Whether it’s a steaming mug of hot cocoa on a frigid winter day or the gooey cookies fresh out of the oven, chocolate brings a comforting sweetness to life that no other food can quite match. In fact, studies have shown that simply smelling chocolate triggers relaxation by increasing theta waves in our brains. Early in history, Mayan and Aztec people recognized that the cacao bean had “something special” and prized this food as a luxury item, even using it as currency. Yet, it was not until the 19th century that the ultimate dynamic duo, chocolate and Valentine’s Day, was brought to life.
The exact origins of Valentine’s Day are veiled in mystery. Many historians believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate one of the three martyred Catholic saints named Valentine or Valentinus. Others claim that this holiday has its roots in the Church’s attempt to “Christianize” the pagan Roman festival called Lupercalia, which took place around the middle of February. Despite its hazy history, Valentine’s Day was officially linked to the idea of “romantic love” when English author and poet Geoffrey Chaucer, known for his “Canterbury Tales,” wrote a poem about birds mating during “seynt Voantynes day.” Later, in 1861, Valentine’s Day became forevermore associated with chocolate thanks to Richard and George Cadbury. These British brothers transformed the ever-popular drinking chocolate into “eating chocolates” and packaged them into heart-shaped boxes to sell for Valentine’s Day. It was common practice to save these boxes after the chocolates were eaten and preserve keepsakes and love letters within them. As time progressed, others took advantage of Cadbury’s enterprising marketing scheme, and Valentine’s chocolates began to take on new shapes and styles such as Milton Hershey’s “Kisses,” invented in 1907, and Russel Stover’s later contribution of “Bungalow Candies.”
Today, the ingenious Valentine-chocolate combo still encapsulates Feb. 14, along with many other typical tokens of affection such as candies, cards and jewelry. Yet, beyond the commercialization and sappy slogans, this day is ultimately a celebration of love. Especially this year, Valentine’s Day offers us an opportunity to not only honor the love between spouses and couples, but also to celebrate the love of friends and family that sees us through the hard times. Amidst the current circumstances pushing us apart, Valentine’s Day is a celebration that draws us together.
If you are looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day treat to share with your loved ones, here is a recipe for deliciously moist and fudgy Chocolate Cupcakes. And, not just any cupcakes, but “Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes” with a yummy chocolate chip cream cheese filling in the middle — because, as any good relationship will remind you, it’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts.
Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes Recipe:
1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix (usually requires eggs, oil, and water)
1 tub Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting
1 pkg. 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup Nestle Toll House semi-sweet morsels
1. Follow the instructions on the cake mix to make the batter.
2. In a separate bowl, blend egg, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla for the filling. Fold in the semi-sweet morsels and stir until combined.
3.Line cupcake pan with paper cupcake liners and spoon cake batter in each cup till it is half full.
4. Place one tablespoon of the filling mixture in each cupcake (filling will sink down as cupcake bakes).
5. Bake as directed on the cake mix instructions for cupcakes.
6. Cool completely and then frost and decorate.