followed by frigid temperatures.
We shall gas up the car. Haul out the snowblower, gather more kindling, line the boots up by the door, along with scarves, mittens and hats! I think I shall put on the coffee and bake some biscuits for breakfast. In the past, while living in Texas, we were able to go out on the deck and cook a steak while savoring a glass of wine for our Valentine's celebration. This year, living in the New England village, we have to revise our tradition, and have opted for Steak Diane and a company potato casserole. But, the "piece de resistance" will be Estelle's Cherry Chip Cake!
I checked my stock of tapered candles, realizing that they have dwindled down to nubs. Every night, during winter, I place lighted candles on the dining room table and mother's sideboard. I then carefully place votives along the fireplace mantel as dusk falls. As daylight turns into the gloaming, candlelight never fails to soften the frenzy of work or the dullness of routine, signaling a time for reflection, for recognizing graces received, challenges accepted, of opportunities missed or seized. I could not enter another month of winter without candles.
True to predictions, the snow begins to fall, powdery and light with crystals twinkling in midair as they circle round the lantern that illuminates our front walkway. We gather at the dining table and savor the delightful dinner. We take our cake plates and move into the living room to toast yet another Valentines Day together. Darling winks at me as we sit down in front of the fire. We have decided that the grand essentials of happiness are...Something to do......Something to love.....and Something to hope for! After a few moments of silence....we both decide that come spring....we will drape twinkle lights in the garden!
Whipped cream frosting: In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and beaters in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Buttercream frosting: In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Beat 5 drops red food coloring into buttercream; add more coloring as desired.
For the cherries: Melt remaining 1 1/2 cups chips and shortening in bowl. Holding stems, partially dip maraschino cherries into chocolate and place on parchment-lined plate. Refrigerate until hardened, at least 10 minutes.
Cake Directions: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, cover the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment (If you don’t have 3 cake pans, use two 9-inch rounds instead). Mix milk, egg whites, and vanilla together in 2-cup measuring cup. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Continue beating, gradually adding the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add 1/3 each of flour mixture and milk mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour and milk mixtures in two separate batches, beating between additions to fully incorporate. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir by hand to finish.
Drain and rinse cherry pie filling under running water. Press cherries between several layers of paper towels until very dry. Chop cherries fine. Gently fold cherries and 1/2 cup chips into cake batter. Divide batter among pans. Bake on middle rack in 350-degree oven until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
Assembly of the cake: Spread 1 cup buttercream on bottom cake layer. Repeat with 1 cup more buttercream and second cake layer. Top with final cake layer and frost top and sides with pink whipped cream frosting. If using two 9-inch layers, cut each layer in half and divide the buttercream evenly among the 4 layers. Decorate with whipped cream and cherries. Refrigerate until serving or serve immediately.