Although presents such as chocolates, jewellery or flowers are seen as the Valentine’s Day stalwarts, why not promote special Valentine’s bakery products as the gift of choice in 2011? To coin a new phrase, "If cake be the food of love, eat on". Ideas could include: heart-shaped cookies or cakes iced with declarations of love, or red-velvet cupcakes decorated with red and white edible hearts. And as these items are likely to be given as gifts, make sure you consider the packaging for example adorned gift boxes or cookies in clear plastic pouches tied with coloured ribbon.

Liana Stevens of Nottingham-based cupcake business Star Bakery says its cupcake gift boxes containing nine cakes for £20 sold very well around Valentine’s Day last year, as well as special Valentine’s cookies, which it will be offering again in February. Meanwhile, Claire Rogers, owner of Crumbilicious in Oswestry, says she will be offering personal message cupcakes, and has already designed a ’marry me’ cupcake, with a partnering ’yes’ cupcake. For those who don’t have a partner to give Valentine’s Day bakery delights to, why not offer them an alternative, such as "I love me" cupcakes, or "broken-hearted" biscuits?

Ingredients manufacturer Macphie has just launched a new red velvet cake and muffin mix, which it says is ideal for Valentine’s Day-themed applications. The mix produces a range of cakes with a red appearance, which have a very subtle chocolate flavour and a moist and tender crumb, explains the firm. "Red velvet is new and exciting; it’s the hottest ticket in town for the bakery market," says marketing manager, Jania Boyd. "Research shows that impulse purchase accounts for 80% of bakery sales and Macphie red velvet mix is ideal for making eye-catching muffins, cupcakes, whoopie pies, and celebration cakes that consumers will find irresistible."

ADM Milling marketing manager Melanie Somerville recommends its Raspberry and Passion Fruit cake mix for the production of Valentine’s Day treats. The mix only requires the addition of water and oil to produce a range of different products, including cupcakes, muffins and heart-shaped cakes that can be hand-finished with romantic messages, explains Somerville. "Bakers who prefer scratch recipes can use ADM’s Golden Dawn Plain flour, which is a low-protein soft flour, ideal for making heart-shaped cookies. These can be hand-finished with icing sugar or sugarpaste hearts," she adds.

Puratos, which develops and supplies bakery, confectionery and chocolate ingredients, says using its newly revamped Satin range, which includes Satin Crème Cake mix, Satin Moist Cake mix, Satin Muffin mix and Satin Farmhouse mix, will enable bakers to extend their range while keeping costs and risk to a minimum. "The Satin Crème Cake makes a great cookie and, with the addition of Puratos’ bakestable fillings, cut them in a heart shape and you have a seasonal variety," says the firm. Try, for example, Coconut Satin and Raspberry or chocolate cookies dipped in Belcolade chocolate, it adds.

Concentrate on chocolate

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go together like the proverbial horse and carriage, says Unifine Food & Bake Ingredients, which is why it has kept chocolate at the heart of its Valentine’s recipes for 2011. The recipes use ingredients from the firm’s portfolio, including mixes, chocolate products, fonds and toppings and a brand new plain chocolate heart-shaped frame decoration available now for next year. The 30mm x 30mm decoration could be used to top desserts, cakes and biscuits or to finish the sides of a gateau, for example. Suggested recipes for Valentine’s Day include a heart-shaped sweetheart cake, finished with tempered white chocolate and a St Valentine’s transfer. Unifine’s chef patissier Graham Dunton has also developed a red velvet cupcake using Sumix Choco, designed to carry the new heart decoration.

The firm also suggests a different take on coconut kisses heart-shaped macaroons. These can be filled with fruit and topped with tempered chocolate fragments. Or why not offer heart-shaped shortbread biscuits, decorated with the new chocolate heart decoration and finished with delicate stripes of pink icing?

Once your product offering is sorted, don’t forget about planning a window display to tempt in all those customers. Mike Holling, retail and sales manager, Birds of Derby, says Valentine’s Day-themed products will sell for weeks in advance of the big day. "Selling Valentine’s treats is a great way of bringing in incremental sales; this year, we achieved sales in excess of £12,000 for Valentine products," explains Holling. "Our Valentine-themed products are sent out mid-January to allow for a three-week window of trading during the run-up to the day. The colour of these kind of products is very important, the reds and the whites gives a nice contrast and it adds a bit of imagination to the product displays." The craft bakery chain adapts its regular products, such as biscuits and novelty lines, adding inscriptions, noting its Valentine’s cupcake as a particular success this year.