Have you ever wondered how Cupid, that cherubic baby who flies around shooting arrows at people to make them fall in love, became associated with Valentine’s Day? I have. Despite my disinterest in Valentine’s Day and my own personal twist to include other types of love celebrated on this holiday in addition to romantic love, I couldn’t help but wonder how Cupid became associated with February 14. Many times I asked myself how did the myth of this naked, winged cherub come to be? Personally, I always thought it was a bit weird! I did a bit of reading and if you must know, there are several myths about Cupid. In one story from ancient Greek mythology, which was later retold by the Romans, Cupid (also known as Eros) was the son of Aphrodite and Ares. Eros would strike at the hearts of gods and mortals alike, playing with their emotions. In Roman times, being emotional was highly frowned upon, so this infant deity had much fun sowing confusion and impropriety among humans wherever he went. If you were hit by a golden arrow, you would fall madly in love, but if you were hit by a leaden arrow, then you would become utterly repulsed by the person pursuing you. In another myth, Cupid is the son of Venus and Mercury, the goddess of love and beauty and the winged messenger of the gods respectively, and Cupid falls in love with a mortal named Psyche and proposes to her with one condition: she could never see his face. That’s a far cry from modern proposals if you ask me, but that’s how these two crazy cats decided to do it! Psyche marries Cupid and keeps the promise… until one day curiosity got the better of her and she stole a glance, causing Cupid to flee in anger. Psyche then searches the world over looking for her lover, but at least this myth has a happy ending because they are eventually reunited and the mortal Psyche gets granted immortality by Jupiter, living happily forever after. There is an oil-on-canvas painting at the Minneapolis Institute of Art created by French painter Pierre-Paul Prud’hon in 1793 called the Union of Love and Friendship. It is my most favorite painting at the museum, and it depicts the union of these two ideals in the form of Cupid and Psyche. It’s a beautiful painting, and Dan and I often visit it, remembering one of our early dates at the MIA.
And speaking of paintings, this reminds me that I also found out Cupid didn’t always look the way we see him today. It came as a bit of a shock to me when I first saw Cupid portrayed as a handsome, lean young man in Prud’hon’s painting, but that’s exactly how Cupid’s image started, following all the Greco-Roman ideals of beauty. But then, the portrayals of Cupid evolved over time, making him younger and younger, until he became the winged toddler we are familiar with today. By the time we reached the 19th Century, love-obsessed Victorians seized upon this infant image of Cupid and popularized it. The Victorians, so enamored with romance, transformed the vision of Cupid and Valentine’s Day forever. They became so obsessed with Cupid’s mischievous portrayal that many Victorian paintings, sculptures, and artworks are filled with depictions of Cupid as an expression of love. They also popularized Valentine’s Day cards. Right around that time, in 1861, Cadbury seized upon the idea of Valentine’s Day as a way to increase its chocolate sales, and they debuted the first heart-shaped box of chocolates, embellished with Cupids and roses, encouraging customers to use the box as a keepsake. So as you can see, we owe the holiday as we know it to the Victorians, in much the same way as we owe many Christmas traditions, like decorating evergreen trees and opening crackers and eating figgy pudding, to the Victorians as well.
What I really want to know is: why do none of these stories involve chocolate!? What if you don’t really care about Cupid and maybe you really dislike Valentine’s? I really wouldn’t blame you. However! What if I gave you a cookie that could redeem this holiday? What if I offer you an alternative representation of the holiday, one involving delicious rosewater & chocolate candy cookies instead of arrows? I don’t know about you, but I would really hate to have a flying baby following me around, eyeing me as its target! But I could totally get behind a mythological creature offering me a tin full of these delicious rose & chocolate candy cookies.
They are so good they make the whole holiday worth it! It’s a striking cookie that is sweet, nutty, and floral all at once, and the red, pink, and white candy-coated chocolate pieces definitely make it more appealing. It also has blanched almonds, candied rose petals, and hints of rosewater: an ingredient Victorians absolutely loved in their biscuits, so I haven’t completely abandoned all tradition, just taken it in a different direction… although this is a flavor match made in my kitchen, and not by Cupid! If you don’t happen to have an obsession with all things rose like I do, you could omit the rosewater and still get a hint of the floral flavor from just the candied rose pieces, and I think that would still work. One quick word about the candied rose petals: I do not make the candied rose petals from scratch for this recipe, at least not yet! Do not fret, this is not a time-consuming recipe. Save those fresh roses for your sweetie! You can buy candied rose petals in specialty stores and imported good stores and even online. I’ve included a link to my favorite brand for candied rose petals in the ingredients list, which can be ordered online.
I got rave reviews from my friends and neighbors who tried this recipe. One of them described them as the best cookies he had in his life. Dan alone consumed two tins faster than I could say “Cupid’s arrows!” and many of my Instagram followers asked me to share the recipe, which is how this became the recipe I decided to bring to the blog this week. So if you’re into the chocolate-giving tradition of Valentine’s, or have a well-developed sweet tooth, whether you’re into cherubic figures or not, whether you’re flying solo or have a significant other on this holiday, I highly recommend trying this easy recipe on this or any other romantic occasion.
Cupid’s Rose & Chocolate Candy Cookies
Prep time: 25 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours
Bake time: 10-12 minutes
Servings: 20 cookies, depending on scoop size
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp Celtic salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup cane sugar
- 1 egg + 1 yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp rosewater extract
- ½ tsp ground vanilla powder
- 1 bag Cupid’s mix M&M candies
- ½ cup blanched almonds, chopped
- ½ cup candied rose petals
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt, whisking well. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and cane sugar together on medium speed for 2 minutes. The mixture should be creamy and soft.
- Add the egg, followed by the vanilla extract and powder and rosewater extract, whisking until everything is fully integrated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the dry ingredients ¼ cup at a time, mixing on low speed until combined. The dough will get thick.
- Fold in the chopped almonds, if using.
- With a rubber spatula, fold in the Cupid M&Ms and the candied rose petals. If necessary, use your hands to combine these pieces into the dough.
- Press the dense cookie dough into a glass airtight container. Cover it and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. You can also leave it in the refrigerator until the day you decide to bake them, but do not store in the refrigerator for more than 4 days.
- After chilling the dough, remove the container from the refrigerator and allow it to soften at room temperature until the dough can be handled easily.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using an ice cream scoop, form balls of cookie dough and scoop them onto the prepared baking sheet, placing them at least 2 inches apart from each other. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden on the sides, depending on scoop size. The center should look soft.
- Remove the baking sheets from the oven and leave the cookies to cool there for 5 minutes. If desires, press extra M&M onto the tops of the cookies while the cookies are still warm. This is completely optional! After 5 minutes of cooling, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 days.
Note: you can make the cookie dough ahead and freeze it for up to 3 months. Simply store the cookie dough in a container and do not preshape them into cookie balls.
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