Cherry Blast From the Past ❦ Cherry Coconut Bars

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When I was planning my Christmas open house I wanted some kind of bar on the sweet tray, and these Cherry Coconut Bars, with their festive red cherries and snowy white coconut, seemed in keeping with the holiday theme.

I made these often when I was a teenager, and this was one of the recipes that I copied out for my recipe box in the months before I got married back in 19-never mind. Obviously I made it often afterwards, as you can tell from the much-used and spilled upon recipe card. I never said I was especially neat in the kitchen!

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Somewhere along the line, this recipe disappeared from my repertoire. I place the blame entirely upon picky children (Offspring, are you reading this?). This one didn’t like cherries, that one didn’t want nuts, and I don’t think any of them would go near coconut. So, the card disappeared to the back of the box until December.

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I’ve never thought of this as a Christmas recipe before, but the bars certainly looked pretty and seasonal along with the other holiday treats and they garnered numerous compliments. The shortcake base is rich, and the topping is delightfully chewy from the coconut. The nuts add crunch and the cherries bright flavour and festive flair.

Beware, these bars are very sweet, and if I were to make them again I would dial that down somewhat. As a first step, I would use unsweetened coconut instead of the sweetened variety that I, somewhat incomprehensively, used this time. I have to admit, I never thought a maraschino cherry would cross my threshold again, as I have a thing about food dyes and artificial flavours these days, but a little blast from the past can’t hurt, can it?

These bars were pure nostalgia for me, bringing back memories of baking in my mother’s kitchen back on the farm. From today’s vantage point, that seems like such a simple and innocent time.

What recipes have you made lately that take you back?

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Cherry Coconut Bars

Source unknown. Pre-heat oven to 350º F. Prepare a 9″ x 9″ pan by buttering it. If you wish, you can then line it with parchment paper and then butter that as well (extending the paper slightly past the top of the pan makes it easy to lift the entire batch from the pan before slicing). You can see from the card that the original recipe calls for an 8″ square pan, but I often use a larger pan and reduce the baking time to compensate.

Base

  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar

Mix until well incorporated. Spread and pat into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes, or until set and lightly coloured.

Topping

  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Stir the rest of the ingredients into the beaten eggs. Spread over top of the baked pastry base and bake another 22 to 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Let cool in the pan and then cut into bars the size of your choosing.

Cherry Coconut Squares
Cherry Coconut Bars

19 comments

    • Scrumptious – now that’s a compliment! Thank you. I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s allergies – I’m lucky in that while my kids were – ahem – selective, no one has any food allergies. Thank you for dropping by!

  1. These do sound good, Mar. Like you, I tend to shy away from using maraschino cherries but I wouldn’t bat an eye using them here, for a Christmas treat. Heck! If there were enough guests expected, I’d make a 2nd batch using green cherries — and then put the recipe card away for another 12 months. 🙂

    • Green cherries too — that’s a walk on the wild side! It would look extra festive to have some bars with red and others with green cherries. That didn’t occur to me!

    • I hear you. I’ve learned the importance of giving baked goods away. Funny, I don’t seem to have any problem finding takers!

      So nice to hear that your mother and grandmother made these. I wish I knew the source of the recipe, but I’m guessing it’s one of those that farm women like my mother passed along to each other.

    • Believe it or not, I don’t think I’ve ever made a cherry pie, but my Mom used to! First step, wait for cherries to come in season (no gloppy filling from a can for you!).

  2. Thank you for posting this and for the photo of the recipe card. My mother made these for as long as I can remember, at Christmas time. She made these and several other ones and then would make Christmas platters and have me deliver to people in the neighborhood. All 4 of my siblings and I have such fond memories of our mother and her baking. I ended up being a professional baker and went to culinary school. I often thought that my love of baking came from these cookies and the stories my siblings and I share about them.
    Today, my mother has been passed for a few years and I just bought my first home in my home town. I want to continue my mothers tradition starting this year. So, finding your blog and recipe was just a gentle of my mom helping me find the recipes I need. At least that’s what I would like to think.
    So many thanks and blessings from Northern Michigan

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Billy. I love the story of your Mom making platters of baked goods for the neighbours at Christmas (and then getting her kids to deliver them!). She sounds like a sweet and generous person. So many family memories centre around food, especially at the holidays. I’m glad you found the recipe for an old family favourite on my blog.

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