32 Years of Celebrating Cherries in Southwest Michigan

The results—and the recipes are in—from this year’s 32nd Cherry Baking Contest at the Eau Claire Cherry Festival held in Eau Claire, Michigan.  Contestants could enter one or more of the six categories: Cake, Bread, Pie, Dessert, Miscellaneous and Quick and Easy Mixes, a category where entrants can use cake mixes, pie fillings and other store-bought ingredients, none of which can be used in the other five categories. After three place winners are chosen by the judges for each category, a Grand Prize and Most Eye Appealing winner are then selected from the first place winners in each categories.

This year, Debra Lollar’s Cherry Pastry Puffs took both First Place in the Miscellaneous Category and won the Grand Prize. Celena Cantrell’s won First Place and Most Eye-Appealing for her Dark Sweet Cherry Cheesecake Pie.

            Here are the results and first place winning recipes:

In the Cake category, Barb Adams took First Place for her 4th of July Cherry Cake; Debra Lollar took Second Place for her Luscious Cherry Cake and Stephenie Kuhl for her Fresh Cherry Cake.

First Place in the Pie category went to Celena Cantrell for her Dark Sweet Cherry Cheesecake Pie; Second went to Sara Disterhelf for her Sweet Cherry Pie and Third Place to Barb Adams for her Cherry Pie.

In the Bread Category, Celena Cantrell, First Place for her Sweet Cherry Pizza; Stephenie Kuhl, Second Place for her Cherry Bread and Jessica Ratter, Third Place for her Cherry Sweet Rolls.

Winners in the Desserts Category are Kelly Blankenship in First Place for her Chocolate Cherry Tart; Joyel Timmreck in Second Place for her Cherry White Chocolate Mousse Tart and Carol Skibbe in Third Place for her Cherry Brownie Delight.

Debra Lollar’s Cherry Pastry Puffs took First Place in the Miscellaneous Category; Aiye Akhiab’s Cherub Jam took Second Place and Stephenie Kuhl took Third for her Cherry Almond Cinnamon Rolls.

Joyel Timmreck’s Cherry Chewables took First Place in the Quick and Easy Mixes; Debra Lollar’s Easy Pineapple Cherry Crisp took Second Place and Stephenie Kuhl’s Chocolate Cherry Cake took Third Place.

A big thanks to Betty Timmreck, one of the organizers of the baking contest, who sent in the First Place winning recipes and the accompanying photos.

Debra Lollar’s Cherry Pastry Puffs

1 package pastry puffs

2 cups milk

1 box instant vanilla pudding

1 tub Cool Whip

Maraschino cherry juice

1 ½ cups cherries

1 ¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup water

Whisk together milk and pudding. Fold in Cool Whip. Unfold pastry puffs on lined baking sheet. Cut on lines into squares. Brush on cherry juice. Bake at 400° F for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a saucepan on low heat, cook pitted cherries, sugar, lemon juice and ¼ cup water. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup water. Then add to cherry mixture. Cook until thick. Cut open pastry puffs, spread pudding mixture on bottom. Spoon on cherry mixture. Put top layer on.

Celina Cantrell’s Sweet Cherry Pizza


3 ½ to 4 cups flour                             

1 tablespoon sugar

1 envelope instant dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups hot water

2 tablespoons olive oil plus oil for rising bowl

Combine flour sugar, yeast and salt in stand mixer bowl. While mixer is running add water and the 2 tablespoons oil. Add more flour if dough is too sticky. Add spoon one at a time. Grease a large bowl with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size. about one hour

Sweet Cherry Pizza Filling

1 pound pitted sweet cherries

1/2 cup sugar

¼ cup water

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon almond extract

In a saucepan over medium heat stir cherries, sugar and extract until heated and sugars melted. In a separate bowl combine water and corn starch until smooth. Add to cherry mixture. Remove from heat.

Make crumble topping

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons soft butter

Pinch of salt

Mix together with a fork to make crumbles. Spread cherry mixture over pizza like the sauce. Top with the crumbles.

Baked 400° for 25 minutes.

Let cool completely.

Icing drizzle

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Mix together with a fork and drizzle over cold pizza.

4th of July Cherry Cake

1 cherry chip cake mix

1/2 box white cake mix

20 ounces cherry pie filling

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups water

1 cup fresh almond, chopped

24 ounces can cream cheese frosting

Toppings: Sweet cherries, blueberries and coconut

Grease 3 8-inch cake pans. Set aside. Mix first five ingredients.

Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool and frost. Then top with sweet cherries, blueberries and coconut.

Celena Cantrell’s Dark Sweet Cherry Cheesecake Pie

2 cans dark sweet cherries

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat in saucepan and let cool.

Crumble 30 Golden Oreo Cookies in a food processor. Melt 1/3 cup butter. Stir into cookie crumbs and press into a pie pan. Place in freezer.

8-ounce package cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip together until smooth.

In separate bowl whip 2 cups heavy cream. Fold into the cream cheese. Fill cookie crumb pie crust. Top with the cooled cherries. Top with remaining cream cheese filling.

Kelly Blankenship’s Chocolate Cherry Tort

For the Shell:

3 large egg yolks

½ cup unsalted butter room temperature

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

For the Filling:

¾ cup milk

¾ cup heavy cream

4 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 ½ tablespoons flour

2 ounces dark chocolate, good quality


3 cups cherries cut in half and pitted

For the Pastry:

Whisk flour and salt in a small bowl.

Beat butter in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Add sugar then egg yolks one at a time while the mixer is running.

Dump the flour in and run mixer just until dough forms a ball.

Shape into a disk and chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.

Roll to a thickness of about ¼ inch and press into tort pan. Pierce bottom with fork to prevent puffing during the bake.

Bake at 400°F for about 5 minutes then reduce to 350° f and bake an additional 15. Allow to cool.

For the filling:

Melt chocolate and allow to cool. Scald the milk and cream in a small pot and set aside to cool to warm.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar, flour and vanilla then set on low heat and begin whisking.

Slowly pour in the warm milk mixture and continue whisking.

Whisk on low heat until mixture thickens.

Transfer to glass bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate.

Cover with plastic wrap pressing down onto the surface and allow to chill for a few hours in the fridge.

Fill tart shell with chocolate pastry cream and arrange cherries.

If not serving immediately, brush with a strained and diluted jam to preserve the surface.

Joyel Timmreck’s Cherry Chewables


1 ¼ cups flour

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup shortening

¼ cup butter

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup flaked coconut


2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

21 ounces cherry pie filling

In a bowl, combine flour and brown sugar; cut in shortening and butter until fine crumbs form. Stir ½ cup nuts and coconut. Reserve ½ cup crumb mixture for topping and press the remaining mixture into the bottom of a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, for filling, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and almond in mixing bowl until smooth. Spread over the hot crust. Bake 15 minutes. Spread cherries on top.

Combine remaining nuts and reserved crumbs and sprinkle over the cherries. Bake 15 minutes more. Cool.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. You may want to make more crumbs to put on top.

Jane Ammeson can be contacted via email at janeammeson@gmail.com

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