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Cherries add color, flavor and festiveness to holiday treats

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Bless Your Spoon

The festive, long stem, red maraschino cherry might be a retro garnish – but still has a faithful following of at least one – me.

Any garnish that wins honors for topping everything else has to be delicious. Red cherries with their double doses of cherry flavor built a solid reputation – long before working their way up. The small fruit consistently earns a place above all others – and deserves to be recognized.

A preserved, sweetened cherry, the maraschino is made from light-colored sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann. The intensely-flavored bombs explode in your mouth with bursts of cherry goodness.

In the kitchen, they’re versatile – and a top performer in almost every role. The fruit’s bright red color with stem is the perfect cocktail garnish. They add flavor and color to meats, salads, cakes, parfaits, sundaes, and other desserts. They’ve made famous the cherry coke and the Shirley Temple, and their bright red syrup is used in many recipes as well.

The maraschino cherry will add stunning bursts of red to any food on your table. Like icing on the cake, a cherry on top is the quintessential holiday garnish – both pretty and colorful. I adore the green ones, too.

Enjoy these deliciously fun and colorful dessert recipes – and for old time’s sake, I threw in a few retro ones.

But don’t forget – this holiday, make it pretty, please.

FESTIVE HOLIDAY ICE CREAM CAKE

1 lb. crumbled almond macaroons

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup whole maraschino cherries

¼ cup maraschino cherry juice

¼ cup cooking sherry

1-quart butter pecan ice cream

1-quart chocolate ice cream

In a bowl, combine the macaroons, pecans, cherries, juice, and sherry into a mixture. In a 9-inch springform pan, layer ingredients in this order: macaroon mixture on the bottom, then a layer of butter pecan ice cream, then another layer of macaroon mixture, then layer of chocolate ice cream, and a top layer of macaroon mixture.  Freeze. To serve, allow to soften so that it’s easy to cut. You can use other flavors of ice cream if preferred. Serves 15.

THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE

½ cup drained, crushed pineapple

¼ cup chopped maraschino cherries

1 ½ Tbsp. maraschino cherry juice

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ cup sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups whipped, heavy cream

Combine pineapple, cherries, cherry juice, lemon, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the cherry mixture. Freeze.

VINTAGE PINK CONFETTI PIE

3 egg whites

¼ cup sugar

¾ cup chopped almonds or pecans

1/3 cup maraschino cherries, cut in fourths

2 Tbsp. cherry juice

1 dream whip

1 tsp. almond flavoring

Graham cracker crust

Maraschino cherries

Mint leaf jelly candies

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually. Beat until stiff. Fold in nuts, cherries, and juice. Whip Dream Whip. Fold into mixture. Pour into a graham cracker crust. Decorate with a whole maraschino cherries on top with a mint leaf jelly candy.  Freeze.

CHRISTMAS FRUIT SALAD

11 oz. Mandarin oranges

20 oz. pineapple chunks

1 ½ cups fruit juices

1 pkg. regular vanilla pudding

2 sliced bananas

¾ cup marshmallows

10 drained, sliced maraschino cherries

Drain mandarin oranges and pineapple chunks and save fruit juices to equal 1 ½ cups. In a saucepan, mix juice with vanilla pudding. Cook over medium heat until thick and clear. Cool. When cool, add all fruit except the bananas. Stir in marshmallows. Just before serving, stir in bananas and coat them well to prevent browning.

BRANDIED FRUIT

1 cup pineapple chunks

1 cup sugar

1 cup peaches

1 cup sugar

1 cup maraschino cherries

1 cup sugar

A six-week process. Place pineapple and sugar in a clear glass jar with a loose-fitting top. Two weeks later, add peaches and sugar. Two weeks later, add cherries and sugar. A great topping on ice cream, desserts, or served with dinner.

HOLIDAY CHERRY BISQUE

2 egg whites

2 Tbsp. sugar

¼ cup chopped nuts

1/3 cup Grape-nuts cereal

¼ cup quartered maraschino cherries

2 Tbsp. maraschino cherry syrup

½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup whipped, heavy cream

¼ cup sifted confections sugar

Additional Grape-nuts cereal

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually and beat until stiff. Fold in nuts, Grape-nuts cereal, cherries, cherry syrup, and vanilla. Whip cream until stiff, add sugar and fold into the cherry mixture. Sprinkle a few grape-nuts into bottom of cupcake liners, and place in muffin tin. Fill with mixture and sprinkle with more grape-nuts around the edges. Decorate center with cherries. Freeze.

VANILLA-CHERRY TORTONI

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

1 cup whipped heavy cream

1/4 cup crushed almond cookies or macaroons

½ cup chopped toasted almonds

¼ cup drained, diced maraschino cherries

2 tbsp. sherry

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Fold in whipped cream, ¼ crushed cookies, almonds, cherries, sherry, and vanilla extract. Pour into individual 4-oz. dessert cups. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs. Freeze until firm. Yield: 12-14 servings.

OLD FASHIONED HOLIDAY TRIFLE

1 large box instant vanilla pudding

1 tsp. sherry

1 plain pound or sponge cake

2/3 cup whipped cream

Small jar of maraschino cherries

Make pudding as directed on box. Set aside. Break cake into crumbs. Add sherry to pudding and pour over cake crumbs. Whip cream until stiff. Stir into the mixture and garnish with cut-up cherries. 8 servings.

CHERRY CHOCOLATE REFRIGERATOR PIE

2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers

1/3 cup melted salted butter

1 ½ cup sifted powdered sugar

½ cup softened, salted butter

2 eggs

½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cocoa

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chopped pecans

¼ cup sliced maraschino cherries

For wafer crust, combine vanilla wafers and melted butter. Reserve 2 Tbsp. for top. Press remainder in bottom of 1-quart dish. For butter layer, cream powdered sugar with ½ cup butter.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in vanilla and spread over bottom crust. For chocolate layer, combine sugar, cocoa, and heavy cream. Whip until stiff. Fold in chopped pecans and maraschino cherries. Spread over butter layer. Sprinkle reserved crumbs on top. Chill overnight. Cut in squares. Makes 9-12 servings.

CHERRY BOMBS

1 cup sugar

¾ cup softened, salted butter

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup finely chopped dates

1/3 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries

1 1/3 cup crushed Kellogg’s corn flakes

15 quartered maraschino cherries

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time while beating well between. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Stir in nuts, dates, and chopped cherries. Shape Tbsp. of dough into balls. Roll in crushed corn flakes. Top each with a cherry quarter. Bake on a greased baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 10-14 minutes or until brown. Yield: 5 dozen.

CHERRY POUND CAKE

1 cup salted butter

½ cup shortening

3 cups sugar

6 eggs

3 ¾ cups sifted cake or all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

¾ cup whole milk

10 oz.jar maraschino cherries

Reserved cherry juice

1 tsp. almond flavoring

1 tsp. vanilla flavoring

½ cup chopped pecans

In a mixer bowl, cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well. Open cherries and reserve cherry juice. Set cherries aside. Add flour and baking powder to creamed mixture while alternating with milk and reserved cherry juice. Add cherries, extracts, and nuts. Mix well. Bake in a well-greased and floured tube pan in a 325-degree oven for 1 ½ hours. Cool before removing from the pan.

THE CHERRY ICING ON THE CAKE

1 stick salted butter

8 oz. cream cheese

1 box powdered sugar

1 tsp. almond extract

5 oz. maraschino cherries

In a mixer bowl, add ingredients and beat well. Spread on a cool cake.

AMBROSIA DESSERT

1 quart fresh orange sections

1 cup chopped bananas

½ cup chopped pineapple

½ cup maraschino cherries

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup shredded coconut

1 cup sugar or more

Whipping cream

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Add more sugar if desired. Chill. Serve topped with sweetened whipped cream

WHITE CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM

1 cup whipping cream

2 oz. chopped, imported white chocolate

In a saucepan, bring cream to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add white chocolate, and stir until smooth. Pour into bowl and allow to cool while stirring occasionally. In a mixer, beat white chocolate cream until stiff. Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Refrigerate. Makes 2 cups.