I have very fond memories of cherry chip cake, I really do. (You know, as opposed to all of those very unpleasing memories of other cake varieties.) But it does seem that I hold a special place in my heart for the irresistibly sweet and old-fashioned cherry chip cake. The idea of it triggers not only childhood memories for me, but grown-up memories that make me smile.
I remember the very first birthday I celebrated with my husband’s mom and family, I was turning 29. Grant and I had been together for only 5 months at the time, and we spent my birthday weekend at their cottage in Gananoque. Grant’s mom, Mary Lou, had asked Grant what kind of cake I would like her to make. He assured her that if it was cherry chip and iced in pink, it would be the perfect birthday cake for me (who knew?). I remember that cake so well. It was a perfect cherry chip heart-shaped cake (my favourite cake-shape from childhood) smothered in glorious waves of glossy pale pink marshmallow frosting–she even adorned it with some perfect marshmallow flowers! If I didn’t already know in my heart that I was going to marry Grant at that point, that cake would have likely convinced me. ♥
You might remember my reflecting on another cherry chip cake memory, a rather monumental one, from our relationship, here in this post. You can see me sneaking a few bites of the one above, on our wedding day, after Grant (my non-baker man) surprised me by making it the day before our wedding and having the staff at the Inn put it in our room that night while we were at our wedding rehearsal. Cherry chip cake with pink icing holds a place in our hearts (you learn why here). I couldn’t resist eating it that day–wedding dress and all–mostly because it meant the world to me, and also because it’s simply the yummiest.
So if cherry chip cake means so much to me, and us, why have I never made it from scratch before? I have no idea. And I think we can add that to the wonders of the world. Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. But, here’s what: I made this cake 4 times last week! Well, different variations of it, but I made it. Then made it again. And again. And again. See, it was my birthday and it’s all I could think about–tender vanilla cake with a hint of sweet cherry flavour and little bits of maraschino cherries throughout and smothered in a marshmallow frosting. Since the cherry chip cakes I’ve eaten in my life, and that are so cozily tucked away in my memory, were all baked from cake mixes, I decided to visit some websites to find a good scratch version. Strangely, there really aren’t many out there, but I did come across Deborah’s over at Taste and Tell–hers looks amazing!
Deborah had modified a fabulous party cake recipe (Perfect Party Cake) from baking genius Dorie Greenspan to create her Cherry Chip version, and since I’ve been eager to try that recipe from Dorie’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours, I ended up slightly adapting Deborah’s recipe for what is now in my top 3 best-loved cake recipes. I did make this cake 4 times, as I said, and the first two attempts I used different cake recipe bases, but I just didn’t love them. I then went ahead and tried Deborah’s and loved it! I increased the recipe to create a 3 layer 8-inch round cake, and made only a few other small changes, such as adding almond extract, using vanilla sugar (I keep a vanilla pod in my sugar jar at all times, so when I bake the sugar enhances recipes to a super vanilla-ness), and adding a few drops of a very concentrated cherry flavour oil. Dorie’s cake layer recipe yields cake that is so light and tender that I’m eager to make an all-vanilla version soon. She is amazing.
I think I may have cherry-chipped my Instagram friends to death last week, but since I was eating, sleeping and breathing it, I couldn’t seem to help it. Here’s one of the first versions I made, and as delightfully cherry vanilla as it was, the layers were just a bit dense in the end. Because my memories are based on the cake mix variety, it was super important to me that the scratch version was a light and fluffy as possible.
Here’s a shot of the third version of the cake I made (mid-frost), with its light and tender cake layers and filled and frosted with Grant’s mom’s old-fashioned frosting (also known as 7 minute frosting, marshmallow frosting, boiled frosting, etc.) that she used for my birthday cake those years ago. The cake tasted incredible with its tender layers filled with sweet and juicy bits of maraschino cherry, hints of almond and vanilla, and covered in billowy marshmallow frosting. I tinted a small amount of the frosting pink for a pastel ombre effect (a subtle version of the pastel swirl technique from this post) and slathered it on generously. Even though the frosting is sweet, with no butter (or any fat for that matter) it’s best enjoyed in bounteous swirls.
I filled and frosted in the old-fashioned frosting, which was fluffy and glorious, but when I made it the final time I actually filled it with a sweet cherry buttercream (I made from my favourite party frosting, Whipped Vanilla Frosting). I just found that it allowed the cake to set nicely without and slipping and sliding, and then I covered the entire cake in copious amounts of the old-fashioned frosting.
This cake may not look fancy, but I can sincerely say it’s my current favourite. Cherry-Vanilla love. ♥
Cherry-Vanilla Delight Cake
For the Cake Layers:
- 3-1/3 cups 370 g sifted cake flour
- 1-1/2 tablespoons 20 g baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon 7 g salt
- 1-3/4 cups 415 ml whole milk, at room temperature
- 6 egg whites at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons 45 ml cherry juice/syrup (from the jar of cherries)
- 1/4 teaspoon 1.75 ml almond extract
- 1-2 drops cherry flavour *optional
- 2-1/4 cups 450 g vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
- 1-1/2 sticks 173 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup 178 ml finely chopped maraschino cherries
For the Whipped Vanilla-Cherry Filling:
- 1 cup 2 sticks(227 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
- 2 cups 250 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon 15 ml milk
- 1 tablespoon 15 ml maraschino cherry juice/syrup (from the jar of cherries)
- 2 teaspoons 10 ml pure vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
- a handful of finely chopped maraschino cherries
For Nanny's Old-Fashioned Frosting:
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup 200 grams of vanilla sugar (you can substitute regular sugar)
- 1/4 cup 59 ml light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons 45 ml water
- 1/4 teaspoon 1.25 ml cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon 2.5 ml pure vanilla extract (optional)
For the Cake Layers:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and center the oven rack. Grease, line with parchment and flour three round 8-inch pans. (I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.) Put two of the pans on a baking sheet (you will bake two layers then the third layer afterwards).
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, cherry juice/syrup, almond extract and cherry flavor oil (if using) in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.
In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment (I used the whisk), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and creamy, about 5 minutes.
With the mixer still on medium speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 dry additions, 2 wet), beating after each addition until incorporated. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in finely chopped cherries.
Divide batter evenly among 3 cake pans, smoothing the surface with a small offset spatula or rubber spatula. Use a digital kitchen scale for accuracy (mine were 560 grams per pan + one 60 gram cupcake tester), if possible. Bake until a skewer comes out with a few crumbs only, about 30 minutes. Cakes should be well-risen and springy to the touch.
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges by running a knife around the sides. Gently turn out the cakes, peel of parchment paper bottom, then cool right side up. Bake the third cake and repeat.
For the Whipped Vanilla-Cherry Filling:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
Add remaining ingredients, except the cherries, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Filling will be very light, creamy, and fluffy. Fold in cherries.
Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency).
For Nanny's Old-Fashioned Frosting:
Place all ingredients except the vanilla (if using) into a large heatproof bowl that fits snugly atop a medium saucepan of simmering water on the stove (about one inch of water). Place the bowl tightly on top of the saucepan and beat the ingredients with a hand mixer until thick and glossy, about 5-7 minutes. Be sure that the bottom of your bowl does not touch the water.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan, wipe the bottom of the bowl dry, and place on the counter. Continue to beat until the frosting is cool (or at least just slightly warm) and beat in the vanilla extract, if using.
Best used right away.
Assembly of the Cherry-Vanilla Delight Cake:
Trim any doming or top crust from cake layers using a very sharp serrated knife.
Use a cake turntable, if possible, for filling, frosting and decorating. Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake plate or 8″ round thin foil-covered cake board, and place the bottom cake layer on top, top side up (face-up).
Place ~1 cup of Whipped Vanilla-Cherry Filling on top of the cake layer, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife. Gently place 2nd cake layer, face up, on top. Repeat, then place your third layer face down.
Put a generous scoop of Nanny's Old-Fashioned Frosting on top, spreading evenly from the top down to the sides until you have smothered the entire cake in the frosting. Use the back of a spoon or small offset palette knife to create the swirly texture. If you are creating the ombre effect, tint one third of your frosting with the gel colour of your choice and apply to the lower third of your cake, taking care to not over blend.
[cake layer recipe adapted from Taste and Tell]
Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Cherry Cake Layers
- Be sure to chop your cherries as tiny as possible so they distribute nicely throughout the cake.
- This was the first time I had baked cake in pans upon a baking sheet, as per Dorie’s cake instructions, and I really felt this made the bottoms of the cake layers perfect. There was a very light, thin golden bottom on each cake.
- I happened to have LorAnn Cherry Flavor Oil on hand, and although I don’t typically add this kind of candy flavouring to cakes, I felt that it would give the cherry taste a boost, and that it would be even more reminiscent of the beloved cherry chip cake mix. I added only two drops (it’s so concentrated), but I would do it again next time (and oh yes, there will be a next time).
- As I mentioned, I keep a vanilla pod buried in my sugar canister at all times and I use that sugar for almost all of my baking and cooked frostings, etc. Once your vanilla bean is scraped and seeds and pod are buried in your airtight sugar container, you will have vanilla sugar in about 1-2 weeks. The longer it sits, the more vanilla you will taste. I typically add pure vanilla extract to recipes as well, but usually a little less than I normally would.
- With every cake I bake, I like to place a cupcake liner into the same-size ramekin and fill 2/3 full with batter and bake along with the layers. That way I can taste test the cake before frosting, filling and serving.
Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Old-Fashioned Frosting
- I used vanilla sugar for the frosting, so I didn’t add any additional vanilla extract.
- You will want to make this frosting at the very last minute, right before you need to use it.
- It goes on like a dream, but you will want to work quickly as it begins to thicken in the bowl.
- Cakes frosted with this type of frosting are best enjoyed the day they are made.
- This frosting does not store or keep well, but it is pure heaven the day it’s whipped up.
- Pure white frosting makes a perfect base for gel colours–no buttery tone to work against! It makes for particularly lovely pink shades because the colours stay so true.
I’ll be back soon, my friends!
Good luck & enjoy!