One of the sweetest ways to say I love you is with a homemade chocolate dessert. Sure, oysters and caviar, even asparagus, are all aphrodisiacs and may feature on your Valentine’s Day dinner menu, but chocolate is just better. It’s a quick route to the heart and the ultimate way to end a romantic meal.

A bar of chocolate or a box of truffles is a lovely way to enjoy chocolate together, but making a dessert to share with your loved one is a heartfelt way to show your affection. Whether you’re a beginner baker or have Martha-level skills, there’s a chocolate dessert just right for you. I’ve selected three of my favorite chocolate recipes, along with tips for customizing them for a truly special dessert.

Choosing the Right Chocolate

All of these chocolate desserts have just a few ingredients, and the quality of the chocolate you use will impact the finished dessert. My advice for Valentine’s Day, or any time you’re making a special chocolate dessert, is to buy the best chocolate you can find—it should be something you would want to eat as a chocolate bar (unless the recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate!). Supermarkets carry a wide selection and these recipes don’t use that much, so splurge!

​​Beginner: Brownies Your Way 

Brownies give a lot for little effort. They’re indulgent and special, but you don’t need a mixer or any cake decorating skills to make them. And you bake them ahead of time, so there’s no last-minute pressure. My go-to recipe is my Fudgy Brownies, and while I love them as is, there are so many easy ways to customize them, which is cute for a Valentine’s Day treat.


You can add mix-ins to the batter just before you transfer it to the baking pan, or scatter them on top (my preferred method). Use a generous handful or two of any of the following:

  • Chocolate chunks or chopped chocolate: My brownie recipe uses bittersweet chocolate in the batter, but you could add semisweet or white chocolate, or a combination of bittersweet and white.
  • Chocolate candies and caramels: Toffee Bits ( such as Heath), soft, melting caramels, Peppermint Patties, or your favorite chocolate candies (peanut butter cups, etc).
  • Nuts: Use the same handful or two of your favorite nuts, whether that’s pecans, almonds, or walnuts. I like to toast them first in a pan in the oven or on the stovetop to give them more flavor, and a crisp texture for better contrast with the soft, chewy brownie.
  • Marshmallows
  • Toasted coconut
  • Luxardo Cherries (These are so much better than any other canned or jarred cherries, they’re the ultimate maraschino cherries.)


You can swirl in 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (maybe also 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar) or caramel, or a cheesecake mixture made with 8 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 egg, right before baking to give your brownies a special marbled look.


After your brownies have baked and cooled, you can dress them up with a topping.

  • Frosting: Brownies don’t need frosting, but for a special occasion, topping them with Swiss Meringue Buttercream tinted pastel pink is a fun touch.
  • Ganache: a simple mixture of melted chocolate and heavy cream, ganache is an opportunity to add more chocolate flavor to your brownies
  • Meringue: Spread meringue over the brownies and toast it with a torch for a s’mores-like finish.

Serving Ideas  

We generally cut brownies into squares—I do 2 1/2-inch squares with my fudgy brownies.

For Valentine’s Day, you could use a heart-shaped cookie cutter for special shaped brownies, or use our trick for creating a heart-shaped cake using two batches of brownies, one baked in a round pan and the other in a square pan.

Whether you serve square or shaped brownies, another way to elevate this decadent treat is to pair them with ice cream and hot fudge sauce for a decadent brownie sundae.


My Tip for Fudgy Brownie Success

Brownies are easy and forgiving, but to make sure yours are fudgy, check them before the baking time specified in your recipes is up: Use a toothpick or cake tester in the middle of the brownies—moist crumbs on the tester indicate that it’s time to take them out of the oven and cool them on a rack.

Intermediate: Warm Chocolate Cakes 

You’ve probably seen warm chocolate cakes or molten lava cakes on restaurant dessert menus. They are impressive, but also pretty easy to make using just a few ingredients, and they bake up fast. Warm chocolate cakes are usually baked in individual portions in ramekins, because the cakes are so “molten” that it’s hard to serve portions of a larger cake—plus, serving each person their own individual cake is special. 

Make Ahead 

My advice would be to make the batter ahead of time and portion it into the ramekins, then cover them with plastic wrap until it’s time to bake them.


They only take seven or eight minutes to bake, depending on the size of the ramekins you are using. Err on the side of less, not more, when baking warm chocolate cakes; the cakes should not be set in the middle. If you prepared the batter ahead, you can clear the dinner plates and pop the cakes into your preheated oven. They’ll be ready by the time you’ve made coffee and had a sip or opened some dessert wine.


The trick is to serve the warm chocolate cakes quickly—and the only tricky part is unmolding them onto a serving plate.

Try this cool trick to unmold the warm chocolate cakes from the hot ramekins: Wrap each of the ends of your tongs in a small piece of paper towel to give them grip, securing the paper towel in place with a rubber band. Then, use the tongs to transfer one ramekin from the hot baking sheet to the counter. Place a serving plate over the top of a ramekin and flip it to unmold, using the tongs to remove the ramekin and reveal the molten chocolate lava cake.  

Garnish each cake simply with whipped cream or ice cream, and scatter some red berries, like raspberries. 


Advanced: Chocolate Soufflé 

A rich, cloud-like chocolate soufflé is the ultimate dessert for Valentine’s Day. There is a lot of myth around soufflés, and people think they are harder to make than they actually are. I’m sharing my go-to chocolate soufflé recipe to encourage you to make them for your special dinner.

Make Ahead 

Some home cooks think they can’t make soufflés because it’s all last minute and they can’t juggle making an entree and making soufflé. The great thing about a soufflé is you can make part of it ahead: The base can be made, covered, and refrigerated. Then, right before you are going to bake the soufflé, you whip the egg whites, fold them into the base, and bake. That make-ahead aspect makes them much less intimidating.

My favorite soufflé recipe uses milk chocolate. Many recipes use bittersweet chocolate, and while I’m a fan of dark chocolate, I really like using a sweeter chocolate for these soufflés to bring out caramel tones in the dessert.


The soufflés need to go straight from the oven to the table. Use my tongs trick to transfer the ramekins from the baking sheet to serving plates.

  • Sweetened whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment to the soufflés. 
  • If you want to go a step further, make a crème anglaise. Serve it on the side, or a Martha-level presentation, use a small spoon to open up the center of the soufflé at the table and fill the opening with crème anglaise.
  • Use chocolate sauce or hot fudge sauce in place of the crème anglaise.


My Tip for Chocolate Soufflé Success

I find home cooks often get freaked out about making soufflés. My main tip for success is to leave the soufflé alone while baking—don’t check on it. It needs the heat of the oven to rise and create crust structure. If you disturb it by opening the oven door or taking it out of the oven too soon, it will deflate. Put your timer on and watch the baking time in your recipe. There should be dryness around the edges of each soufflé when they are baked.

Courtesy of Martha Stewart

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