Creative cook April Wardlaw has a few special holiday goodies just for the EBONY audience! 

Strawberry Shortcake with a Boozy Twist!

Since the beginning of time, chocolate has always been the quintessential Valentine’s Day dessert.  But what if you (or your Valentine) hate chocolate or you are just in the mood for something different?  Well feel free to leave the chocolates in the box and consider another food perfect for V-Day: STRAWBERRIES!  America’s favorite fruit cannot be more perfect for Valentines Day because, let’s be honest, they look like little red hearts!  And there’s no other dessert that puts strawberries center stage like Strawberry Shortcake.

This version has three components: pound cake, strawberries, and whipped cream.  However, the twist is that oranges, which are actually in season right now, are used to give the pound cake a delicious citrus flavor and Grand Marnier, an orange liquor, is infused into the strawberries and whipped cream to give the them a boozy punch.

Now before you “non-bakers” freak out, just know that the base of this pound cake is a store-bought cake mix which makes this recipe impossible to screw up. It is sure to sweeten up your Valentines Day!


Non-Stick Cooking Spray

1 plain white cake mix

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1-cup whole milk, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (plus 3-4 drops for whipped cream)

2 navel oranges

1 pt. strawberries

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 tbsp Grand Marnier (divided)

½ pint heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

To Make the Pound Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl add the cake mix, butter, milk, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Using a handheld mixer, beat ingredients until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Next, using a Microplane, grate the outer surface of two of the oranges to remove the zest.  Be sure to use only the orange part and not the white pith, which can be very bitter.  Add the zest of the two oranges into the mixing bowl and then add the juice from 1 orange into the mixture as well (in order to avoid seeds in your cake mix, you can use a juicer, sifter, or use your fingers to catch the seeds).  Mix the batter for another 1 minute to incorporate juice and zest.

Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and then pour the batter into the pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until you can insert a knife into the middle of the cake and it comes out clean.  The time will vary depending on the shape and size of your loaf pan, but on average it takes about 35-45 minutes. Once done, allow the cake to cool in the pan on the stove for 10 minutes, and then remove the cake from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To Make the Strawberries:

While the cake is baking, or as early as a day in advanced, rinse your strawberries. Then using a small pairing knife, slice your strawberries into small rounds, discarding the green leaves.  In a bowl, add the strawberries, 2 tbsp of granulated sugar, the juice from ½ of one orange, 3 tbsp Grand Marnier and stir to combine.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Tip: the longer this mixture sits, the sweeter and boozier the strawberries get)

To Make the Whipped Cream:

Pour the heavy whipping cream into a mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer, mix until stiff peaks begin to form.  Then, stop the mixer and add the confectioner’s sugar, a few drops of vanilla extract, and 3 tbsp. Gran Marnier.  Turn mixer back on for about a minute but avoid over mixing the cream.  Once stiff peaks form again, turn off mixer, cover bowl with saran and refrigerate until ready to serve.  (Tip: For better results place your mixing bowl and beaters into the freezer for about 15-20 minutes before you whip your cream)

To Build the Strawberry Short Cake:

Place a slice of pound cake on a plate, top with 2 spoonfuls of strawberries and 2 spoonfuls of whipped cream.  You may stop here OR repeat with another layer of cake, strawberries, and cream.  Also, feel free to use orange curls or zest as a garnish.


This recipe will make enough whipped cream and strawberries for two generous servings.  However, after you make your two desserts, there will be a lot of cake leftover.  Ladies, if you are watching your weight in the New Year, don’t keep the leftover cake around to nibble on and ruin your diet.  After you have sliced off a few pieces of cake for your Valentine’s Day dessert, wrap the rest of the cake in cellophane, tie it with a red ribbon and give it to your Valentine to take home. Cake is always a great present!


Pineapples and Bananas Dipped in Chocolate

Many of you have probably incorporated chocolate covered strawberries in your Feb. 14th festivities making them common and overdone.  If you really want to impress your Valentine, try dipping pineapples and bananas in chocolate.  It’s something different and simple that you can make at home. (And homemade always gets more points than store-bought)

Another bonus is you probably already have some of the ingredients on hand.  Most people keep bananas around for breakfast and you may have chocolate chips leftover from a batch of cookies.  The rest of the ingredients you can get in quick, cheap grocery store run.

Once you have all of the ingredients, all you have to do is take a toothpick, add fruit, dip in chocolate, and roll it in a complementary topping.  Such a simple process but the result is a sexy Valentines Day dessert.  Enjoy hearts!


2 bananas

1 pineapple

6 oz. semi-sweet choc chips (half a bag)

3-4 tbsp Heavy Cream

1 small bag peanuts (salted or unsalted)

1 small bag coconut shavings



First prep the fruit by peeling the bananas and slicing them into 2-3 inch chunks.  Then, chop the top and bottom off of the pineapple, stand it up and cut the skin off in strips.  Then cut the pineapple flesh into quarters and chop off the core at an angle.  Next, cut the flesh into 2-3 inch square chunks.

Prep the toppings by putting 1-cup peanuts into a plastic zip lock bag, squeeze the air out, and then close the bag.  Using a rolling pin or large heavy can, crush the peanuts and spread them in an even layer on a plate. Also pour 1-cup coconut shavings on a plate and set aside.

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat on 50% power for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir. Continue this process until the chocolate is almost melted. Then add 3-4 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir until the chocolate is smooth.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Then, place a piece of pineapple on a toothpick, dip it into the chocolate and roll it in the coconut shavings.  Place pineapple on the cookie sheet, leaving the toothpick in and repeat this process until all of the pineapple has been dipped and rolled.  Then put the bananas on toothpicks, dip in the chocolate, and roll in the peanuts and add to the cookie sheet.

Once all of the fruit has been dipped and rolled, put the cookie sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.  Lastly, move the fruit into the refrigerator until ready to serve.  To serve, simply arrange the chocolate dipped fruit on a platter.