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

It’s All About the Cherries: The Annual Eau Claire, MI Cherry Baking Festival

It was all about the cherries, as it is every year at the Eau Claire Cherry Festival, held each July 4th in downtown Eau Claire. Michigan. This year, I was asked, along with Sara and Hanns Heil, to judge the festival’s 31st annual Cherry Baking Contest. Of course, loving small town food events, I had to say yes.

From left to right: Jane Simon Ammeson, Hanns Heil & Sara Heil.

Like in years past, contestants could enter one or more of the  six categories: Cakes, Breads, Pies, Desserts, Miscellaneous and Quick 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. Besides that, both a Grand Prize and Most Eye Appealing winner is then selected from the first place winners of the six categories.

After the prizes were awarded, the baked goods were auctioned off by John Glassman, raising approximately $2245.00. P1060982

“We had a lot of great looking desserts,” said Chris Dohm, who with Betty Timmreck, organized the contest.

Celina Cantrell’s Cherry Celebration Cake won in three categories—taking first place for cakes, being selected as most Eye-Appealing and also was the Grand Prize winner. Coming in second for Cakes was Carole Skibbe’s Mrs. America Cherry Cake. Third place went to Denise Rogers for her Cherry Crumb Cake.

In the Quick & Easy category, Joyel Timmreck took first place for her Cherry Supreme Cake,  Barb Adams placed second for her Cherry Treat and Levi Lollas won third place for his Cherry Golden Muffins.P1060980

Celina Cantrell’s Red, White & Cherry Dessert took first in the Desserts category, Debra Lollar won second for Cherries on a Cloud and third went to Kortney Rodriguez for her Cherry Pie Bars.

Stephanie Glassman’s Cherry Mousse was the first place winner in the Miscellaneous category. Coming in second was Aiye Akhigbe for her Cherry Pie Jam and third went to Danielle Dilts for her Very Cherry Salad.P1060968

In the pie category, Sara Disterheft’s Sweet Cherry Pie won first place, Maxine Wagner took second for her Cherry Rhubarb Pie and Celina Cantrell third for her 3 Cherry Cherry Pie.


The following are the first place recipes.

First Place: Cakes

Grand Prize Winner & Most Eye Appealing

Celina Cantrell’s Cherry Celebration Cake

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract

6 egg whites

2 ¼ cups cake flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

21 ounces cherry pie filling

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water


12 ounces cream cheese, soft

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Prepare three round cake pans with butter and flour.

In one bowl combine milk, egg whites, almond and vanilla extract.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in butter. Add one-half of the wet mixture, mix and then add remaining wet mixture.

Divide batter into three round cake pans.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Let cake cool in pans.

Cherry Filling:

In a sauce pan, cook cherry filling until warm, add extract and cook on low for five minutes. Mix water and cornstarch, then stir into cherries. Remove for heat and let cool.


Cream together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar.

Assemble the cake:

Spread a thin layer of frosting on the first layer of cake, then add cherries. Repeat with second layer. Top the two layers with the third cake, frost and top with cherries.

Optional: Add sliced almonds for looks and taste.

First Place: Quick & Easy Mixes

Joyel Timmreck’s Cherry Supreme Cake

One Cherry Chip cake mix

1 cup water

½ cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

½ cup chopped tart cherries

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease bottom only of two 8-inch cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients except cherries until blended then beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add cherries and mix until blended. Pour into prepared baking pans and bake for 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on cooling rack. Remove from pans and place cake on plate. Frost then place other on top and frost entire cake.


8 ounces cream cheese

½ cup unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 pound confectioner’s sugar

4 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

¼ teaspoon vanilla

Mix all together until fluffy.


One jar stemmed maraschino cherries; desired amount to decorate cake.

First Place: Pies

Sara Disterheft’s Sweet Cherry Pie

2 ½ cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

One cup unsweetened butter, very and cool cut into teeny cubes

½ cup ice water (you might not use it all)

Mix flour sugar and salt. Add butter until mixture becomes coarse. Slowly blend in just enough ice water form moist clumps. Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls and gently flatten into disks. Wrap each in the plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours.

For the filling:

5 cups sweet cherries, pitted

¼ cup cornstarch

½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large bowl stir together all the ingredients. Let mixture sit while you make your crumble and roll out your crust.

For the crumble:

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix sugar and flour together in a medium-sized bowl, then stir in melted butter. Put the topping in the freezer.

Assembly and Baking:

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Roll out half of the chilled dough on a well-floured work surface, rolling into a 12-inch round. Gently place the dough in 9-inch pie pan. Trim the edges of crimp them decoratively. Add cherry mixture into the pie crust, making sure the majority of its juices remain in the bowl. Add half of the frozen crumble on top of the pie filling and then place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Rotate pie and add the remaining crumble. Bake for another 25 minutes or until crust and crumble are golden.

First Place: Breads

Celina Cantrell’s Red, Yellow, Cherry Bread with Cherry Blossom Butter

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 2/3 cup flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sour cream

1 cup chopped and pitted yellow cherries


¾ cup powdered sugar

1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease and flour loaf pan.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add extract, lemon juice and rind. Add eggs one at a time. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Alternate with sour cream. With a spoon, fold in cherries.

Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool before drizzling with glaze.

To make glaze, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice.

Cherry Blossom Butter

Cream together 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature) with ½ cup powdered sugar, ½ cup chopped maraschino cherries and ½ teaspoon almond extract.

First Place: Miscellaneous

Stephanie Glassman’s Cherry Mousse

1 package cherry Jell-O (4 serving size)

½ cup boiling water

1 cup fresh cherries, chopped

½ cup cream cheese, softened

½ cup cold water

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup Cool Whip

Cool Whip and/or maraschino cherries

Add Jell-O into a small bowl and pour in boiling water. Stir until dissolved.

Add cherries, cream cheese, cold water and vanilla extract. Blend for one minute or until smooth.

Pour mixture into a large bowl and whisk in Cool Whip

Spoon mixture into dessert dishes and place in refrigerator to set, about 2 hours.

To serve, top with Cool Whip and maraschino cherries, if desired.

First Place: Desserts

Celina Cantrell’s Red, White & Cherry Dessert


1 cup crushed almond sugar cookies

¼ cup melted butter


8 ounce package Cherry Jell-O

1 cup boiling water

½ cup

1 cup fresh chopped and pitted xx cherries

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 ounces of cream cheese

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 cup heavy cream

In a small bowl combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press on to bottom of an ungreased pie plate.

Bake at 350° F. for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water, add the partially set, about 1 ½ hours.

In a mixing bowl, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add vanilla and salt.

In another mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream. When stiff peaks form, then fold in the cream cheese mixture.

Layer the dessert, starting at the bottom with some of the cream cheese/whipped cream mixture then add a layer of the cherries. Repeat layers. Top with whipping cream.

Refrigerate overnight.