4 New Canaan Avenue, Norwalk) has iced up a Valentine Dozen cupcake assortment – a treat you and your loved one can share. With hearts, flowers, Xs & Os aplenty, and with lots of chocolate, too, it’s got Valentine’s covered.

Cupcakes on dispayForever Sweet is the realization of a dream for Fran and Sky Mercede. Fran is the designer, baker, and creative force behind their spectacular cakes. Sky is the customer service guy, frontman, promoter, and head greeter. Between them, they’ve created a warm, friendly, high-quality cake bakery.

Cakes used to be much simpler – baked layers, buttercream icing, some decorative piping around the edge, the occasional rose, and, for special occasions, your name written in icing script across the top. The Food Channel changed all that. In addition to turning cooking into a gladiatorial contest, it introduced cakes as sculpture, art, and fantasy – confections where structure is more important than flavor and showiness trumps all.

Fran and Sky with the bouquet of roses cakeFran is happy to make you the cake of your dreams, but you can be sure it will be great tasting, too. Yes, she’s made cakes that look like cars, bottles of wine, even beer pouring out of a can. But she’s also made cakes with beautiful icing flowers, stunning color schemes, and impeccably executed simplicity. It takes a good deal of talent and skill to make beautiful looking cakes, but even more care and expertise to make them taste so good.

The busy Forever Sweet storeA few years ago a cupcake craze swept across the country, with cupcakes the size of a loaf of bread. Fortunately, the massive, heavily iced cupcakes with trendy flavors didn’t last. But delicious, traditionally sized and decorated cupcakes are a mainstay at Forever Sweet. Chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet are the most popular cake flavors. Simply finished with a dollop of icing, they’re an indulgent and satisfying treat.

Don’t get me wrong, you can have Chocolate Peanut Butter, Vanilla Pink Cloud and Red Velvet Cream Cheese cake flavors, too. Tiramisu, salted caramel, and beer batter bacon are also in their repertoire for the more adventurous cake seekers. But you can’t beat the classics.

Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love and romance can be traced back to the middle ages, perhaps even as far back as Roman times. It was the Victorians that started many of the traditions so familiar to us now. They were big on cards with hearts, flowers, and lace colorfully done up in reds and pinks.

In the mid 1800s Richard Cadbury, of the famous chocolate-making family, designed decorated tin boxes in Valentine’s themes to sell their chocolates. The chocolate sweets were a welcome gift starting the long-term relationship between Valentine’s and chocolate, and the boxes became popular keepsakes.

In the 20th century the Boston area New England Candy and Confectionery Company (Necco) began marketing heart-shaped sugar candies printed with messages of love and affection. Mainstays of grade school Valentine’s festivities and treasured by children of all ages, they’ve become a fixture in American Valentine’s celebrations. You can’t go wrong by scattering some around your Valentine’s presentation.

Still want to give traditional chocolates? For the very best get some Chocopologie artisan chocolates, hand made here in Norwalk or try Le Rouge Chocolates by Aarti in Westport. See’s Candies is an iconic brand from the west coast. It’s worth a trip to the mall in Stamford or Danbury for a box of these coveted goodies.

I’m all for starting a new cake tradition. A couple of cupcakes, the whole Valentine’s dozen, or perhaps a small cake lavishly covered in red buttercream roses. I’m counting on Fran and Sky to fix me up!

Cake decorating supplies

Cake decorating supplies