Chocolate: A treat for Valentine’s Day and beyond

Alabama Living Magazine

Depending on which source you read, the history of chocolate can be traced back to ancient Mexico, where it is believed the Olmecs made a ceremonial drink from the pods of cacao trees. The beans from those pods were dried and roasted into cocoa beans. The Mayans and Aztecs also grew cacao and consumed chocolate as a beverage, believing it to be the “food of the gods” and an aphrodisiac. It’s unclear how chocolate made its way to Europe, but over hundreds of years, the Europeans developed a sweeter version of the Aztec hot chocolate, and then the first chocolate bars were made using milk, sugar, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the now-famous chocolate companies of Nestle, Lindt, Cadbury, Mars and Hershey had refined and marketed chocolate into the treats we know today. Richard Cadbury, according to Smithsonian Magazine,  is said to have designed decorative boxes with roses and Cupids in the Victorian 19th century to hold his British family’s chocolate candies.  Candy-making giant Russell Stover is credited with making the first heart-shaped box for chocolates in America in 1923, thus setting in motion a Valentine’s Day gift-giving tradition still popular a century later. 

Whether your favorite form of chocolate comes in a fancy heart-shaped box, or is made at home using one of these delicious reader-submitted recipes, we’re hoping it makes this year’s Valentine’s Day just one more reason to celebrate the loved ones in your life. 

This Chocolate Southern Pecan Pie takes a great Southern recipe and dresses it up with everyone’s favorite indulgence – chocolate! We love to love on people with food all year long but somehow, Valentine’s Day is even more perfect to take that to another level. This pie can be made with or without chocolate so it is a very versatile recipe you can keep in your recipe box all year long! For more recipes, visit

Chocolate Southern Pecan Pie

1 cup light corn syrup

1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

1 cup pecan halves (rough chop optional)

3 eggs

11/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Beat eggs, sugar, salt, butter and corn syrup. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into pie shell. Place on a sheet pan and bake 45-50 minutes until set. Cool, slice and serve.

Cook of the Month
Helen Johnson, Pioneer EC

Helen Johnson named her prize-winning recipe, “Better Than Anything Chocolate Cupcakes” because it’s accurate. “With a cup of coffee, it’s like a bit of heaven,” says the Fort Deposit cook who recently retired from Sejong Alabama LLC, a supplier for Hyundai Motors Manufacturing Alabama. Twenty years ago, a friend passed down a similar recipe, but Helen found it too sweet. So she cut down the amount of sugar and increased the dark cocoa powder from 5 to 6 tablespoons. The result was a hit with her family and friends. The recipe makes cupcakes or a layer cake or a 9-by-13 pan cake, “but my grandkids like the cupcakes better,” she says. Using hot water and buttermilk also makes the batter extra-delicious. “When I first made it, the batter was too thin, but I went ahead and baked it and it really did turn out good.” It’s also tasty with any kind of frosting, and she recommends Oreo cream frosting as an alternative. For a sweet-salty taste, you could even top the frosting with salted cashews or some Priester’s pecans, also from Fort Deposit. “This is the only chocolate recipe I use,” she says. – Lenore Vickrey

Better Than Anything Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

½ cup boiling water


1¼ cups real butter, room temperature (I use salted butter)

12 ounces Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

3 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder

5 cups powdered sugar

4-5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another medium size bowl combine the egg, vegetable oil and buttermilk. Add wet ingredient mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. Add the vanilla into the ½ cup of hot water and stir well. Add to the batter and mix well. Batter will be thin. Fill cupcake liners halfway and bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Remove cupcakes from oven and cool 1 minute before removing them to a rack to finish cooling. 

Frosting: Beat the butter in a large mixer bowl until smooth. Add the melted chocolate to butter and mix well. Add the cocoa powder and mix well. Add half of powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and mix. Add remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add remaining heavy cream as needed to get desired consistency. Heap the frosting on the cupcakes with a spoon or decorating tool. Makes 14-16 cupcakes.

Linda’s Homemade Chocolate Fudge

3 cups sugar

2/3 cup cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

11/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup butter (not margarine)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Line an 8-inch square pan with buttered parchment paper. In a heavy saucepan, stir in the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Add milk and cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to low and continue stirring until it reaches a temperature of at least 234 degrees with a candy thermometer. This is approximately 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add butter and vanilla. Don’t stir. Let it sit until it reaches room temperature (around 30 minutes). Beat the fudge with a wooden spoon for 8 minutes. Pour fudge into your lined pan and let cool completely. The fudge may be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

Jenny Russell Joe Wheeler EMC

Nutty Chocolate Pie

2 sticks butter

21/2 cups milk chocolate chips, divided

4 eggs

2½ cups toasted coconut, divided

1 cup pecans, chopped

1¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

2 Oreo pie crusts

1-2 cans Redi-whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and 1 cup chocolate chips, stir together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add 1½ cups coconut, pecans and sugar. Pour butter mixture into egg mixture. Add 1½ cups chocolate chips and cocoa powder and stir until well mixed. Pour mixture into pie crusts and bake 35-45 minutes or until set. Let cool, pie will harden while cooling. Make a boarder around edge of pie with the Redi-whip and sprinkle with remaining cup of coconut.

Angeline Cox Central Alabama EC

Chocolate Pudding Cake

2 cups self-rising flour

1½ cups sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup fat-free milk

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


2 cups boiling water

1½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13x2-inch pan with vegetable oil spray, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and cocoa. Whisk in remaining cake ingredients, blend thoroughly. Pour into baking pan and spread evenly. In a large bowl, whisk together pudding ingredients until sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Pour carefully over batter. (Pudding layer will be thin and runny.) Bake for 35-40 minutes or until top is firm to touch. Let cake rest for 15 minutes before cutting. A toothpick inserted in center of cake won’t be an accurate test for the cake being done.

Beth McLarty Cullman EC

Baby Ruth Bars

1 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1¾ cups smooth or crunchy peanut butter

5 cups Special K cereal

1 6-ounce package milk chocolate chips

¾ cup peanut butter

Bring sugar and syrup to a boil in a large pan. Remove from heat; add peanut butter and blend well. Add cereal, stirring to coat. Pour into 9×13-inch pan that has been sprayed with vegetable spray. Melt chocolate chips and ¾ cup peanut butter together until smooth. Spread over cereal mixture. Cool and cut into squares. 

Peggy Key North AL EC

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Cookies 

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter

2½ cups coconut milk

½ cup cocoa

3 cups self-rising flour

1 cup quick-cooking oats

11/2 cups peanut butter

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries 

Add 2 eggs, 3 tablespoons of butter, 21/2 cups of coconut milk, and 1/2 cup cocoa into a mixing bowl and mix well. Into a separate bowl add 3 cups self-rising flour, 1 cup quick-cooking oats, 11/2 cups peanut butter, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Add the cocoa mixture into the flour mixture and beat with a mixer for 5 minutes or until the mixture is well combined, should be the consistency of paste. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Add wax paper sheet to cookie sheet. Using a large spoon, add about 2 tablespoons of the mix to the cookie sheet. Spaced evenly you should be able to get a dozen large cookies on a standard sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Cookies will be dark in color. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Jason French South Alabama EC

Chex and Chocolate Party Mix

8 cups cereal (wheat, rice or corn)

2 cups shredded coconut, optional

1 cup peanuts

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup butter (1 stick)

½ cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 12-ounce (2 cups) semi-sweet 

chocolate morsels

1½ cups raisins or ½ cup raisins and 1 cup craisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine cereal, coconut and peanuts in large roasting pan. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat brown sugar, butter and syrup to boiling while stirring. Boil 5 minutes without stirring. Stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over cereal mixture, stir until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool, stirring often. Stir in morsels and raisins. Cool completely. Store in airtight containers. Makes about 16 cups. 

Melinda S. Cole Central Alabama EC

Chocolate Gravy

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa

2 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 stick butter

Bring first four ingredients to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter, stirring to combine. Serve over hot buttered biscuits.

Vickie Shockley Tallapoosa River EC

Granny’s Chocolate Cobbler

3/4 cup margarine

1 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup sugar

11/2 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

Melt margarine, pour into 13×9-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl mix flour, sugar, cocoa, milk and vanilla together, then spoon over margarine. Mix the last cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of cocoa. Sprinkle that mixture over batter. Pour 11/2 cups boiling water over it all. Don’t stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Stella Douglas Joe Wheeler EMC

Themes and Deadlines

May: Sugar-free/diabetic friendly | Feb. 5
June: Blueberries | March 5
July : Cucumber | April 2

Please send us your original recipes (developed  or adapted by you or family members.) Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” once per calendar year.


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