This festive Heart Cake is a moist, rich heart shape chocolate cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting. It is topped with crunchy cocoa crumbles. Make it for Valentine’s Day, a special birthday, a wedding anniversary, or anytime you want to show your love. Bonus: you don’t need a heart-shaped cake pan to make this!
This heart-shaped cake could not be more fun, impressive or delicious! It’s a moist chocolate heart cake topped with luscious strawberry cream cheese frosting. Fresh strawberries make the cake even more romantic and cocoa crumbles add that extra crunch on top!
I wanted to make a heart cake for Valentine’s Day but I don’t have a heart shaped pan. I created this recipe so that everyone could make a heart shaped cake whether you have a special heart shaped mold or not!
Why This Recipe Works
- It’s simple to make. No fancy tools or equipment needed. You don’t even need a special heart shaped mold.
- Fresh strawberries give the creamy strawberry cream cheese icing a pretty pink color! The strawberries on top of the cake add the perfect pop of red to this love shape cake!
- Cocoa crumbles add a delicious chocolatey crunch on top. Plus they’re yummy to snack on!
- This beautiful love shape cake heart is perfect for so many celebrations. I’m making this heart shape cake for my husband for Valentine’s Day! It would also be perfect as a heart shaped birthday cake.
Here are some useful notes on some of the ingredients for this heart shape cake.
- Flour– Use all-purpose flour.
- Salt- Salt enhances the flavor of the chocolate.
- Sugar- We are using granulated sugar for the cake.
- Vanilla Extract– Vanilla extract adds flavor.
- Eggs- Use 2 large, room temperature eggs and 1 egg yolk. Eggs add structure, flavor, and moisture to the cake.
- Oil-Use vegetable, canola or olive oil. Oil makes this chocolate cake super moist.
- Cocoa powder- I recommend using Dutch process cocoa powder or Hershey’s Dark Dutch process cocoa powder.
- Sour cream- Use full fat, room temperature sour cream.
- Hot water– Make sure water is steaming hot.
- Powdered sugar- Sift the powdered sugar to remove any lumps.
- Strawberries – you can use fresh strawberries for the frosting. If you use frozen strawberries, thaw them first. I recommend fresh berries for decoration.
- Butter-Use unsalted room temperature butter for the frosting.
- Cream cheese– Use full fat brick style cream cheese. It’s important the cream cheese is at room temperature. If the cream cheese or butter are cold, the frosting will be lumpy.
See recipe card below for quantities and instructions.
- Buttermilk- Substitute buttermilk, full fat plain milk yogurt, or Greek yogurt for the sour cream.
- Coffee-Use hot coffee in place of hot water. It won’t make the cake taste like coffee. It will amplify the chocolate flavor!
- Freeze dried strawberries– sprinkle some crushed freeze dried strawberries on top of the cake. They’re a pretty decoration and hint at the flavor of the cake! You can also use pulsed freeze dried strawberries in place of fresh strawberries in the frosting. Use about a half an ounce.
- Sprinkles- Swap in some festive sprinkles in place of the cocoa crumbles!
- Cake crumbs– Crumble up some of the cake top scraps to use for decoration in place of cocoa crumbs. They won’t add crunch, but they look great and hint at the chocolate flavor of the cake!
- Mascarpone whipped cream – use Mascarpone whipped cream in place of strawberry cream cheese frosting.
Step by Step Instructions
Here are the directions on how to make and bake this love heart cake. Please see recipe card for detailed instructions and list of ingredients.
Step 1: In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the all-purpose, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
Step 2: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, oil, sour cream, milk and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly pour in the hot water into the wet ingredients while whisking until combined. Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients til just combined. Divide batter between 1 round 8-inch cake pan and 1 square 8-inch cake pan.
Step 4: Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 18-25 minutes. Place baked cakes on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.
Step 5: Use a serrated knife to trim the top of your cakes if they have domed. Slice the round cake in half.
Step 5: Place the two round halves alongside two adjacent sides of the square cake to form chocolate cake in a heart shape.
Step 6: Make the cocoa crumbles. In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix to combine the room temperature butter, cocoa powder, all-purpose flour, brown sugar and salt until mixture forms small clusters. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 9-11 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Making the Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Step 1: Add the chopped strawberries, sugar and water to a small saucepan over low heat. Stir often for about 10 minutes or until mixture thickens and reduces to about 3 tablespoons. Remove from heat and pour strawberries in a small bowl to cool.
Step 2: Beat the room temperature butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer cream cheese til combined. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, cooled strawberry mixture and a pinch of salt. Beat 1-2 minutes until completely combined.
Step 1: Place cake on a large serving tray or the back of a baking sheet. Frost the cake with a thin layer of frosting. This is the crumb coat. Place cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Next, frost with remainder of frosting.
Step 2: Decorate the cake with strawberries and cocoa crumble. Slice and enjoy!
Expert Baking Tips
- Tip #1: Use cake strips to keep cakes from forming a dome when they bake. If you don’t have cake strips, no worries. See tip #2. 🙂
- Tip # 2: Slice the tops of the cake. If your cakes have domed at the top, use a serrated knife to slice the tops off til they are the same height.
- Tip #3: Bottom sides up. Place the cakes bottom side up. The bottoms of the cakes are smoother. They are easier to frost.
- Tip #4: Embrace imperfections. Don’t worry if your cake isn’t perfect looking or is a little uneven. This is a homemade cake and any imperfections add charm!
- Tip #5: Make a double heart shaped cake. To make a double heart shape cake, just slice the two cakes in half. Double the frosting recipe so that you have enough to frost the middle and the top and sides if you like. You won’t need to double the amount of cocoa crumbles. One batch would be enough.
You can cut the cake anyway you like, but this is the way I cut mine. Start at the top center of the cake. Cut down the middle. Next, slice down the center of the two sides. Then cut the cake in half sideways. Finally, cut the top part in half sideways and the bottom part in half sideways. This will give you 14 pieces.
Use a square shaped pan and a round pan. They should be the same size. This recipe uses two 8 inch pans. Once baked, slice the round cake in half and place the two halves next to the square cake to form a heart shape.
If the strawberries have not been cooked long enough, they will be watery. Cook strawberries long enough so that the fruit reduces, thickens and develops a jam-like texture. If you use fresh or chopped strawberries without reducing them, the frosting will be too runny.
Store this chocolate heart cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The cake tastes best at room temperature. Allow cake to come to room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
Store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Freeze the frosting in a freezer safe bag for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Rewhip the frosting with a mixer before using.
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- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk room temperature
- ½ cup whole milk room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream full fat, room temperature
- ½ cup hot water
- 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar light or dark
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ tablespoons cocoa powder
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
- ¾ cup fresh strawberries finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons water or lemon juice
- ¼ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese full fat, room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups powdered sugar sifted
- 1 pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of one round 8″ cake pan and one square 8" cake pan with parchment paper. Spray the sides with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt then whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, oil, sour cream and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly pour in the hot water into the wet ingredients while whisking until combined.
- Use a rubber spatula to gradually stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined, being careful not to over mix.
- Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake 19-24 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cakes. Place pans on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Cool completely before cutting or frosting.
- Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the cocoa clusters. Stir them together with a spoon or mix them with a hand held mixer until combined and mixture forms small clusters. Spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Break up larger clumps with your hands or a fork if too large. (I prefer to have a mix of some small and some just slightly larger chunks).
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
- Add the chopped strawberries, sugar and water or lemon juice to a small saucepan over low heat. Stir often for about 10 minutes or until mixture thickens and reduces to about 3 tablespoons. Remove from heat and pour strawberries in a small bowl to cool completely.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the room temperature butter and room temperature cream cheese on medium high til combined.
- Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on medium high for 1-2 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula.
- Add the vanilla extract, cooled strawberry mixture and a pinch of salt. Beat 1-2 minutes until completely combined. Place the strawberry cream cheese frosting in the fridge to chill until you're ready to frost the cake.
- Use a serrated knife to level off the tops, if needed. Cut the round cake in half. This will give you two half moon shapes. Place the square cake bottom side up on a large tray or a sheet pan (or back of a sheet pan if it doesn't fit on the sheet pan itself). Place each of the circle halves cut side down beside two adjacent sides of the square to form a heart shape.
- Spread a thin of frosting over the top of the cake. This will be the crumb coat. Place cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to chill.
- Frost cake with the remainder of the frosting. Top with cocoa crumbles and strawberries, if desired.
- I prefer finely chopped fresh strawberries.
- I recommend leaving out the white part of the strawberries since it doesn’t add any flavor.
- Frozen strawberries can be used. Thaw before using.
- Ground frozen strawberries can be used in place of fresh or frozen strawberries. Add them when you would add the strawberry puree. Use about 1/2 ounce freeze dried strawberries pulsed into powder.
- If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time. If it’s too thick, add a tablespoon of milk to thin it out.