Merry Maraschino Cherry Cookies

Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies with Ribbon

On the fourth day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies.

Okay, I have a confession to make. I LOVE maraschino cherries. They make me happy. There. I’ve said it.

They’re kitschy, cheeky, and not one bit sophisticated; all perfect reasons, in my book, to adore them. Especially during the kitschy, cheeky, magical holiday season.

Stencil  Icing Technique

Maybe it’s all those Shirley Temples my Mom hoisted on me when I was a kid, each with a luminescent cherry and a paper parasol. Maybe it’s the impossible color. Maybe it’s actually the almond syrup flavor. I have no idea why I love them, but MauiJim knows by now that if his Mai Tai or ice cream sundae comes with one of these sticky, chewy, way too sweet cherries, it’s MINE.

Stencil Icing Technique with Star

For the record, I know maraschino cherries are not a wholesome food, that they taste nothing like real cherries, that they’re full of this bad thing and that bad thing, that no serious food writer should ever stoop so low as to mention them, blah blah blah …

Stencil Icing Technique Completed

Maraschino cherries have, in fact, all the nutritional benefits of a Lifesaver. I only wish I had thought of that terrific line. It actually comes from Josh Reynolds, vice president and general manager of Gray & Company’s fruit division, which essentially owns the maraschino cherry retail market. The point Mr. Reynolds makes, however, is that maraschino cherries should be thought of as candy, not as food. That seems imminently sensible to me.

Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies with Stenciled Icing

If you want to know all about the fascinating history of maraschino cherries, definitely check out The Fruit that Made Oregon Famous. It’s a fun read. Did you know, for instance, that there is an actual class at Oregon State University in Corvallis titled, Maraschino Cherry 102? For real! It makes sense when you discover that Oregon is home to the two largest maraschino cherry producers in the nation.

To confound maraschino cherry snobs everywhere, I purposely made these cookies as elegant and seductive as possible. No identifiable bits of cherries in the dough. No big cherry in the middle of the baked cookie. Just a simple shape with a beautiful snowflake stencil in the center.

Closeup of Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies on the Plate

Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies

It’s not unusual to see holiday cookies topped with a colorful bit of maraschino cherry. But in this crisp, light, very buttery cookie, a goodly quantity of cherries are pureed and incorporated into the dough, which gives the cookies a pink hue and lovely almond flavor.

2¼ cups King Arthur’s unbleached all-purpose flour 
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup drained maraschino cherries (20 cherries)
1 cup sugar 

1½ cups fresh unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 sticks)
1 tablespoon maraschino cherry syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract 

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold water, approximately

luster or fine sanding sugar, optional

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Reserve.
  2. In a processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the cherries and sugar until the cherries are pureed.
  3. Add the butter, cherry syrup and almond extract. Puree until creamy, under 1 minute.
  4. Add the flour mixture and pulse very  briefly, just until a dough forms.
  5. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and flatten each portion to a ½-inch thick disk on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
  6. On a lightly floured pastry cloth, using a covered and floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ?-inch thickness. Use a little flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary, but try not to work too much additional flour into the dough.
  7. Using a 2½-inch round cookie cutter (or cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies.
  8. Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange cookies slightly apart on the cookie sheets.
  9. Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for 12-14 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning. (If you have a convection oven or setting on your regular oven, by all means use it. Your cookies will be more evenly browned.)
  10. When the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
  11. To stencil a design on top of each cookie, first practice your stenciling technique on a sheet of parchment paper. Lay the stencil on the paper, scoop a small amount of icing onto the stencil with a small offset spatula, and with the same spatula, firmly drag the icing across the stencil. Carefully lift the stencil and check your design. If the impression is crisp, your icing is the right consistency. If the impression is blurred, your icing is likely too thin. If your impression is blotchy, your icing is likely too thick. Adjust the consistency of the icing and try again. Don’t begin to stencil the cookies until you have perfected your icing and technique.
  12. Sprinkle icing with luster if desired and set cookies on a wire rack to allow the icing to set.
  13. When icing is set, store airtight in a cookie tint, in layers separated by wax paper rounds, in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter.

There’s More:

To follow along as we bake our way through this year’s cookie collection, see the kickoff post, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night.

Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.



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  1. Sandra says

    I made these cookies for the first time this year and they were fantastic. I shared them with a couple of friends who wanted the recipe. I had no problems with rolling them out or them spreading too much etc, I chilled the dough overnight and followed the recipe exactly and I had no problems. Thanks for the great recipe.

  2. Doreen Warren Doucet says

    Hi, this is the second year I make these cookies (maraschino butter cherry cookies). Last year I remember they were difficult to roll & cut out, but this year was terrible. I think there is too much butter in them or not enough flour. I rolled between two wax paper. They spread something fierce. My son loves these so I want to be sure to get it right. Tks, Doreen from Canada P.S. Both my flour & butter come from the U.S’)

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Doreen, the flour amount can be increased if needed when you are rolling out the cookies. Just liberally flour the pastry cloth and rolling pin cover. You can also add an additional 1/4 cup flour to the recipe if you consistently obtain too wet a dough.

      Rolling the dough between sheets of wax paper actually contributes to the stickiness you experienced. Be sure to use a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover.

      Be sure that the marachino cherries are well drained before adding them. Too much moisture here could contribute to a wet dough.

      It is very important that the dough be cold and hard when you roll it. if it begins to warm and soften, put it back in the frig for awhile. The temperature of your kitchen while rollingthe dough can make a difference, as can taking too long to roll the dough.

      Hope this helps. Happy baking! :-)

  3. Lady says

    Hi. I had already baked sugar cookies when I needed help with decorating them. I used another recipe, no refrigeration or cookie cutter, because it was the simplest recipe for my first cookie ever, roll in hand and bake. But I found your blog when I googled snowflake patterns which was my goal for decorating these sugar cookies. Turns out the surface is uneven and to remedy that I would need to apply an icing for an even surface which I realized I didn’t have patience for. I just finished snowflake stencil/dusting them with confectioners sugar and wrapped them, not the best 😀 but they will have to do for my first cookie giving season. I never imagined the precision in baking! Not sure if it is my thing :D. If I ever try this again, I will try this recipe with the maraschino cherries as per instructions. But thank you, Lady.

  4. Lady says

    Hello, I decided just this year to bake cookies for the first time ever, and chose these sugar cookies. I browsed a bit online and saw snowflake patterns that I HAD to have. But I wonder how to do it on cookies that are not only not round, but have an uneven surface? Any advice? Lady 😀

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Lady, I don’t quite understand the question. Why will the cookies have an uneven surface? The surface must be even and smooth in order to apply the frosting through the stencil. Good luck!

  5. Sandra says

    Hi, Im getting ready to make these and #6 says to roll out the dough to “a ?-inch thickness”. Can you verify how what thickness it needs to be rolled to? Thanks!

  6. LisaSJA says

    I LOVE maraschino cherries, too! I’m proud to say that I’ve influenced my daughters and they love them, too. Sometimes I’ll have a small ice cream sundae just to put a cherry on it. In fact, I have them on my grocery list right now – guess I’ll buy the large jar and make these cookies. Yum!

  7. Connie Buttery says

    Years ago, I made cookies with a Maraschino Cherry on top. My daughter called and asked me for that recipe saying how good they were. Unfortunately, I have lost the recipe and have searched everywhere and cannot find it. Do you know of any recipes with a cherry on top?

    • Anonymous says

      Are you thinking of thumb print cookies? You can roll them in cornflake crumbs, chopped nuts or even coconut and put raspberry, lemon or a cherry on top, or are you thinking of coconut macaroons, that is my favorite with a cherry on top.

    • Charlotte Willis says

      I have a recipe that is called Danish Cookies
      1 cup flour
      1/3 cup brown sugar
      1/2 cup margarine
      1 egg (divided)
      1/2 cup chopped walnuts(divided)

      Cream sugar and margarine. Divide the egg and add yolk. Than add four and about cup of the nuts. Beat egg white in separate bowl. Roll dough in small balls, dip in egg white and then in remaining degree oven and bake 5 minutes. Take out and chopped nuts. Put in 375 degree oven and bake for 5 minutes. Take out and lightly press half a maraschino cherry in middle of cookie. Put back in oven for another 8 to 10 minutes. Best not to double recipe.

  8. Lisa says

    I’m curious about the stencil, is it a stencil that was designed for cookies? Or just a random stencil. I never would have thought of using a stencil on a cookie, but they look great.

  9. nmsusieq says

    Holy Moly! I just spent half an hour trying to find the recipes for the first 3 days. I found a list with the cookie names, but no links to the recipes. Please help me, I feel so stupid.

    • sms bradley says

      So sorry, nmsusieg! Don’t feel bad; it does get confusing.

      If you go to the home page at, and scroll down, you will see the cookie posts so far this season.

      Either click on the post title, picture, or “>>” symbol at the end of the intro and you will jump to the complete post.

      For last year’s cookie recipes, go to Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls page at and click on any of the pictures.

      Another easy way to get pointers to all posts is to click the Archives tab at the top of the home page.

      Happy Baking! …Susan

  10. nmsusieq says

    These sound great. I will be making them. I guess I need to catch up. I just joined you last night, so there must be recipes to find for the first 3 days.


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