Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Maraschino Cherry Cake for my Hubby

My husband loves maraschino cherries. He is a true cherry-holic. Most years when I've asked him what kind of cake he would like for his birthday, he asks for carrot cake. The recipe i use to make carrot cake is absolutely exceptional, true. For a time there, I was really getting sick of carrot cake. He wanted it for Fathers' Day and then his birthday and for any other celebratory occasion. Long ago, he would ask for white cake, which is also my favorite cake, and I loved that. 

This year he totally surprised me! He said he wanted either a cherry cake with white icing or a white cake with cherry icing. And by "cherry" he meant maraschino. 

Long ago I had found a recipe for a chocolate cake that used a whole 10-ounce jar of maraschino cherries AND the juice. Anyone reading this with an objection to the dye in these cherries - understand, he just doesn't care. I like them too. The difference is that I like them. Just "like". If it was me, I might buy a jar of cherries once every few years. If I have cherries around at all, they are fair game, and my husband will eat them all, along with the juice in very short order. They go in soft drinks (10 or more in a glass of coke, along with some juice), in his coffee and in anything else he thinks of. Not me. Too sweet. I might eat one or two if I have a jar around for something. I make Cherry Bon Bon cookies for him for Xmas, and a couple of the cherries are usually too smashed to use in the cookie, so those go in my mouth. I am no cherry-holic.

Now the thing is, neither of us is too overly crazy for chocolate. I know; heresy! Still, neither of us likes chocolate ice cream, and we will take a white or yellow cake over chocolate any day. Chocolate bars only once in a great while. I like dark chocolate, the darker the better. He likes milk chocolate. This is kind of how it is around here. In many ways we are like Jack Sprat and his wife. What I don't eat, he will and what he won't eat, I usually love. We only agree on a very few things in matters of food, and I am grateful for many of them, like the chocolate issue. Wine is another where we pretty much agree. We both like really strong, peppery, red wines. Whites only if the occasion really warrants it.
Maraschino Cherry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

So back to that chocolate cake with the whole jar of cherries and juice. I made that one year for his birthday. It was an exceptionally good cake. But it was chocolate, and while the cake was good, the cherries were less noticeable, so it was only a so-so on the "how much he liked it" scale. It never occurred to me to try making a white cake with a jar of cherries. 

I sat down with a white cake recipe I love, altering it to where I could use some of the cherry juice and the whole jar of cherries. I made the cake on Sunday, cooled and wrapped it, then iced it on Monday. Monday was his birthday and I was making him a dinner of his own choosing. He asked for pork chops, sugar snap peas and oven roasted potatoes. 

After dinner, we had the cake and I was disappointed. It was certainly cherry, though mostly the cherries fell to the bottom of the cakes as they baked. But the part that was most disappointing was that the cake was relatively dry. I didn't think I over baked it. I tested the layers with a toothpick at 30 minutes and they still had some crumbs, so I set the timer for 3 more minutes. At that point the tester was clean. The flavor is good. But, the cake is more dry than it should be. It will be eaten, despite that. I may have to make another cake sometime soon to try again on the moistness aspect. But for now, here is the recipe; feel free to experiment:

Maraschino Cherry Cake

makes two (8-inch) layers

5 large egg whites (6 fl. oz. / 177 ml.)
1/2 cup milk (4 fl. oz. / 118 ml.)
1/4 cup cherry juice (2 fl. oz. / 59 ml.)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (10 ml.)
3 cups cake flour (4.2 oz. / 119 g.)
1 1/2 cups sugar (10.5 oz. / 298 g.)
4 teaspoons baking powder (0.56 oz. / 16 g.)
3/4 teaspoon salt (0.14 oz. / 4 g.)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (6 oz. / 170 g.)
1  jar maraschino cherries (10 oz. / 283 g.)

At least 1 hour before making the cake, set a sieve over a bowl or measuring cup and drain the cherries. Reserve the cherry liquid. Shake the sieve a few times during the hour, to drain thoroughly.

Cut the cherries into quarters and set aside. Measure out 1/4 cup of the cherry juice. Save the remainder of the juice for another application. With cooking spray, grease two 8-inch round cake pans. Cut parchment to fit the bottom of the pans, then spray the parchment also. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). 

In a bowl, combine the milk, the reserved 1/4 cup of cherry juice and the vanilla. In another bowl or measure, whisk together the egg whites with 1/4 cup of the milk/cherry mixture, keeping the remaining 1/2 cup of milk/cherry liquid separate. 

In a mixer bowl combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Turn on the mixer to low and combine these dry ingredients. Turn mixer off. Add in the soft butter and the reserved 1/2 cup of milk/cherry liquid. Starting very slowly, turn the mixer on until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Increase speed and beat for another 1 1/2 minutes, until smooth. Add in the egg white mixture in three parts, beating about 20 seconds after each addition. Add in the cherry pieces and fold to combine. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans. Tap the pans on the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake the layers for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 7 to 10 minutes before turning out on racks to cool completely before frosting.  If the cakes want to stick in the pans, run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to release the cake. The bottom will release easily, with the parchment. Discard the parchment.

This cake is wonderful frosted with cream cheese frosting.  It is best to use a good cream cheese, such as Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Softer versions will make the frosting too soft, necessitating the addition of more confectioners' sugar to thicken.

Cream Cheese Frosting

makes enough to frost one 8-inch cake

2 sticks unsalted butter, very soft, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups / 1 pound sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter and cream cheese into the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer and beat these ingredients for 8 minutes on medium speed, until almost white and very creamy. If the butter and cream cheese are not soft enough, the mixture will not achieve this creamy state.

While the butter is beating, sift the confectioners' sugar with the salt. Once the 8 minutes have elapsed, turn the machine off. Add the confectioners' sugar mixture all at once and begin to mix on very low speed for about a minute, until moistened. Increase speed and add in the vanilla and heavy cream. Beat for at least 6 minutes more. The frosting will have increased in volume and will be very light and fluffy. The texture will be very soft, but hold stiff peaks and any designs piped on.

NOTE: For added vanilla flavor, scrape the beans from 1/2 of a vanilla bean and add to the mixer bowl when adding in the confectioners' sugar.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.