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Heart-shaped cakes express a sweet sentiment suitable for Valentine's Day, anniversaries or simply to say "I love you." Consider your cake decorating skill level and available equipment when selecting a method for making the heart shape. Novice decorators might prefer a single-layer cake, while more advanced decorators can stack layer cakes with filling. Decorate the shaped cake with buttercream frosting and a piping bag, or with fondant for a smoother finish.

Heart-Shaped Pans

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Cake pans molded in the shape of a heart make it quick and easy to bake a heart-shaped cake. Simply grease the inside of the pan, add your favorite cake mix and bake for the time indicated in the recipe -- time varies depending on the pan size. The major disadvantage with shaped pans is the size is limited by the size of the pan, requiring you to purchase a different heart-shaped pan if you want a smaller or larger size.

If you have multiple sizes, though, you can stack them on top of each other for a multi-tier cake. Push straws or dowel pieces vertically in the lower levels, in a star pattern, to help support the weight of the cake in the upper tiers. Remove the supports just before serving.

Circles and Squares

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Heart-shaped pans require an extra purchase and take up storage space, while round and square pans are common pieces of equipment even for beginner bakers. The two pans should be the same diameter, so use an 8-inch round pan with an 8-inch square pan, or use 9-inch round and square pans. Bake the cakes in the pans, allow them to cool, and remove them from the pans. Place a square cake on the work surface aligned as a diamond. Cut the round cake in half to make two half circles. Line up the cut sides of the half circles against the upper left and upper right sides of the square cake. Glue the half-circle cakes to the square cake with buttercream frosting. Apply a thin layer of buttercream frosting to the entire cake. Decorate with your choice of buttercream frosting or fondant.

Two Round Cakes

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Stack two round cakes if you want a heart-shaped cake with extra height and filling in the center. After allowing the cakes to cook completely, set one round cake on a cake board. Spread a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick layer of frosting over the top and set the second round cake on top. Trace the bottom of the cake pan onto a piece of wax paper and cut out the circle shape. Fold the circle of wax paper in half and draw half a heart shape on the paper. Cut out the drawing and unfold to make a heart template that fits the cake dimensions.

Place the template on top of the layer cake. Trace along the edges with a toothpick or small knife to transfer the shape to the cake. Use these lines as a guide for cutting out the heart shape. Freeze the cake partially before cutting to reduce crumbling. Use a serrated knife to cut out the heart shape.

Decoration Ideas

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For a basic buttercream decoration, cover the cake with red or pink frosting. Create a border around the top and bottom edges of the cake with a shell or star tip. Write a message on the cake with a round decorating tip. Sprinkles make a colorful addition that can be applied with the frosting is fresh on the cake.

Fondant is rolled out to about 1/4-inch thick and smoothed over the cake either by hand or with a fondant smoother tool. You can pipe a message with buttercream frosting or cut out letters from fondant -- attach fondant to fondant with a small amount of water brushed on the back of the letters. Imprinting mats and embossing tools make it easy to add pattern and texture to smooth fondant sheets. Other decorative options include flowers shaped from gum paste and smaller hearts cut out from different colors of rolled fondant.

About the Author

Amelia Allonsy

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.