I Changed One Ingredient in This Boxed Cake Mix Recipe and Won the Holidays
As much as I love to explore vintage cookbooks and magazines and dive into the recipes, I must admit that sometimes I can be a bit quick to dismiss them as silly fluff, worthy of a good laugh but not an actual cooking project.
But recently I realized that sometimes all it takes is a little tweak to make something that seems like a bad idea into a really delicious dish! Which is how I ended up with one of my new favorite holiday desserts.
The Original Maraschino Cherry Nut Cake
Many may remember the famous "Maraschino Cherry Nut Cake" from their childhood, and for most, not fondly. A boxed cake mix recipe that used the addition of chopped maraschino cherries and their juice in the cake to make it a shocking pink is not exactly gourmet baking. However, when just such a cake was requested of me, I did a little pivot, and it is now one of my favorite cakes to bake!
The original recipe takes a boxed white cake mix, replaces ½ cup of the water with ½ cup of the syrup from a jar of maraschino cherries, chops all but 12 of the cherries from the jar into small pieces and folds them into the batter along with a half cup of chopped nuts, usually pecans or walnuts. The cake bakes to a bilious pink and is frosted with a vanilla frosting also tinted pink with more maraschino cherry juice, and the sides are covered in more chopped nuts and the top decorated with the remaining whole cherries. My husband physically shudders at the memory.
The New and Delicious Maraschino Nut Cake
I couldn't bring myself to make the cake as written, but instead, made what turned out to be a fantastic swap. I opened a jar of Luxardo cherries and used them and their syrup instead! The cake was no longer a shocking pink dotted with red, but a ruddy brown with the pieces of dark cherry studded throughout. I used black walnuts, so that their natural bitterness would balance the sweet cherries and left the vanilla icing white. The result was a cherry walnut cake that sang. Not cloyingly sweet, beautiful to present, easily adapted to various forms from loaves to cupcakes to Bundts; it completely flipped the script on a recipe that had heretofore been something of a joke.
So, this holiday season, grab a box of white cake mix and a jar of Luxardo cherries and get to baking. If you really miss the bright pink, you can add a couple drops of red food coloring to your vanilla icing!