Lizzie’s Vintage Cherry Cake Recipe using Homemade Maraschino Cherries

Maraschino Cherry Cake Bake This Cake

Road trip from the city to the country! It’s time to bake a very vintage Maraschino Cherry Cake using a turn-of-the-century recipe and our very own homemade maraschino cherries! (though you can try it with store-bought maraschino cherries too!) When you frost it with a light cherry buttercream frosting in rustic style, I think you’re gonna wow ’em with this cake– whether you run with the hipster foodie crowd, the country grandparent crowd, the urban business crowd, or nearly any crowd in between. haha!

Maraschino Cherry Cake Slice by the river Bake This Cake

We’re heading to the Merced River, just outside hometown Merced, California, in the town of Snelling, where the summer river is running slow but cold (the water comes in through the Hetch Hetchy Resevoir from the Yosemite mountains.

Merced River in the Summer photo by Leslie Macchiarella

A few days at the River House with the kids and the fam (plus some canoes, fishing poles and great food parties) just might be the thing to revive these here city folk from the ole’ daily grind. So we’re headin’ in to group-up from San Francisco and Los Angeles to meet in the Central Valley.

River House from the Merced River photo by Leslie Macchiarella for Bake This Cake

Snelling Homecoming! Every year for the last 57 years on the week-end after July 4th, the little bitty town of Snelling has been hosting an amazing deep pit barbecue at Deep Pit Barbeque BBQ beef Snelling Homecoming Bake This CakeHenderson Park. When I was a child, I would go with my grandpa to watch the men of the town dig that giant pit, wrap slabs of sauced beef in palm leaves and wet burlap, and bury the wet sacks of beef on hot coals. The town residents, along with their friends and relatives, still gather to help with the beef, prepped and buried for slow smoking. They bake up their famous pinto beans, prep salads, rolls, organize group games, put the finishing touches on an incredible handmade quilt, bake up some amazing bake sale goodies and, nowadays, they bring in gorgeous vintage cars for a car show, all sponsored by the Snelling Community Building Foundation and the Yosemite Corvette Club. Wow! Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Snelling Homecoming BBQ Poster 2012 Bake This Cake

Like a little slice of Americana not commonly seen these days, this is an event to be saluted. It brings families like ours back to town every year to gather for reunions, hang with old friends, picnic on amazing slow food and just have some old-fashioned fun.

The Bingo game was 20 tables full-up in a square around a giant stash of winner gifts.

Bingo at Snelling Homecoming BBQ BakeThisCake

The annual handmade quilt was up for raffle…Three tickets for a dollar. Whoa! Somebody (not sure who yet) was a very lucky raffle winner!

Snelling Homecoming Quilt Raffle Bake This Cake

The Rebekah’s Daughters of Novara Rebekah Lodge of Snelling picked wild blackberries the day prior and baked these amazing Wild Blackberry Tarts for their bake sale. They also served up a delightful collection of homemade cakes, pies and cupcakes.

Rebekah Daughters of Novara Lodge Snelling Wild Blackberry Tarts Bake This Cake

Now On To Our Red Cherry Cake Project! whoo hoo!

Lizzie Black Kander: We’re cracking open “The Settlement Cook Book” for this cake — first published in Milwaukee in 1901 (our edition was revised in 1949). It was compiled by Mrs. Simon Kander (Lizzie Black Kander) with “Tested Recipes from The Milwaukee Public School Kitchens, Girls Trades and Technical High School, Authoritative Dietitians and Experienced Housewives”.

Maraschino Cherry Cake Recipe from The Settlement Cook Book revised 1949 Bake This Cake

Recipe Revision Note and Color Variations: We’ve revised the recipe just a touch, starting with our own Homemade Maraschino Cherries, using less cherries, leaving out the nuts and layering it (cause we wanted a lighter cake). Because we used homemade cherry syrup that does not contain food dye, you may want to add a few drops of red food coloring to the batter: 1) if you are using homemade maraschino cherries and 2) if you want a pink highlight to the cake (which could be cute). Because our homemade cherries are all natural, the cake may show a brown to green to blue tint (we noticed various colors in different test cakes) — but the taste doesn’t vary and it’s something special that I think you’ll enjoy whether you decide to color it or leave it au naturel. Course, if you use commercial maraschino cherries, the syrup in the jar has red food coloring added, so you won’t want to add coloring if you use store-bought maraschino cherries and syrup.

Jar of homemade cherries and jar of homemade cherry syrup Bake This Cake

Tools Needed for Maraschino Cherry Cake:
2 Layer Cake Pans 8″ diameter
Butter or Cooking Spray for coating baking pans
2 Large Mixing Bowls (for batter and for creaming butter-sugar mixture)
Strainer and medium bowl (for straining cherry syrup)
Sharp straight-blade knife or mini food processor (for fine-chopped maraschino cherries)
Paper towels to dry chopped cherries
2 small bowls (for separating 4 large eggs)
1 Medium Mixing Bowl (for whipping 4 egg whites)
Electric Mixer
Measuring cups and spoons
Wire racks for cooling cakes

Vintage Fresh Cherry Cake by the river recipe by Bake This Cake

Ingredients for Maraschino Cherry Cake:
1 cup (1 to 2 jars, 6 to 8 ounces total) drained maraschino cherries, reserving syrup
3 cups of all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup flour (for dredging chopped cherries)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter (2 cubes)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup cherry syrup (from the maraschino cherries) + extra for dabbing on baked cake
2/3 cup milk (we used 2%)
few drops organic fine quality red dye (if you are using homemade cherries and you want a pinkish cake)

1. Prep the oven and pans:

Set rack at center position and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter or spray with cooking spray 2 round layer cake pans (9″ each), cut 2 circles of parchment and line each pan with parchment and butter or spray the parchment.

2. Prep the cherries:

Drain 1 cup of pitted and de-stemmed maraschino cherries from their syrup (about one jar of homemade or 1-1/2 jars of commercially prepared maraschino cherries) and set aside, reserving the syrup for use in this recipe.

Using a funnel to drain cherry syrup for cherry cake Bake This Cake

Tip: Use a few paper towels to pat the cherries somewhat dry, so that they are not dripping in syrup. Letting them sit draining on the counter in a strainer like the one below is helpful to reduce the syrup run-off. If your cherries are still really syrup-y, then use a few paper towels to squeeze them dry before adding them to your batter.

Vintage Strainer for cherries BakeThisCake

Fine chop the cherries. We used a mini food processor to nearly puree the cherries (though they can be fine-chopped by hand just as well, or better).

Pureed maraschino cherries Bake ThisCake

Sprinkle the fine-chopped cherries and stir with a fork to incorporate:
1/4 cup flour
Tip: We’re just trying to remove a little outer moisture from the chopped cherries so that they mix well into the batter and don’t leave bit holes in the dough.

Mixing Flour with Pureed Cherries for Cherry Cake Bake This Cake

3. Prep the dry ingredients:

Whisk together in a large mixing bowl and set aside:
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder

Flour and dry ingredients for Maraschino Cherry Cake Bake This Cake

4. Cream the butter, sugar and yolks:

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, blend on high-speed for about 3 minutes until fluffy:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (2 cubes, room temperature)

Separate 4 large eggs, reserving the egg whites for a few minutes.

Beat with a fork to mix well and then pour into the creamed butter-sugar mixture and beat on high for about 1 to 2 minutes until fluffy:
4 egg yolks

Beating eggs into Cherry Cake Batter Bake This Cake

The beaten sugar-butter-egg yolk mixture will look like this…

Creamed Butter Sugar Eggs for Cherry Cake Bake This Cake

5. Working with the chopped cherries:

Add the chopped cherries to the creamed sugar-butter-egg yolk mixture and blend on medium-high speed for about 1 minute until fully incorporated.

Adding pureed cherries to cherry cake batter Bake This Cake

If you are using homemade maraschino cherries and you want to pink the cake, now is the time to beat in a few drops of fine quality pink or red organic food coloring.

The chopped cherry batter will look like this (without coloring)…

Cherry Cake Batter Before Egg Whites are added Bake This Cake

6. Adding the dry mixture with the liquid:

Slowly beat into the “main event” bowl in alternating dry/wet portions until fully blended:
1/3 cup cherry syrup (from the maraschino cherries)
2/3 cup milk (we used 2%)
prepared flour mixture

Homemade Cherry Cake Batter Bake This Cake

7. Working with egg whites:

In a medium bowl, using the electric blender, beat on high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute:
4 large egg whites

Whipped Egg Whites for Cherry Cake Bake This Cake

8. Finalize the deal:

Using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the cherry batter, taking care to incorporate the egg whites fully into the batter, and divide equally between the prepared cake pans.

Homemade Fresh Cherry Cake recipe BakeThisCake

9. Bake it up!

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes until toothpick test inserted in center top of cake shows clean and the sides of cake separate from the edges of the pan slightly and the cake springs back lightly when gently pressed at center top.

Cooling Cherry Cakes Bake This Cake

Remove the cakes from their pans (to wire racks if you have them) to cool.

Trim any center humps from the tops of the cakes and flip them over so that the bottom of the cakes are now the tops of the cakes. These will be the “show tops”. 🙂

10. A little dab’ll do ya! 

While the cakes are cooling, gently brush the smooth cake tops with a little of the cherry syrup from the maraschino cherry jar.

Cherry Syrup Glaze for Maraschino Cherry Cakes Bake This Cake

You can frost and fill the cherry cake with pure white sweetened whipped cream (I think that would be charming) or prep our simple cherry frosting recipe using a little of the cherry syrup in a simple light buttercream recipe (coming to the blog next up) .

Vintage Maraschino Cherry Cake on River House Bench BakethisCake

We also made a yummy cherry meringue filling by boiling a cherry syrup sauce that was beat molten-hot into whipped egg whites.

Last bite of homemade cherry cake Bake This Cake

If you get a chance to bake this old-fashioned cherry cake, I hope you’ll let us know how it goes in the Comments or on our Facebook page where we show test cakes in progress and where get tips from each other on great old-fashioned cake recipes for future baking projects. You may also want to follow us on Twitter @BakeThisCakecom or on Pinterest.

We’re having so much fun meeting you all and sharing some amazing old-fashioned homemade cake recipes!


Leslie Macchiarella photo by Julie Macchiarella

Serving Deep Pit BBQd Beef at the Snelling Homecoming BBQ Bake This Cake

Serving Deep Pit BBQd Beef at the Snelling Homecoming

Volunteer Serving Baked Beans at Snelling Homecoming BBQ BakeThisCake

Young Volunteer Serving Baked Beans

Volunteers Serving Baked Beans at Snelling Homecoming BBQ Bake This Cake

Volunteers Serving Baked Beans at Snelling Homecoming

Volunteer working with burlap smoked beef Snelling Homecoming BBQ Bake This Cake

Volunteer cutting burlap from smoked beef

Snelling Homecoming Car Show 2012 BakeThisCake

Snelling Homecoming Car Show

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12 thoughts on “Lizzie’s Vintage Cherry Cake Recipe using Homemade Maraschino Cherries

  1. I made your lovely maraschino cherries this summer in anticipation of making this cake for Christmas. I’m planning on making it 2 days before because of my schedule. Should the cake be stored in the fridge until we eat it? Also is 2 days before too long to wait before serving?

    • Hi Stephanie, I’m so glad you made a batch of homemade maraschino cherries. For the making the cake in advance, I think 2 days advance baking is fine. I would cool it thoroughly (for like an hour), wrap the 2 layers well in plastic wrap and refrigerate them without brushing them with cherry juice. Although I usually finish a cake with filling and frosting the day of serving, you might try filling and frosting the day or the night before serving and then refrigerating it or keeping it covered in a cool place (because it is a buttercream frosting that should be kept cool).

  2. I’m making this cake today! It looks WONDERFUL based upon your ingredients. The only thing so far is that mine is not finished in 25 mins.. It’s still somewhat soupy so I’m watching it every 10 mins. to guess when it will be done. Did anyone have this problem? I didn’t do anything wrong that I know of! It will still be great I’m sure.Thanks!

    • Hi, Erin, I noticed that we displayed a photo of the original vintage recipe that used a “tube pan” or angel food pan to bake for 1 hour. Our modified recipe is for a layer cake in 2 cake pans so that bakes faster. What type of pan(s) did you end up using? In the meantime, I’ll clarify for folks who might be referencing the original recipe photograph that a non-layer cake in a tube or bundt pan takes longer to bake. Thanks for bringing this to my attention and happy vintage baking!

  3. Just making this now and I think a couple steps were omitted. Looked at the original card and milk supposed to be added to the cherry juice to make 1 cup. After adding the cherries to the creamed butter sugar and eggs they say to alternate the liquid with the flour, baking powder/soda mixture. I think adding the liquid first works better. And then lastly add the beaten egg whites. It’s in the oven now. . . .

  4. This recipe looks wonderful! I am wondering if the 1/3 cup cherry syrup listed in the ingredients is supposed to also go in the batter. Or is that just for the brushing on the top at the end? Thanks

  5. My little grandson loves maraschino cherries but always has to give them up because he can’t have food dyes. Now, he is free to have ice cream sundaes WITH a cherry on top! Thank you.

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