Cherry Coconut Bars ❦ Cherry Blast from the Past

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?

Cherry Coconut Bars
Prep Time
20 mins
Total Baking Time
40 mins

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.

Servings: 30 bars (fewer if cut larger)
Author: © Marlene Cornelis/ 2013–2021
Shortbread Base
  • 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
How To Make This Recipe
  1. 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).
  1. 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.

Topping and Finishing
  1. 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.

Recipe Notes

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


    • 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.

  3. My mother made these every year at Christmas. I make them using Luxardo cherries. They are soaked in liquor but since most kids won’t eat these, not sn issue. The food dye problem no more! I made them for my dad when my mother had passed and he went crazy for them. “Best cherry bar he ever had!” I use a little of the liquid from the cherries in the batter for extra flavor. Making these for valentines day for all the neighbors who helped with snow removal this last snow storm.

    • Thank you for sharing this, Kim! I like the idea of using alternate cherries. I’ve used maraschino cherry juice at times in the past to add a little more colour too. What a great idea to make them for Valentine’s Day. I’ve also thought of this as a Christmas recipe, but of course it’s a treat at any time.

  4. My Mom made these coconut cherry bar cookies every Christmas. I have very fond memories of them as do my 4 siblings. When she passed in 2019, I looked thru her recipe box specifically for this recipe! It was not in the box and I was so disappointed. I have tried a few times to find a recipe similar to her cookie recipe and was thrilled to see the photo of these bars!!! They look just like the ones she use to make! I can’t wait to try these this Christmas and surprise all my siblings! Thank you so much for posting the recipe and picture!!! I’d like to think she helped me find your post.

    • Melissa, thank you so much for sharing this story. I’m so happy that you found this recipe that you’ve been looking for for so long on my blog, and glad it will bring you and your siblings happy memories of Christmas with your mom. My own mother passed away 7 years ago, and I know how comforting it is to make and serve her special dishes.

      Messages like this really make my day and remind me why I’ve been blogging for so long. Best wishes, Marlene

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