I have this view of Iowans as practical people. People without a lot of nonsense. Straightforward, honest, and hardworking. It’s a stereotype to be sure. But then again, some of those stereotypes are reinforced by literature. So maybe I’m not totally off-base.
In college, I would take weekend visits to my grandparents’ house. I usually brought along homework of some sort. One weekend I brought along a book I was reading for one of my classes. It was called Making Hay. Grandpa picked up the book, studied it for a minute and turned to my grandma. “Dorothy, look at this. Verlyn Klinkenborg.” “Who?” I asked. “Oh, he used to play with your uncle when they were kids.” I almost asked if they were sure it was the same guy, but then I realized that the chances of two people having that name were slim.
For Christmas this year, my husband got me the book Prairie Fires since I have been a fan of the Little House books since I was young. In it, the author discusses both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Hamlin Garland‘s connection to Burr Oak, Iowa. My grandparents introduced me to Hamlin Garland’s books when I was young. We went on a tour of his house. I can barely remember the trip, but my copy of Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly has moved with me for nearly 30 years. The practical people that named some of these recipes were not nearly as eloquent as the writers which is why we have recipes named things like “Darned Good Candy” and “Cherry Dessert.”
So what is Cherry Dessert? It’s a nut and cherry filled cake topped with a jammy cherry sauce and whipped cream. It is delicious and addicting.
The first time I made it, I mixed everything up together (with cherries from my trees) and put it into a prepared 9×13 pan. Before I even got it all into the pan, I realized that I probably should’ve used a smaller pan. The cake layer was about equal to the whipped cream layer. The bad part about this was that it took a large piece (or two) to leave me feeling satisfied and the cherry dessert would call my name as it sat in my fridge. The second time I made it, I had much better results in a smaller 8×8 pan. I neglected to let the cake cool completely before adding the whipped cream to the top. The results were a bit runny and messy, but nonetheless incredible.
The sweetness of the cake, the tartness of the cherries, and the creamy layer all combine to make a dessert that satiates every dessert craving except chocolate. It’s cool and a bit crunchy. This is going to be a staple at my house during cherry season.
1 c sugar
1 TB butter, melted
1 c flour
1 t soda
1/4 t salt
1 c sour cherries (reserve juice)
3/4 c nuts
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes
Cool. Cover with whipped cream.
Heat juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 TB flour, 1 TB cornstarch. Cook until thick. Add 1 T butter. Chill, spread over cream.