~Ralph Waldo EmersonMy family has been making my Grandma Elsie's Maraschino Cherry Cake for over 50 years. It appears to have been, according to my research, a very popular cake back in the day. It has fallen out of favor in modern times, much like our family's Persimmon Pudding. My guess is that is has something to do with Maraschino cherries and their juice containing large amounts of Red Dye #5, a known carcinogen. But when I was a kid, we just thought the cherries were delicious.
The Maraschino Cherry Cake was my birthday cake when I turned two. According to my mother (and photographic evidence that I have seen with my own eyes), my Grandma Elsie and Grandpa Charlie hosted my party that year, with one of Grandma's famous backyard barbecues. Grandma's Maraschino Cherry cake was the show stopper pièce de résistance of the party. My cake was a tall three-layer affair, piled high with pink Fluffy Boiled Icing, decorated with colored candy sprinkles and topped with bright birthday candles... perfect for a little girl's birthday. Apparently though, with so much excitement, presents, and attention focused on me (and with Grandma's evening parties famously running late), I decided to have a meltdown of epic proportions that is remembered to this very day by those in attendance over the age of two.
Upon reflection, and with more discussion, (additional sigh...), here is how Michelle and I have decided to resolve the matter. We will publish Grandma's Original Maraschino Cherry Cake recipe, red dye and all, no beaten egg whites, and no cherry liqueur... along with Maddie and Michelle's updated, less toxic version, thus preserving our family history, and providing an alternative to those wishing for one. Ahhh, the sweet sound of family peace restored, and everyone is happy once more. Lovely!
Grandma Elsie's Maraschino Party Cake
The history of Maraschino Liqueur is very interesting. Once reserved for royalty and the wealthy, the liqueur is readily available for one and all at a well-stocked liquor store. Chilled, the liqueur is quite tasty as an apéritif.
Maraschino Cherries, free of dyes and weird preservatives, are available for purchase at Whole Foods Market. The cherries are perfect for this recipe and cocktails, too.
4-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp plus 1-1/2 tsps baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable shortening (or 1 stick butter and 1/4 cup vegetable oil)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice (from the jar of cherries)
1-1/2 tsps pure vanilla extract, optional
6 large egg whites, unbeaten
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup maraschino cherries cut in eighths
spray oil or Bak-Klene
Maraschino Liqueur, optional, to brush cake layers
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
4 large egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
a couple drops of food grade red dye, optional
three 9-inch cake pans
|Sifted flour measures about 1 tablespoon less per cup than scooped flour. Therefore, sift a larger amount of flour, then measure 4-1/2 cups, and sift once more with the baking powder.|
2B. Maddie's method: Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add cherries and walnuts and toss; set aside. Combine the milk, cherry juice and vanilla; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and oil, add sugar (reserving 1 tablespoon for whipping egg whites) and blend until well combined. Separate eggs - yolks into a small bowl and whites into a large bowl. (The egg yolks are not used in this recipe, so you may discard or reserve for another use.)
Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with half the milk mixture, and mix until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, if necessary. In the separate bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Sprinkle on the reserved one tablespoon sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form; careful not to over beat. Carefully fold in 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter to lighten and then fold in the remaining egg whites.
3. Spray the cake pans and parchment well with spray oil or Bak-Klene. Divide batter evenly between three round 9-inch layer pans and smooth the tops. Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (rotate pans after 15 minutes for even baking). Remove the cakes to a rack and let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes and remove parchment liners. Turn the cakes right-side up and cool to room temperature on racks.
4. For the frosting: Put sugar and water on to boil over medium high heat until it reachs 223-225°F, the thread stage. In the meantime, beat egg whites until soft peaks and then beat in cream of tartar. When the sugar syrup is at the thread stage, carefully add into the beaten egg whites while constantly beating. Add vanilla, if using.
9. Place second layer, flat side down. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of Maraschino Liqueur, if using, and again spread a thick layer of frosting.
10. Place third layer, flat side up. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons Maraschino. Apply the rest of the frosting to the top and sides with a swirling motion. When frosting is set, gently remove wax paper.
11. To set the cake and meld the flavors, refrigerate until an hour or two before serving. At this point, if you wish, embellish the cake further with additional maraschino cherries. You may also choose to use pesticide free flowers and leaves. Whatever you use, make sure it is edible. For example, the leaves and petals of poinsettia and oleander are poisonous. Lovely choices are pansies, roses and orchids. Pansies are fragile, roses are long lasting, and orchids are hardy. Complement the blooms with ivy and citrus leaves, if desired. Serve the delicious cake simply at room temperature or with ice cream, preferably homemade.