An easy recipe for cute Valentine’s Day treats!
During elementary school, I generally began preparing for Valentine’s Day at least 3 weeks in advance. As February 14th drew near, I set aside my favorite pretty pink blouse, white lacy socks, and heart-patterned hair ribbons. I practiced full ponytails, half-up hair ’dos, and pigtail braids for hours until I could deftly pull each strand in its place. The weekend before, I scoured every bedroom’s closet shelves until I discovered an abandoned shoebox and commandeered it as my own.
Sitting at the kitchen table, I somehow sliced a slit down the center of the lid with my hot pink safety scissors before meticulously measuring sheets of red construction paper to paste onto the sides. I then pressed on glittery heart stickers and drew decorative squiggly borders with Mr. Sketch smelly markers until the entire craft project undeniably screamed “Valentine’s Day Mailbox!”
I practically begged my mom to drive me to the store, where I sifted through countless packages of those little fold-in-half greeting cards with various cute quips scrolled across each image. Forever a Disney fan, I gravitated towards the Minnie Mouse and Winnie-the-Pooh themed boxes, and eventually I clutched one to my chest and walked towards the cashier stand as Mom clucked impatiently.
Back at home, I sorted through every single card, categorizing them by Disney character and message. I placed the mushiest ones furthest away; I only handed out those to my closest friends who wouldn’t misinterpret the romantic lines. After browsing through the remaining cards, I pulled out those with the friendliest, least lovey-dovey text and scribbled the names of various boys in my class on the corresponding envelopes.
But I always spent over an hour agonizing over which card to send to my crush. It needed to be perfect—slightly cute, a little friendly, borderline romantic—all without appearing too over-the-top and incredibly obvious that I liked the guy.
When I finally checked off the names of every kid in my class, I sealed each envelope shut with a heart-shaped sticker from the package and placed them in my special Valentine shoebox, anxiously awaiting the actual day that wouldn’t come for another week.
On February 14th, I slipped into my festive outfit, twisted my hair up with a fancy ribbon, and stood outside the classroom door with my overflowing homemade mailbox tucked neatly under my arm. With the teacher’s permission, a few parents typically organized a party, complete with freshly baked cookies and cupcakes (back before schools banned homemade goodies!) and hundreds of candy conversation hearts.
After lunch, we walked back into the classroom and navigated between the desks, dropping valentines into each student’s shoebox. As I drew near my crush’s chair, I held my breath, praying that nobody would hear my heart thumping louder than a big bass drum, finally plopping back into my own seat after the delivery and nibbling on soft sugar cookies to calm my nerves for the rest of the afternoon.
This year, in a momentous act of bravery, I courageously strode across the living room, cuddled up on the couch, and directly asked my crush what he wanted for Valentine’s Day.
Well, maybe I should rephrase…
I actually inquired, “I’m thinking of making funfetti cookies for Valentine’s Day… What else should I put in them?”
Without a single second of hesitation, my guy replied, “Cherries!”
Although not the most intuitive combination—sugary sprinkles and dried fruit—I decided to run with it and putzed around the kitchen while he called out hockey play-by-plays from the sofa. Towards the end of the Sharks game, I presented him with a festive plate of cookies, and he glanced up at me.
“You actually did it?”
“Of course! It’s what you asked for!”
These Cherry Funfetti Valentine Cookies taste every bit as sweet as they look. Warm buttery flavors permeate throughout every sprinkle-studded bite, highlighted by bright bursts of dried fruit. Their soft comforting texture resembles that of your grandmother’s classic butter-laden treats, but these are secretly skinny!
I began with a base very similar to my favorite low-fat cookie dough. Countless readers have commented that its buttery flavor doesn’t taste healthy at all, shocking even the pickiest of cookie eaters! My secret weapon? Extra vanilla extract. A little additional vanilla extract imitates butter’s flavor without the excess fat and calories. You’ll need 4 teaspoons today for these 2 dozen cookies.
As their name suggests, these cookies feature 2 mix-ins: dried cherries and sprinkles. Since dried cherries are slightly larger than raisins or dried cranberries, I generally slice each one into quarters before folding them into the dough. The smaller pieces ensure that every bite contains a morsel of the sweet fruit!
Drawn to their adorable cuteness, I opted for red, white, and pink heart-shaped sprinkles made by Wilton. I’ve spotted the container at multiple grocery stores, as well as Target and Walmart. You could easily substitute Valentine jimmies (the long, thin sprinkles), but avoid nonpareils (the small spherical ones) because they will bleed as you mix them in and turn the cookie dough a very unappetizing shade of gray.
Two main factors contribute to these cookies’ extra chewy texture: brown sugar and melted butter. The brown sugar adds extra moisture to the dough, as well as a subtle caramel note. By using melted butter, you can easily mix up these cookies with just a wooden spoon or fork—no electric mixer required!
Even more impressive than these cookies’ chewiness? Their softness. That’s right; these cookies are incredibly tender—almost like biting into a piece of raw dough!—due to another one of my secret weapons: cornstarch. Typically added to soups for thickening purposes, the cornstarch also absorbs moisture in this cookie dough, creating their extraordinarily soft texture.
After mixing up the cookie dough, you have a choice: chill it or bake it right away. Chilling reduces the dough’s stickiness and creates thicker cookies that do not spread. Immediately baking the dough yields slightly thinner cookies that do spread on their own in the oven. (I chose the second option—baking right away—for the cookies shown in these photographs.) Either way, the cookies will still turn out incredibly soft and chewy!
Only bake these cookies for 11-13 minutes. Although they appear underdone, you’ll let them sit on the warm metal baking sheet for an additional 10 minutes after removing them from the oven, which allows the centers to continue cooking without the outsides turning crisp and crunchy. This short bake time also helps maintain their soft, chewy texture.
I sent these Cherry Funfetti Valentine Cookies with my guy to give to 6 of his friends during their 14-hour volunteer shift last Saturday. Despite their manliness and staunch aversion to all things pink and heart-shaped, his friends completely devoured 3 dozen of these buttery cookies between their lunch and dinner meals! Those boys were no match for the soft chewy dough, the sweet tangy cherries, and adorably inviting Valentine sprinkles.
When my guy brought home the empty containers, he announced that everyone marveled over their soft texture—even to the point of fighting over the last cookie!—and wanted to know how I did it.
With a twinkle in my eye, I replied, “It’s all in the cornstarch!”
Don’t believe me? Try baking them yourself!