Chocolate Chiffon Valentine Cake


4 eggs, separated
½ cup baking cocoa
½ cup hot water
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1-¼ cups sugar, divided
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

1-½ cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup confectioners' sugar
15 small fresh strawberries, halved

Fresh mint, optional

Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Line two greased 9-in. heart-shaped pans with waxed paper and grease the paper; set aside. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and water until smooth; cool.  

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, oil, vanilla and cocoa mixture. Add to dry ingredients; beat until well blended. 

In a small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form; fold into chocolate mixture.

Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely; carefully remove waxed paper. 

In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners' sugar until stiff peaks form; reserving 1-1/2 cups. Spread remaining frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. 

Spoon reserved frosting into a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe a decorative lattice design on cake top and sides. Garnish with strawberries and mint if desired. Refrigerate until serving.

Yield: 12 servings.