When I was a girl, I dreamed of this kind of cake, all pink and soft with fluffy pink cloud frosting. It was the cake that I imagined princesses ate. I had forgotten about those dreams until I ran across the recipe for Maraschino Cherry Cake in The American Century Cookbook (The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century) by Jean Anderson. The moment I saw the recipe I couldn't get it out of my head. My memories came back to haunt me; I needed to put them to rest. Even in this present day, as I baked it, I imagined little girls in big shoes and big summer hats with bright silk flowers and lots of opera pearls slung about their necks enjoying this beautiful cake.
After making this cake, I can see why my mother never made it, smiles. This is not a cake for the distracted, disorganized, or harried cook. And for the safety of all, it would be wise not to have dashing pets and children in the kitchen. The steps are not complicated, but there is some preparation involved. While making the syrup for the frosting, you must be attentive or serious burn injury could result. The frosting, while very good, is sticky and tends to string and flow about when and where you don't want it to.
Regardless, if you want to feel like a princess or you know a little girl who is, this cake is fulfills all those dreams.
Read through the recipe first to get a feel for how the recipe flows.
Maraschino Cherry Cake
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
16 maraschino cherries, cut into eighths
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Prepare ahead of time: Coarsely chop 1/2 cup nuts. Cut 16 maraschino cherries into eighths and set aside. They can be put together in the same bowl as they will be added at the same time.
Combine the 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice and 3/4 cup milk in a one cup measure. Set aside.
The timing of the stiffly beaten egg whites is a little tricky. Wait too long and they deflate and get weepy. After creaming the sugar and butter and shortening, I washed off my egg beaters and then beat my egg whites just before the step that adds the nuts and cherries.
Now onto the cake...
Preheat oven to 350*F. Generously grease and flour two 9-inch round** layer cake pans and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto waxed paper or in a medium bowl; set aside.
Cream butter, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy (about five minutes).
Add sifted dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk-maraschino cherry juice mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat well after each addition.
Fold in nuts and cherries, then fold in the beaten egg whites.
Divide the batter between pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until springy to touch.
Cook cakes in pans on wire racks for about five minutes. Using a thin blade knife loosen carefully around edges and turn out onto the racks. Cool to room temperature.
Pink Cherry Maraschino 7-Minute Frosting
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Mix sugar, corn syrup, water and cherry juice in medium heavy saucepan, covered, but with lid askew, and heat for five minutes over moderate heat. Remove lid, insert candy thermometer, and heat, without stirring, until syrup reaches 242*F. (takes about 10-15 minutes).
In the meantime, put three egg whites in a medium sized bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.
When the syrup reaches 242*F, add the hot syrup to egg whites in a fine stream, beating hard the entire time. Continue beating until mixture peaks stiffly, about 7 to 10 minutes.
**A final word ~ I used two 8" round 2" high cake pans to obtain a nice tall cake. Baking time was increased by approximately 6 minutes because of the smaller sized pan.
This kind of frosting is best enjoyed on the day it is made. It looks okay the second day, but by the third it is definitely weepy and crystallized looking. I would suggest forgoing this frosting on a day with high humidity as it may not set up well for you.
I found the cherry flavor to be delicate. The recipe does not call for it, but I am thinking perhaps a bit of almond extract might brighten the flavor. I would be careful about adding cherry extract; you might end up with something akin to cough syrup.