Flowers and candy are the gifts du jour for Valentine’s Day. But indulging your loved one’s sweet tooth might be the best present of all. This artful take on the basic brownie, baker Josh Virkler’s Chocolate Raspberry Decadence, hits the sweet spot. “On Valentine’s Day, chocolate and anything red, like strawberries and raspberries, are what it’s all about,” says Virkler, owner of LuAnn’s Bakery & Cafe in Ellington. “This dish has both elements and combines them so well. It’s elegant and delicious.”
The recipe originated at his first restaurant, Tea Room at the Depot in Mackinaw, Illinois, as a dessert for their sweetheart dinner. “We haven’t made it very often here at the bakery, but now that I’ve rekindled my excitement for this dish, customers will be seeing it more often, especially this time of year,” he says.
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Virkler says that simple ingredients can create a luscious flavor combination. “Food doesn’t have to be elaborate or use 25 ingredients to be delicious. Simple can be just as wonderful as long as it’s made with great ingredients and with love,” he says. “This recipe brings in the creamy aspect with the cream cheese spread, the tartness of the raspberries, and finishes it with another layer of chocolate with the dark chocolate ganache.
“If you want more or less raspberries, do it," says Virkler. "If you want a thick layer of cream cheese spread or a little, then do it. If you want the elegance of a light drizzle of ganache, that’s perfect. If you just can’t get enough chocolate, then add more. Obviously keep the elements of each individual recipe the same, but other quantities are for you to decide your exact preference.”
Running a lemonade stand and selling his homemade baked goods to friends during his preteen years led Virkler to the food industry and a degree in food service management. After a stint in Illinois where he opened his first restaurant, he returned to his hometown of Ellington to work with his mother’s cousin, Luann Hoffman, in her home-based bakery. “Our goal was to get the bakery out of her home and into a retail setting, so we started a cafe and brought in some of my past restaurant ownership experience to the table,” Virkler says. “It’s been a great marriage of our business experiences into one unique business.”
Chocolate Raspberry Decadence
Preparation time: About 45 minutes
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 1½ sticks butter, unsalted
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- Fresh raspberries (strawberries or other fruit can be substituted)
Cream cheese mixture
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 18 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Over low heat on the stove, add chocolate and butter to a saucepan, stirring until melted. Remove from heat. Slowly stir in sugar until blended, then add eggs and vanilla. Stir until all ingredients are mixed in. Add flour.
- Pour into a greased 10-inch cake pan or springform pan. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Once baked, set aside and let cool.
- Using a hand mixer, whip the cream cheese and sugar until well incorporated and it starts to get a little fluffy. If the cream cheese is soft, this will be easier, but it should take a few minutes to get it blended.
- Heat heavy cream on the stove on low-medium in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until the cream just starts to simmer. As soon as you remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate chips and continue to stir until they are fully melted. Set aside.
- To serve, place the brownie on a serving platter. Top with the cream cheese mixture. Arrange the fresh raspberries on top in a nice pattern.
- Drizzle with the chocolate ganache. On this part you can do as little as a light drizzle or as much as covering the top — it all depends how much chocolate you like.