Falling on a Sunday this year, Valentine’s Day 2021 is shaping up to be a weekend-long celebration. That in mind, local shops that specialize in handmade artisan chocolates and small-batch baked goods are preparing for what may be the biggest Feb. 14 in years. “Sugar, love and a holiday weekend? It’s the perfect combination,” says Sandy Stauffer, owner of the Bakery House in Bryn Mawr. “It’s all about red, hearts and joy around the world.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot to do with it. “People are gifting to everyone important in their lives—especially teachers, postal workers and Amazon drivers, who you probably know much better than you did last year,” says Kim Wright, owner of the Nothing Bundt Cakes, with locations in Wynnewood, Springfield and Wayne.
“Carpe diem,” says Christopher Curtin with a laugh. The master chocolatier and owner of West Chester’s Éclat Chocolate has seen retail business skyrocket by 400 percent since the start of the pandemic. Still, that doesn’t make up for the loss of international sales or its wholesale business with hotels and restaurants, all of which evaporated in March. “But we’re living on our customers here in West Chester and in the U.S.,” Curtin says. “And I’m incredibly grateful for the support.”
Heart-shaped boxes of artisan chocolates are Éclat’s most popular Valentine’s Day gift, followed closely by truffles, pralines, bon bons and Mondiants. Wafer-like and filled with peanut butter, caramel or cacao nibs, Mondiants are Curtin’s spin on mendiants, a traditional French treat. The New York Times wrote about them in June. “They are delicate and delicious,” says Curtin. “We’re incredibly proud to offer them to our customers.”
The Bakery House’s newly enhanced online ordering system has resulted in a bonanza of business. Stauffer realized that an online system is easier for most of her customers, though it hasn’t compromised her relationship with any of them.
Some have been Bakery House patrons for 30 years. “I still see them when they come in to pick up their orders,” Stauffer says. “We’re blessed to have loving, caring, giving customers. It’s the best part about a neighborhood bakery.”
The Bakery House’s most popular Valentine’s Day treats: heart-shaped cakes dipped in chocolate and decorated with buttercream icing. A close second are the strawberry rolls (vanilla fudge cake with strawberries and fresh whipped cream) and sand cookies with red and white sugar. “Cookies and beautiful but smaller items are being ordered for teachers, postal workers and other people who’ve proven to be essential,” Stauffer says.
At Nothing Bundt Cakes, chocolate-chocolate chip and red velvet Bundtlets and bize-size Bundtinis are bestselling Valentine’s Day flavors. For grab-and-go gifts, Bundtlets can be ordered in towers or wrapped with wine glasses, coffee mugs, and teddy bears. “We need all the love we can get this winter,” Wright says, “and all the sweetness, too.”