Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetheart!

My Valentine will forever be my darling husband, Ian.

I have a beautiful cousin.  Her name is Brenda McLachlan.  When I was growing up, I thought she was everything I was not and would have liked to have been.  Looking back at photos, I can see that I was pretty too, except I had difficulty seeing that at that age (teenager).  When I was at university in Cape Town, South Africa and getting married to my darling Ian, my cousin sent me a cookbook as a present. The inscription inside the cookery book said, "The way to a man's heart is through his tummy!"   Little did she know that I would take that advice to heart and eventually become a cookbook author.  In those days, I didn't know the first thing about cooking and baking.  I was 21 but I'd not been allowed to cook and bake, save for a couple of things (crepes and caramel pie) while growing up.  The kitchen was pretty much off limits for me.  Only one small thing indicated that I had any talent in the kitchen and that was in Home Economics Cooking Class, I received an award for the highest marks in the school in my grade.  I only took that class for one year in Standard 6 (Grade 8).

I had a tiny wedding and no family was present, except for 6 friends - 8 of us in total.  My parents were in Canada at the time and Ian felt if his family was there and mine were not, I would break down in tears.  There is a story behind that, but I don't want to go into it. I had R20.00 (rand = South African currency) to spend on my wedding dress.  I walked around Cape Town streets in tears as I was having a great deal of trouble finding something that would suffice as a wedding dress for only R20.00.  I did find a simple yellow dance dress.  I paired it with a broad-brimmed white hat and bought some yellow flowers to put on the hat. I wore high heels with my dress.  I did feel pretty in it, so that was a relief, and we had a meal and dance at Kloof Neck Restaurant after the wedding ceremony at the church.  My husband has always felt a little bitter about his wife not having had the fairy tale wedding.  I would have liked my dad, whom I adored, to be there for me and to say nice things about me, but that is water under the bridge. I don't feel bitter nor do I think about it very often.  Instead many years later Ian commissioned a now-famous artist, Jonathon Earl Bowser, to do an enormous painting of me in a dream wedding dress.  Ian ran around with this silly smile on his face for 6 months.  I knew he was up to something, but could not figure it out.  I'm sure people think I'm the one that is full of myself, but that was Ian's way of making it up to me for not having had a fabulous wedding, which many young women dream about for years before the actual event.  For the record, I really enjoyed my wedding day and have wonderful memories. 

Say, "Happy Valentine's Day" to your Sweetheart with this lovely chocolate cake.  It's a good recipe for cupcakes as well.  If you are gluten-free, use my Ultimate Gluten-Free Bake Mix and use 1/4 cup less.  Please read the instructions for the Gluten-free bake mix.