Candy is pretty much the physical manifestation of love. This universal truth includes, of course, the spoils within that most timeless of all Valentine’s Day gifts: the enorm-o heart-shaped chocolate boxes that you see in gas station mini-marts and high-end chocolatiers alike every February. Unfortunately, for all the sugary splendor inside of them, there are also at least a few flavors that are total duds (and I don’t mean the deliciously tooth-jamming ones of the Milk variety). As quickly as a toffee caramel can crank up my joy levels, biting into, say, a coconut-filled dark chocolate or, God forbid, a dreaded orange crème (I shudder at the very thought, my dudes) can rapidly send me into a spiral of confusion, terror, and pain, which isn’t exactly the intended effect when you’re looking to give someone a token of your ardor. The truth is, while store-bought boxes of candy are often rad, they can also be a minefield exploding with gross espresso-scented garbage chocolate, and I’m not always trying to take that kind of a risk when I could be shoving more identifiably delicious candy down my neck with abandon.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Today, I’ll show you how to make alterations to any ol’ heart-shaped box that will inspire all of the joy and none of the orange crème–centric anger and sadness in its recipient, whether you’re giving your gift to a paramour, friend crush, or much-beloved cool aunt/uncle. Removing the gross flop-candies and filling their empty compartments with tiny treasures says, “I know you well enough that I’m sparing you from eating almonds (or whatever thing they always spit out—this is different for everyone) and would also like you to have this fantastic dog-shaped eraser instead,” and it will cost you about $10 and an hour of your time if you finagle it right. It’s basically better than a conflict-free gem proffered by Harry Styles, and, as if you needed extra points, you can also collage the lid with personalized designs to make your loved one swoon even harder. Let’s begin, my candy hearts!

What you’ll need:


  • A box of heart-shaped candy. I used a basic (albeit exceedingly ugly) one from Russell Stover that I bought at a drugstore.
  • Little gifts, like rings, figurines, or temporary tattoos—anything that would fit in one of those gumball-type vending machines at the grocery store will work. For best results, hit up your local dollar store and see what you find.
  • Single-color tissue or wrapping paper (optional).
  • Magazine cut-outs, printed-out pictures, stickers, doilies, washi tape, and/or any other cute paper, felt, or cloth scraps you can decorate the lid with; you can use basically anything that’s kinda flat and glue-down-able.
  • An assortment of plastic gems like these, which you can get at most craft stores (optional).
  • Stick-on glitter letters like these, also available at many craft stores (optional).
  • Scissors.
  • A glue stick.

How to do it:

Step One:


Excise the candies your giftee doesn’t care for from your box, whatever these may be—you know this person better than I do! If you’re altering one of those senselessly cruel varieties that doesn’t come with a flavor-identifying guide, there are ways to tell, generally, which chocolates are which.

Some rules of thumb: Square ones with relatively smooth tops are almost always caramels, the elongated oval or rectangular log-lookin’ things are usually some kind of Butterfinger-esque hard toffee affair, circular ones in paper cups are likely to involve a nut cluster situation of some sort, and round ones with domed tops typically hold a mysterious creamy filling—whether it be raspberry custard (ugh) or chocolate créme (OK, fine, I guess)—inside their enigmatic outer shells. Rookie writer Gabby, pictured above, deeply regretted taste-testing these for me after getting stuck with marshmallow, which, as she said, she is avowedly “not about.”

Step Two:


Fill the empty indentations with little baubles. I decided a sensually festive centerpiece for my box would be a plastic toilet with a fully posable lid, which I accessorized with one half of a “best friends” heart necklace, a minuscule statuette of a boy whose valentine is a bowling ball, a button romanticizing the follies of youth, a worried-looking ring with blue hair, an enamel horse pin, a clip-on earring depicting a pink cartoon bird, and a tiny magnifying glass (not pictured).

Step Three:


Put the newly stocked bottom half of your box aside and decorate that lid!! Before beginning my collage, I glued a single color of tissue paper onto the whole outside of the box lid to create a uniform surface, but do whatever the hell you want, ya little loose cannon. I will tell you this, though: When you’re adhering your assorted paper or fabric accoutrements to the box, it’s easiest to start with the collage elements that take up the most surface area, then incorporate the smaller stuff on top.

Step Four:


Add a little ~razzmatazz~ if you see fit. I gussied up my design with various plastic jewels, which I glued on more or less at random, and a few stick-on glitter letters, which I used to spell out “PAL” on the center of the lid. Fill any remaining bare spots with your tiniest stickers and pictures.

Step Five:


CHECK OUT YOUR SICK HANDIWORK (and, if you can, get Rookie writer Hazel to glamorously model it, as I did). The best part of this gift is that it’s like a one-two combo punch, except it’s a loving gesture instead of a physical assault: Your recipient will be touched and excited that you made them a customized keepsake box, and even more blown away when they discover there’s also a fun-size treasure chest lurking within! DOUBLE THE DELIGHT, NONE OF THE REVOLTING CHERRY CORDIALS. So enjoy, and have a very happy Valentine’s Day, ya little hopeless romantics. May you spend it laying waste to a box of chocolates or other sugary delights with people you love, or at least like-like. ♥