Look no further than these Cherry Coconut Bars for a festive addition to your holiday baking trays. Neon red maraschino cherries and the golden top make these sweet treats say “celebrate”!
A Nostalgic Addition to the Holiday Sweets Tray
When I was planning my Christmas open house in 2012, I wanted some kind of bar on the sweets tray, and these Cherry Coconut Bars, with their festive red cherries and snowy white coconut, seemed in keeping with the holiday theme. The fact that this is a nostalgic recipe for me also makes it one I like to bring out for the holidays.
I made these often when I was a teenager, and this was one of my mother’s 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!
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 for years and years.
Cherry Coconut Bars, Updated
I’d 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, the original version of these bars is very sweet. I’ve dialled that down somewhat by specifying unsweetened coconut (somewhat incomprehensibly, I used the sweetened variety for my holiday open house, probably because it was languishing in the cupboard). I’ve also substituted granulated cane sugar for the white sugar of the original recipe, and the next time I bake them I’m going to try cutting the sugar back to no more than three-quarters of a cup.
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? Sometimes, only a maraschino cherry will do.
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?
These maraschino cherry-studded bars certainly fit the bill for a festive treat. You can see from the card that the original recipe calls for an 8" square pan, but I make them in a larger pan and have reduced the baking time from the original to compensate.
- 1 cup sifted flour
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 3 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 cup granulated cane 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
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).
Mix flour, butter and icing sugar until well incorporated. Spread and pat into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes, or until set and lightly coloured.
Stir the rest of the topping 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.
Most of my mother’s handwritten recipes didn’t give a source, but the recipe appears to be the same as the one on the Betty Crocker website. Whether they both came from an earlier source (perhaps a flour company’s recipe booklet?) is unknown to me. Either way, I have had at least one reader comment that this is a recipe that they remember from their childhood and had been looking for for years.
Looking for More Bars and Squares?
I appreciate the unfussiness of bars and squares, because you don’t have to shape each portion before baking, like cookies (don’t get me wrong — I love baking cookies too). These would all be good additions to a holiday sweets tray (but don’t make them only for the holidays!): Maple Pecan Pumpkin Bars, Date Squares, and Nut-Topped Cocoa Brownies.
First Published 2013 01 11
Republished 2021 12 09