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Kitchen Mailbox: Maraschino cakes blush with color and cherry flavor

Thursday, April 19, 2001

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Easy to make, great taste and a terrific presentation -- that's a combination that's hard to beat. All of the Maraschino Cherry Cakes in today's Kitchen Mailbox fit this description and are similar except for one thing -- all had different names.

For instance Betty Dillon of Beechview calls hers Valentine Cake. "My family and I have been enjoying this cherry-and-almond-flavored cake for over 50 years -- since the recipe first appeared in Good Housekeeping."

Cooking Term
of the week

Parboil and blanch: Parboil -- to partially cook food in boiling water. Blanch -- to plunge food in boiling water briefly then into cold water to stop the cooking process.


Mary Louise O'Brien of Downtown calls her recipe Sweet Party Cake. V. Sfera of Hermitage sent us a recipe for Cherry Nut Cake, while Gerry Goodman of Squirrel Hill writes, "My mother used to make this cake for birthdays so we named it Birthday Cake."

After you've tried one of the recipes you may come up with a name of your own. The first Maraschino Cherry Cake wins the award for most popular recipe: It's the one most readers mailed to us. This recipe is made from scratch. While it's true that scratch cakes are often not as moist as packaged cake mixes, they have their own unique texture and flavor. This cake calls for egg whites, shortening and cake flour. This combination of ingredients makes this cake similar to an angel cake, and the addition of cherry juice gives the cake added flavor plus color. To give the cake an extra kick we substituted maraschino liqueur for some of the cherry juice and frosted the cake with chocolate icing (who can turn down a chocolate-covered cherry?).

We didn't stop there. We mixed powdered sugar with enough cherry juice to make a thin pink icing. We swirled this icing over the chocolate icing, added some cherries and nuts and waited for all the oohs and aahs!

The remaining cakes are dense, moist and flavorful pound cakes.

The vanilla butternut pound cake calls for margarine/butter and shortening plus 6 ounces evaporated milk and two extracts -- vanilla and butternut (the label reads vanilla butter and nut flavor, from McCormick).

The second pound cake calls for margarine/butter and cream cheese, resulting in a somewhat creamy texture. We made a powdered sugar-and-milk icing to drizzle over both cakes. Cherry halves and nuts added the finishing touches to these delectable cakes.

Of course all the cakes call for maraschino cherries and nuts. What are maraschino cherries? Maraschino cherries (many varieties of cherries are used but the Royal Ann is the most popular)are pitted and steeped in a flavored (usually almond) sugar syrup. The cherries are then dyed either red or green. Maraschino liqueur (which we used in the third recipe) is a cherry-flavored liqueur.

Julian Kopas of Easton, Northhampton County, requested a recipe for Maraschino Cherry Cake. We believe this version is probably what Julian is searching for. Here's the recipe sent in by Rosemary Schmidt of Whitehall.

Maraschino Cherry Cake

1/3 cup shortening (part butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cherry juice (from jar)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped nuts
16 maraschino cherries, cut into small pieces
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten but not dry

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream shortening and sugar together until fluffy.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together; sift again. Alternately add the flour mixture, milk and cherry juice to the creamed mixture. Stir until smooth.

Stir in nuts and cherries. Fold in beaten egg whites.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans or a 9-by-13-inch pan (we used two 9 inch pans). Bake about 30 minutes or until tested done.

Cool cakes on rack for about 5 minutes before removing from pans. Ice as desired.

Here's another version sent in by Helen Mosse of Etna.

Vanilla Butternut Pound Cake With Maraschino Cherries

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup margarine or butter (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups sifted flour
6-ounce can evaporated milk with enough water to make 1 cup
1 cup chopped nuts
10-ounce jar maraschino cherries, well drained
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons butternut extract, see note

Cream shortening and butter until fluffy. Add sugar and salt. Beat in one egg at a time.

Add flour and milk alternately, ending with flour. Add flavorings, chopped nuts and the maraschino cherries.

Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan. Place cake in a cold oven. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 45 minutes or until tested done. (Cook's note: Ours was done in 29 minutes, so watch your oven carefully.)

Remove cake from pan while still warm. Ice as desired.

Note: Butternut extract may be found at most large grocery stores. We found ours at Giant Eagle, Century Square.

Our final recipe was sent by Joan Hardt of Allison Park.

Holiday Gift Cake

1 cup margarine or butter
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
10-ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained and quartered

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Thoroughly blend cream cheese, margarine, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Gradually add 2 cups of the sifted flour and baking powder to cream cheese mixture.

Add the remaining flour, cherries and nuts.

Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan. Put in preheated oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until tested done.

Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan. Ice as desired.


K. S. Denk of Baldwin Boro would like the recipe or a similar recipe for the egg or shrimp rolls served at the Chinatown Inn, Downtown.

C.J. Draxinger and her husband of the South Hills are searching for an old Italian cookie recipe. C.J.'s husband says it's a bar cookie made with a phyllo dough-type crust, apricot filling and nuts (C.J.'s guess is almonds) and maybe a layer of cream cheese. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Lynn Cuddy of Point Breeze is looking for a recipe for garden burgers. Lynn writes, "I had a garden burger that used a lot of mushrooms and was baked. Hope your readers can help?"

Frances Rafaloski of Bloomfield would like a recipe for Tomato Soup Florentine.

Carol Lotz of Bethel Park wonders if any of our readers would have Hoss' recipe for bread and raisin pudding. It's a firm, dry pudding.

Here's a request from Elsie Henderson of Shadyside: "Does anyone have the recipe for 3 Cities of Spain Cheesecake? This is the best cheesecake I've ever eaten!"

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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