This Valentine’s Day might not have the same feel as in years passed. There will likely be less extravagant affairs or sleek overnight getaways.
But that doesn’t mean that the day of love should go by uncelebrated. There are plenty of ways to mark the occasion, including an intimate date night or even whipping up something sweet at home.
For Tim Lensch, the latter is always an option. The executive chef at the Georgia Sea Grill, located at 407 Mallery St., St. Simons Island, says the restaurant’s dessert menu is one that sweet dreams are made of, featuring everything from a classic Georgia pecan pie to French toast crème brûlée.
Lensch says that when diners arrive it’s definitely something that they are eager to peruse.
“We’re one of those ‘special occasion restaurants,’” he said with a laugh. “When people come here, they do it right. They’re ordering appetizers, drinks, and of course, dessert.”
One of the most popular choices is one that features a tried-and-true Valentine’s staple — chocolate. The old fashioned chocolate cake may sound simple, but it’s decadent in a way that definitely feels a little naughty.
Lensch says their Valentine’s version is small enough for couples or even individuals to enjoy essentially guilt-free.
“We make these in our aluminum utility cups that we use. We do the butter and a sugar coat,” he said. “The outside is a little crispy.”
For the standard chocolate cake, Lensch usually incorporates a peanut buttercream but for Valentine’s Day, he’s opted to add strawberry, creating a play on the always popular combo.
“You just think, ‘chocolate and strawberries,’ for Valentine’s Day so that’s what I did here,” he said. “This is an old fashioned chocolate cake with a strawberry buttercream. There’s a little chocolate ganache with a little whipped cream then the strawberry to go with it.”
While Lensch has some serious baking chops, he says this is a recipe one can easily recreate at home. And making larger portions to share is not a problem either.
“It’s easy to do in two nine inch cake pans. It’s not difficult at all. It’s really not, sift the dry ingredients and make sure they’re incorporated. Add eggs, buttermilk, vanilla incorporate that ... you could add water but I like to use coffee. You boil that and mix it together with the butter. You pop it in the oven and it’s good to go.”
While many will be celebrating at home this year, Lensch and the rest of the Sea Grill team are expecting a busy weekend. In fact, Valentine’s Day, he says, is always one of the busiest.
“Valentine’s Day is a big day for us ... even the days prior and the day after. So since it falls on a Sunday this year, I expect that we will be busy Friday, Saturday, Sunday and some of Monday too,” he said.
Owner Zack Gowen agrees, noting that they’ll continue to take reservations and follow protocol to keep patrons healthy.
“We’re still under our own guidelines which is 50 percent capacity. We’re making the best of it and doing it safely,” he said.
And Gowen is expecting the occasion to, as is traditional, kick off the busy spring season.
“It usually starts it for us. Then, it’s Presidents Day and spring break is right after so that’s when it gets busy ... all the way to the end of the year,” he said with a laugh.
Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake
2 cups All Purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened coco powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9 inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering with a light sprinkle of flour. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a sifter and sift into a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment for your stand-up mixer, mix on low until the dry ingredients are combined well. Add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla to the dry ingredients.
Mix together. Place coffee and butter in a saucepan and bring to a bowl. Slowly add coffee and butter to the bowl and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again. Evenly distribute cake batter between the two cake pans.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
1 pound unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 pound powdered sugar
2 cups strawberry jam
2 teaspoons vanilla paste/extract
Combine butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment for a stand-up mixer, mix on low until incorporated.
Mix on high until fluffy and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Once fluffy and smooth, add the strawberry jam and mix until incorporated.