Cherry recipes, apparently, are like heirlooms, handed down from generation to generation. At least, that seems to be the case based on entries to The Tribune’s Cherry Recipe contest.
The 62 people who submitted more than 80 entries either named a recipe after their mother or grandmother or introduced it as a dish they learned as children.
Randy W. Six of Mesa entered his late grandmother’s no-bake cherry pie made with whipped cream, Eagle Brand Sweet Condensed Milk and Real Lemon juice. Steve Russell, also of Mesa, offered Grandma’s Cherry Delight Filling, a cheesecake-style dessert. And June R. Kirk of Chandler sent in My Mother’s Recipe for Cherry Squares, a cobbler.
Many fell into the cobbler or “dump cake” variety. Almost as many were close variations of cheesecake. Others offered Jell-O and whipped cream cherry salads with nuts, marshmallows and, occasionally, canned pineapple.
These, we realized, must be exceptionally yummy cherry desserts to be so popular and enduring. But because they were so alike to other entries, we could not have named one as winner without mentioning all.
Even culling those recipes, though, it was tough determining which three should be prepared for a final tasting by Thomas McCall, a pastry and cake chef with AJ’s Fine Foods at Val Vista Drive and Baseline Road, Mesa. We wanted a variety of recipes that sometimes meant one selection would exclude another just because they had similar ingredients.
We appreciated the submission of Michael T. Martin, a research analyst with the Arizona School Boards Association, whose cherry recipe was the most basic: “One bowl of cherries, pull off stems, pop in mouth, spit out seeds.”
And we salivated over Brie en Croute with Tart Cherry and Dried Apricot Chutney entered by Laura Slama, owner of Celebrated Cuisine of Tempe as well as a professional chef and caterer, but we reluctantly disqualified her as having an unfair advantage.
Which is how we came to the winning Macaroon Cherry Pie submitted by Mesa resident Elida VanSlyke, who works for Mesa. It uses canned tart cherries (which we couldn’t find and so substituted dark sweet cherries) a ready-made crust and a topping that melds the delicate flavors of coconut and almond. The recipe stood out, says McCall.
“I like it a lot. And I generally don’t like coconut,” he says, after taking a bite. “It holds itself up pretty well.”
McCall named Cherry Chocolate Surprise by Laura L. Hundley of Apache Junction as the runner-up, complimenting it for presentation, which, he added, “is half the battle.”
VanSlyke says she didn’t inherit her cherry pie recipe.
“I got out it of a magazine someplace, I really don’t know where.”
For more cherry recipes, go to the Cherry Marketing Institute’s Web site at