Valentine's Day is, understandably, a polarizing holiday. While happy couples exchange flowers and gifts and plan romantic dinners, many others dread the flood of pink, red and heart-shaped everything.
These Connecticut bakeries look to flip the script on the holiday this year, creating nontraditional Valentine's sweets that are a little offbeat, a little quirky and maybe even a little bawdy.
Let's Start From Scratch
Molly Baker says her treats are "a healthy combination of sweet and sassy." In April, she started Let's Start From Scratch, a health-focused catering and prepared-meals business, and quickly made a name for herself with frequent appearances at Hartford's West End Farmers' Market and the KNOW GOOD Market in the city's Parkville neighborhood.
For her first Valentine's Day with the business, she's offering feisty confections for those not so enamored of Feb. 14: voodoo-doll cookies, slashed "bleeding heart" hand pies oozing red jam; "mean message" macarons with edible marker-penned notes like "Nope" and "Call Me Never" and sugar cookies with sardonic missives, like "It's Not Me, It's You. Really." She's also working on "unfortunate fortune cookies," with customizable paper slips inside.
Macarons and cookies are $3 to $4 apiece, with a minimum order of six; hand pies are $4 apiece and fortune cookies are $20 for a dozen. Orders must be placed by Feb. 7. Delivery is available in Hartford, West Hartford, Farmington Valley and South Windsor; contact email@example.com for details.
NoRA Cupcake Company
Valentine's Day is NoRA Cupcake Company's busiest holiday, and this year, owner Carrie Carella and her staff are prepared to sell specialty cupcakes in the thousands from the business's three stores in Middletown, West Hartford and Canton.
Carella describes a few of the Valentine's-themed cakes as "a little raunchy, a little teetering on the edge of inappropriate." Some have more adult themes, like 50 Shades Darker (chocolate cake, white chocolate and chocolate whipped cream fillings, dark chocolate
buttercream with a pool of dark chocolate ganache); Sexual Chocolate (Oreo-crusted chocolate cake, cheesecake fudge filling, hazelnut chocolate whipped cream, toasted hazelnuts, white chocolate and Nutella drizzle); and Foreplay, with chocolate champagne cake, strawberries and cream filling, chocolate buttercream with confetti hearts and glitter sugar.
Others are meaningful, like Love Is Blind, a shout to the LGBTQ community with Funfetti cake, a candy confetti-filled center and rainbow buttercream sprinkled with rainbow sugar. The Glitzerland, with a sparkling gold cap of edible glitter-coated marshmallow meringue, is inspired by a staff-favorite metallic nail polish color.
Carella says the dozen special flavors would be joined by other best sellers at all three locations from Feb. 10 to 14, as traditional cupcakes are popular among children. But NoRA hasn't forgotten those who may be feeling lovelorn on Valentine's Day.
"A lot of people hate the holiday, because it puts the spotlight on being lonely or single," she says. "It can be a difficult day for people, so we try to make it fun. Everything isn't all hearts and flowers. Sometimes life sucks."
All cupcakes are $4.95 each, and available to mix and match. Boxes of four are $18, boxes of six are $25.50 and boxes of 12 are $51. Special orders must be placed by Feb. 8. noracupcake.com.
NoRA hosts a Valentine's Shindig at the Canton location (Shoppes at Farmington Valley, 110 Albany Turnpike) Feb. 13 from 4 to 8 p.m., with DJ Wrexx from Hot 93.7, a photo booth, prizes and giveaways.
Hardcore Sweet's idea of a Valentine's bouquet is less floral and more ... carnivorous. This year, they're again offering an arrangement of "bacon roses" — thick-cut slices of bacon rolled tightly into rose shapes, dipped in chocolate and adorned in sprinkles.
Nicole Braddock, who co-owns the bakery with her husband, Jeremy, says they were inspired to do something for bacon lovers after working with beer-and-bacon themed cupcakes using Black Hog Brewing's products: "We thought it would be something fun that isn't all pink and red with hearts all over it."
Braddock says Hardcore Sweet went through 60 pounds of bacon in the first year the roses debuted, and is prepared to make even more this year for possible last-minute orders. A bouquet of one dozen is $50.
"We looked up tutorials and put our spin on them," she says. "They take some work to make [them] look like the roses, and dipping them and arranging them. But they look so awesome, and we love seeing people repost them on social media excited about getting these delivered."
Hardcore Sweet also offers Valentine's cupcakes, truffles, sugar cookies, mini cakes with "sweet, silly or sassy" sayings and mini cupcake samplers. Treats are available at the bakery in the Oakville section of Watertown, 20 Main St., and at its storefront at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills in Manchester. hardcoresweetcupcakes.com.
Rice Krispy Treats are nostalgic childhood sweets for many, but Get Baked owner Emily Woodward Tracy didn't grow up with many sugary foods in her house. It was a treat if someone else's parent made the marshmallow-coated cereal bars, she says.
These days, the Windsor bakery produces them in several seasonal shapes — shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, eggs for Easter, pumpkins for Halloween and even fish, in celebration of the town's annual Shad Derby Festival in May. Valentine's Day brings "conversation hearts" in pink and purple hues, fully customizable with your choice of "naughty or nice" icing message.
Notes have ranged from "Kiss Me" to "True Love" to "Can't Stand You" to "things that are way too racy for me to even say," Woodward Tracy says, laughing. "We have no qualms; we'll write whatever you want on there."
Valentine's Day 2017 marks the bakery's five-year anniversary. In that half-decade, Get Baked has set itself apart with unique goods like white chocolate raspberry Nutella brownies, English muffin bread and "unicorn poop," cream cheese-based sugar cookies swirled with a rainbow of food coloring.
The first 50 customers who spend more than $25 on Feb. 14 will receive a surprise giveaway.
"I see it as a huge success, to make it to five years, to have a full staff and a very big following," Woodward Tracy says. "We're really proud of what we've done."
Rice Krispy Treat hearts are $3.25 apiece ($3 with no writing). Edible orchid-topped cupcakes are $4.50 to $4.75 apiece and also available in gluten-free and vegan varieties. Chocolate-covered strawberries are $2.25 apiece. Special orders must be placed by Feb. 9. 860-688-0420, getbakedct.com.