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Looking for a fun way to surprise your S.O. for Valentine’s Day? We have some great ideas that go beyond the usual.

On such an occasion as Valentine’s Day, with couples everywhere celebrating their love en masse, there are those who stick to the tried-and-true (read: predictable and uninspired) and then there’s you. You know you want to do better this year than any of the standard tropes: dinner and a show, chocolate and flowers, Netflix and chill, etc. You can leave those methods to literally everyone else.

If yours is an unconventional love befitting an unconventional approach, you might consider adding an element of surprise to the festivities. Lean less on the spring-loaded gift wrap or jumping out from behind a corner themes, and more on subtle ways to delight your valentine, whether on simple or grandiose terms, with sweet little secrets tucked into your Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Help keep the mystery alive in your relationship this Valentine’s Day with any or all of these seven unusual ways to surprise your sweetheart.

Keeping It Close: Hidden Heart Cake

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Surprise your loved ones this Valentine’s Day or make any day a little extra special with this Hidden Heart Cake. Start with a box cake mix and end up with this loaf cake topped with a buttery, powdered sugar glaze.⁠ .⁠ .⁠ Ingredients⁠ 1 box white cake mix (plus ingredients on the back of the box to prepare the cake)⁠ Food coloring of choice⁠ For the Frosting⁠ 1/2 cup butter (very soft)⁠ 4 cups powdered sugar⁠ 2-4 tablespoons milk⁠ Instructions⁠ For the Cake:⁠ Preheat oven to 350 degrees.⁠ Prepare the cake mix batter according to the box directions.⁠ Scoop out 1 ½ cups of batter and pour it into a small bowl. Add your food coloring to the batter to achieve the color you would like and mix well. You could also add some extract if you would like to flavor the heart.⁠ Pour the colored batter into a greased and floured 8 inch square pan and bake for about 12 minutes. Cool completely.⁠ Using a 2″ heart cookie cutter, cut out heart shapes and set them aside. ⁠ Pour half of the remaining white batter into a greased and floured loaf pan. Place the colored hearts into the pan vertically, along the center. Pour the remaining batter over the top.⁠ Bake for about 40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn the cake out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.⁠ For the Frosting:⁠ In a small bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar and start with 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix well, until all of the sugar lumps are gone. Add more milk if you would like a thinner consistency.⁠ Spread over the top of your cooled cake, slice and enjoy!⁠ .⁠ .⁠ #ValentinesDay #cake #bestcakes #cakecakecake #thebestcakerecipes #cakestyle #cakelove #cakedecorating #holidaycakes #easycakerecipes #beautifulfood #sweets #sweettreat #bakery #baking #bakingblog #forkyeah #spoonfeed #cakemaking #heresmyfood #cakesofinstagram #dessertstagram #dessertoftheday #instasweets #instayum

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Heart-shaped accessories make everything possible, so much so that your whole day could be heart-food-themed, from heart-shaped waffles in the morning, to heart-shaped burgers, to heart-shaped chicken parm for crying out loud. Listen, we get it, you’re in love, but that kind of on-the-aorta style is enough to make Cupid himself nauseated. Instead, just make a lovely meal of your choosing with foods in their natural state—also a fine theme for Valentine’s Day—and finish with this sweet little loaf cake whose heart is anywhere but on its sleeve. Get the Hidden Heart Cake recipe.

Wilton 3-inch Red Metal Cookie Cutter, $3.09 on Amazon

For adding hearts to your dinner, subtle or otherwise.
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Secret Rendezvous: Speakeasy Dining at Frevo

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Not your regular art gallery 🎨

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Speakeasies are a growing trend in American cocktail culture, especially around the 100 year anniversary of the start of Prohibition, and a fine option for Valentine’s Day, with their often glam throwback ambience and naughty, getting-away-with-something vibes. Now, there are speakeasies that call themselves as such and have little more than a heavy door and an understated sign. And then there are truly hidden rooms: where one’s Valentine might be surprised by finding a bar on the other side of a phone booth, or a hardware store, or a bodega.

And then there’s the latest and greatest: Frevo, a full fine dining restaurant hidden behind an art gallery, where you and your valentine pass through a painting before settling into the sumptuous kitchen counter to enjoy a multi-course tasting menu. Now THAT’s a Valentine’s Day dinner and a show. Look for similar style restaurants and bars in whatever town you celebrate V-Day in.


Hidden Treasures: Jackpot Candles

Candles are one of the most universally well-regarded gifts for any occasion: functional and beautiful, at once timeless and finite. But because they are one of the most oft-given presents, perhaps your valentine will feel momentarily disappointed that your gift lacks, I dunno…a little bling, perhaps? But if you’re in it for the long-game, or even the at-least-a-few-days-more game, have patience. Once melted these candles reveal a hidden gem. Literally. In ring form.

Jackpot Candle with Ring Inside, $24.95 on Amazon

Wait...is this a proposal?
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Keep the Mystery Alive: Cooking Basket Challenge

The couple that sautés together, stays together. (I think I got that right.) What is more romantic than cooking in on Valentine’s Day, out of sight and more than an elbow’s distance away from everyone else’s V-Day celebrations? For an element of fun and surprise, go for a mystery-basket cooking challenge. Have a (trusted) friend or family member prepare a basket of three or four items for you and your valentine to figure out what dinner will then be. Or celebrate dinner-party style where each couple brings a mystery basket for a specific course, which will be up to one of the other couples to cook. What better way to test your compatibility?

Picnic Time Basket with Gingham Liner, $44.95 on Amazon

Mystery ingredients sold separately.
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Melt Your Heart: Blooming Chocolate Swirl Balls

Along with candles, and your heart, chocolate is another thing that can be counted upon to melt on Valentine’s Day when heat is applied. Already synonymous with this amourous event, you can also put chocolate to use as an agent for a surprise reveal. An easy to make chocolate shell can hide whatever treasures you want on the inside: messages, gifts, or even more chocolate. Your valentine may only think they’re getting dessert. What they’re actually getting is…well, dessert and whatever else you want to dazzle them with, even if only your dessert-making capabilities. Get the Blooming Chocolate Swirl Balls recipe.


Escapist Fantasies: DIY Escape Room 

Heads up: This is not about locking your valentine in a closet. This is the graduated version of the adorable Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt you might have done for your high school sweetheart. Taking the puzzles, tasks, and game elements of the Escape Rooms that are all the rage right now, these DIY ideas from Lock Paper Scissors help you to create a customized escape room in your own house. What awaits on the other side of the locked door or locked box is entirely your affair. (Pun intended.)

5-Digit Bike Lock Cable, $12.99 on Amazon

You can set the code to your heart at any significant number of your choosing.
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Love Potion Number 9: Color Changing Martini

Set the scene thusly: “Darling, this is what you do to my heart…” before adding the final element that turns this cocktail from a deep purple to a bright fuchsia. The latest secret ingredient for abracadabra bartenders is Butterfly Pea Flower Powder, which reacts with acid, in this case lemon juice, to provide a little show-stopping, transformative color action. Cheesy come-on lines sold separately, but no matter what, at the end you have a lovely, ginger-spiced cocktail to enjoy, which can help with Valentine’s Day transformations of your own design. Get the Color Changing Martini recipe.

Butterfly Pea Flower, $18.25 on Amazon

The drinks won't be the only things blushing.
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Header image courtesy of With love of photography/Getty Images

Pamela Vachon is a freelance writer based in Astoria, NY whose work has also appeared on CNET, Cheese Professor, Alcohol Professor, and Diced. She is also a certified sommelier, voiceover artist, and an avid lover of all things pickled or fermented.
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