The variety of cherry that is most often used for maraschinos is the Sweet Royal Ann. The sweet cherry is bleached, pitted and steeped in sugar syrup, which has a little oil of bitter almonds and food coloring added.
It is believed that maraschino cherries date back about three hundred years. At that time in Italy, white cherries were soaked in a liqueur called “maraschino.” This liqueur was made from another cherry called “marasca.”
Later the French made their version by soaking the cherries in sugar syrup. It was the French who named them “maraschino cherries.” The French variety was imported into our country and their popularity started to climb. Later Americans started growing their own cherries and making maraschinos.
Red maraschinos are flavored with almond. This explains why every time I add a little Amaretto (an almond liqueur) to a dessert, the flavor reminds me of cherries. Now, I know that it isn’t the cherry itself but the almond flavoring that was added to it that accounts for the similarity in tastes.
The red variety is available with or without stems. For some reason the stemmed cherries are more expensive so if the cherries are to be used inside a dessert, by all means, buy the stemless.
Of course, if you want to impress your guests with a beautiful dessert, top it with a dollop of whipped cream and a stemmed cherry. And what would a banana split or ice cream sundae be without that special stemmed cherry on top?
Even though cherries originated in Europe, according to “Food by Waverly Root” published by Fireside Press, “the leading cherry-producing country of the world is the United States, which grows more than one-third as much as all western European countries put together.”
One of my favorite cherry desserts is a cake that I tested many years ago for a cookbook being compiled by The Book of The Month Club. The recipes were submitted by readers, and this particular recipe was contributed by George Wertke of Plano, Ill.
Cherry Nut Cake
½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chopped maraschino cherries (reserve juice)
5 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons reserved cherry juice
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the baking powder and flour. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Stir in the nuts and cherries. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter.
Pour into three 9-inch greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a rack and frost with Cherry Frosting.
To prepare frosting, combine butter, confectioners’ sugar and cherry juice in mixing bowl and beat until well blended and smooth. Spread between layers, on top and sides of cake. Decorate with additional maraschino cherries and nuts, if desired.