Amarena Cherry Cake

I always have Amarena cherries on hand, because my husband loves Manhattans, and I put them in his cocktail. I’ve also used them in sangria, but never baked with them. Until now.

If you buy Italian Amarena cherries, via Amazon, the beautiful jar has a recipe attached for a cake using them, along with this terrible photo. It looks like my grand daughter made this cake!

My cake definitely turned out prettier, and more what this cake is meant to look like!

On the left, below, are the cherries I order from Amazon. Trader Joe’s also sells these cherries.

It’s challenging to describe Amarena cherries. They’re almost candied, but not really. They’re not as sweet as a Maraschino cherry. And they come in a lovely cherry syrup. They would be wonderful on ice cream, or topped on buratta!

I’ve also seen Amarena cherries in biscotti, at the blog Marisa’s Italian Kitchen. I cannot wait to make those!

Amarena Cherry Cake with Chocolate
Cake with Amarena Cherries and Chocolate

200 grams Amarena cherries, drained
2 tablespoons of the syrup
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup fine-grained cornmeal
1 cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs, separated
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat butter with powdered sugar until light.

Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat in orange liqueur and the syrup. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites to a soft peak; fold in gently. Fold in the cherries and chopped chocolate until just incorporated.

Bake in a greased and floured 9” cake pan (loaf pan) at 375 degrees for approximately 65-70 minutes. (I baked mine at 350 degrees and removed it after 45 minutes.)

I’m sure by now you know that this cake is exceptionally good. How could it not be with these cherries and chocolate together?!

Warmed up, served with unsalted butter, was heavenly.

In the photo of the recipe, shown below, the name of this cake is plum cake. I consulted my friend and Italian cooking expert Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help explain why it’s called plum cake when there are no plums.

“It is not necessarily a cake with cherries that is called a plum cake in Italy. Any cake that more or less follows the “quatre quarts” recipe is called a plum cake in Italy.

Originally, a plum cake is any cake that has dried fruit in it, like prunes or raisins. The word “plum” is used loosely. In Italy, plum cake is thought of as a recipe from England. I believe that nowadays a plum cake is usually called a fruitcake in England.

In Italy, the name plum cake is used for any cake that is rectangular and has flour/sugar/butter/eggs as the main ingredients.

A cake in Italy that is rectangular with flour/sugar/butter/eggs plus cherries would probably be called a plum cake, or more completely a “plum cake alle ciliegie” (literally: plum cake with cherries).”

I hope that helps! It’s still a little confusing to me. This photo shows part of the recipe.

68 thoughts on “Amarena Cherry Cake

    • Thank you! The cherries and chocolate are more dispersed. Maybe it helped that I halved the cherries.

  • I just have Collins maraschino cherries for when visitors come. These cherries sound divine and your cake I bet is delicious especially with the addition of chocolate – good pairing! The next time I go to Trader Joe’s I’ll have to look for them. I am a sucker for Amazon though – especially with so many items being delivered by them next day :)

  • Interesting! I have to admit that I’ve never tried baking with Amarena cherries. But this cake sounds quite tasty, and I do love to bake. Your version looks WAY better than the photo on the package, too. Haha!

    • Isn’t that funny? You’d think they’d have a better photo by now. It looks like all the cherries just sank! I know how good of a baker you are, so this cake would be a piece of cake for you!

  • I’ve seen these cherries at Trader Joe’s, Mimi, but haven’t known what I would do with them! This is a great idea! On my list! I love the idea of eating them with burrata, too! The texture of this cake looked perfect! Nice job!

    • I’m really sure I remember your cookie recipe. I just don’t bake often. Oh, and I used corn flour, not corn starch. I still think the whole plum cake is odd!

      • Corn starch is called corn flour in the UK, so that’s confusing. My jar of Fabbri has the original recipe in Italian and there is amido di mais (corn starch). But corn flour will work too, as the main point is to reduce the amount of gluten to get a lighter texture.

  • PS the recipe says 100 grams flour and 100 grams corn starch, which is approximately 2/3 cup flour and 3/4 cup corn starch. Did you change the proportions on purpose?

      • Your recipe calls for corn meal, but you mentioned using corn flour above. (Totally different textures in my opinion, no matter how finely ground.) StefanGourmet also mentioned using cornstarch (in different proportions) and now I’m hornswaggled! But, I love the idea of reducing the amount of gluten in the recipe and you can’t go wrong with cherries and chocolate. :)

  • Plum cake is definitely our first choice to have with tea or coffee and this version, using cherries is inviting very very much ! Your photos are so much better and sharper ! Thank you and enjoy your day :-)

  • Oh, your photo is in a category all it’s own! They would be lucky to have it on their jar. Interesting tidbit from Stefan. Makes sense once you think of it, though. And, by complete coincidence, I made your Quatre Quarts Cake the other day (sliced and filled with apricot jam and topped with ganache). Now, will we see the cherry mustard recipe here anytime soon???

    • Wow. well that sounds incredible!!! Did you whip the egg whites or just use the eggs as is? And yes, the cherry mustard post will be soon. It’s so worth making! But then, I don’t think there’s a condiment I haven’t liked. Except miracle whip.

      • Oh, I am so on the same page with you about Miracle Whip!

        I did the whole eggs and loved the density. I should try the other version, too. This was so easy! I’ll post and give you credit and a link to your blog.

        Can’t wait for the cherry mustard!

  • What a nice cake! I’ve not used Amarena cherries — gotta get some. BTW, your husband might want to try the Luxardo brand maraschino cherries for his Manhattans. NOT at all like those neon red maraschino cherries that we all know — loads of flavor, and not sweet. Anyway, super post — thanks.

    • We’ve had those also, and for the life of me I don’t really remember how different they are from Amarena, if they are. There are also Grillotines… I guess the french version! And no, this cake isn’t sweet, which I love!

    • Oh, these are not Maraschino cherries by any stretch. They’re so different, and with no fake flavor!

  • Mimi, there’s always something tasty to find on your blog! (Would love to have your Manhattan recipe, too.) Thanks for expounding on Amarena cherries and grazi to your reader who suggested Luxardo brand. Both sound like interesting alternatives.

    • There’s a French cherry that is called Grillotines, also available on Amazon. I’m not sure they’re different in taste, but maybe in size. Corn meal really does come in different grinds, because I always buy coarse cornmeal for making grits or polenta. But when I saw corn flour, I bought that, because it was super fine. Definitely not corn starch, but Stefan tole me that they call it that, but it’s not like our squeaky corn starch! The corn flour worked great. I think you can also use masa harina. I’d love to share the manhattan recipe but I got it from a restaurant. Can I do that?!!

      • Mimi, another reader suggested Collins cherries and here you are with Grillotines… so many cherry choices! (Who knew?) Right now I have’s polenta / aka “corn grits” on hand (thanks to you), Aunt Jemima’s yellow cornmeal, and Argo cornstarch in my pantry. There’s also have a package of masa harina in my freezer (from Bob’s Red Mill, I think?) Perhaps I’ll have to make your chocolate cherry cake four times in the name of “food research” — with no complaints. That’s half the fun of baking and blogging friends — the rest is good eatin’! Will let you know if I “experiment.” Again, thanks! (And, if your conscience doesn’t allow you to share the Manhattan recipe, I understand.) Proprietary information n’ all. :)

  • Gorgeous photos, beautiful cake! I have never had these cherries but that little pot is so cute! Especially the one on the left! When I made my Irish Great Grandma’s fruit cake, it was made with raisins and I did a lot of research – and found out it was a plum cake, and that as you said, they were made with all kinds of fruits or combinations.

  • What a fabulous use of Amarena cherries! How does the Trader Joe’s brand taste compared to the one you purchased on Amazon?
    I love the Plum Cake lesson as well. I am always learning something new on your blog. Great job as always.

    • I’ve never purchased those, just the Amarena Fabbri. That would be good to know. Thanks so much for the compliment!

  • I’ve bought those cherries before. I glad to know they make such an elegant cake because the jar is so big it took me years to get through them the last time I bought them. GREG

  • Beautiful cake, Mimi! I love sour cherries and also order them from Amazon, but simply dried and from Germany. I love their tanginess and deep flavours. They are a perfect snack.

  • Mimi, you make your husband Manhattans? The lucky man! I need to speak to my Lynne about this! Ha ha! If I couldn’t get Amarena Cherries, do you think I could just cheat and make this cake with with Glacé cherries?

    • No. I really don’t think so. It would be good, but not the same. Besides, the recipe asks for some of the syrup. You could search for Grillotines also?

  • Hi Mimi, Your cocktail looks as delicious as the cake.
    I have seen these cherries but never tried them. I actually almost bought Amarena Fabbri because I thought the jar was so pretty! Now I will since I know about the cherries. They sound delicious and I would LOVE a slice of this cake. Those cherries plus the chocolate must be dreamy. ~Valentina

    • The cake was truly amazing. These cherries are incredible. And the jar is pretty, but the cherries and the syrup are delicious.

  • Ah, I remember you and me having an Amarena cherry discussion once when i made Amarena cherry panna cotta. Never actually thought of making a cake from them, though I don’t know why. This looks delicious.

    • Oh darn! I forgot about that or I would have linked to your recipe. Such wonderful cherries. I can’t wait to make biscotti with them also.

      • Oooh biscotti – hope you’ll post those! Only made biscotti once and they didn’t dry properly, so I need to give that another go

      • No, not my recipe. I have a link on the post to Marissa’s biscotti made with Amarena cherries. Just a thought though, if you had trouble with biscotti, I’d stick with dried fruit and/or nuts until you feel you’ve mastered biscotti. I personally don’t know how she managed with the sticky cherries!

  • I love Amarena cherries. My husband likes to use them in cocktails. Fortunately, we can buy them at our local supermarket (HEB in Texas). Unfortunately, I cannot eat this beautiful cake because I keep my blood sugar in check with diet alone. As a result, I am a pescatarian who leads a Ketogenic Lifestyle. The cake looks beautiful, I will eat it with my eyes. 😍

  • Hi Mimi
    I had a jar of Amarena cherries in my pantry and when I saw this recipe for cherry cake, I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe exactly and I must say I am very disappointed in the results. The cherries and chocolate sunk to the bottom of the cake and I even chopped the cherries as you suggested. The flavor of the cake is good but it did not rise as yours in the picture and I just opened a new can of baking powder! Not sure what went wrong. We will eat the cake because I can’t stand to waste ingredients and as I said it tastes good but am discouraged with the outcome. Not sure I will make again.

    • Maybe you’re too good of a baker?! I mean, seriously, I rare bake desserts because I don’t like baking; I prefer to throw this and that into something savory. I’ll check the recipe – it’s came from the jar of cherries – and make sure I didn’t make a mistake. Sorry!

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