Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cherry Nut Cake

Beautiful cherries are in the stores. The trip through the produce section is never better, nor a more visual feast, than now.

With nutrition and health a guiding factor in our shopping list it makes eminent sense to add the deep red fruit, heaped so prettily in proud display, to the food items that will make up our munching and meals in the week ahead.

Cherries comprise what I think of as the Big Four of the summer crops. Along with corn on the cob, blueberries and tomatoes my esteemed cherries, as they seasonally appear, define the best of summer.

With the Olympics just over in London, and its glorious show of competitor spirit and awesome athletic skill endowing August 2012 with special flair, I may even score cherries as the gold medalist among the summer delights. Cherries are simply the taste of summer to many of us.

I like cherries so well that as a girl I settled on Cherry Nut Cake as my birthday cake. I wanted my cake iced with no ordinary frosting. It had to be penuche frosting. If it was going to be my day I knew this was my best time for asking for the things dearest to my heart.

Cherries, nuts and penuche as a birthday dessert was triple-tier indulgence. It was like finding a quarter by only looking down and seeing it, so lucky did my party cake make me feel.

The cake maintains its hold on me. It’s wonderful to have a few constants in life. A cake filled with cherries and nuts and frosted liberally with penuche icing puts a smile on me and I’m not counting on that changing.

A copy of Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls, and surely some Nancy Drew detective stories, are the only birthday gifts recalled from childhood. While Christmas gifts did a better job of staying in mind the ones given at birthdays had a more fleeting touch.

What’s remembered instead is the fun of the birthday party with your friends invited, the excitement all around and the supreme moment the cake and ice cream is served and you’re the one who bends in to blow out the lighted candles.

My mom’s love stirred into pink cake batter studded with maraschino cherries and chopped walnuts, and further demonstrated in the floral decorations on my Cherry Nut Cake, is the one birthday gift I’ll never forget or outgrow.  

Cherry Nut Cake

Beat 4 egg whites until frothy. Gradually add ½ cup granulated sugar. Beat until peaks form; set aside.

Cream ½ cup shortening and ½ cup granulated sugar. Add 2½ cups cake flour* and ½ teaspoon salt alternately with 2/3 cup milk. Add 1/3 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries and ½ cup chopped nuts.

Fold in meringue. Pour into two 9” lined cake pans.  Bake in 375 degree oven 25-30 minutes. Cool and frost.

Penuche frosting: Melt ½ cup butter in saucepan. Add 1 cup brown sugar. Boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in ¼ cup milk. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add 2- 2½ cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until right consistency to spread.

* to substitute all-purpose flour: 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons flour for each 1 cup of cake flour the recipe calls for                                            


Ro Giencke – August 14, 2012




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