Lillian’s Cherry Nut Cake

My grandmother Millie (Mom’s mom) grew up in Brooklyn, where she met one of her closest lifelong friends, Lillian. Millie and Lillian moved to my hometown in CT together, were in each other’s weddings, raised their families, and led amazing lives together as best friends. Lillian devotes her life to serving others and ran our local soup kitchen for years, well into her 80s. She is the first person I remember knowing who was selflessly devoting herself to making other peoples’ lives better. She showed me the power of food as a community service. Lillian is an incredible cook herself, and my absolute favorite thing she makes is her cherry nut cake. I always asked for it on my birthday, and it always made an appearance at weddings and other special events. Her recipe stands the test of time, and one bite of it brings me back to being a tiny little bear. 

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Lillian's Cherry Nut Cake

Lillian’s Cherry Nut Cake

  • Author: Dan Pelosi

What You’ll Need



  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk**
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup chopped maraschino cherries, juices reserved
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream, heavy cream, or milk**

What You’ll Do

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. In a large bowl add 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix to combine.
  3. Into the same bowl, sift 3 ¼ cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and 2 ¼ cups sugar, and combine with a wooden spoon. Add all 1 cup chopped maraschino cherries and 1 cup chopped walnuts and enough cherry juice to dye batter as pink as you like. The additional cherry juice is optional, but why would you wanna skip that? Stir to combine, creating a gorgeous pink batter!
  4. Butter a 13×9″ cake pan and line with parchment paper. Pour in batter and bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  5. You can use many other cake pan(s) here. She makes a gorgeous bundt cake, layer cake, or cupcakes! Just keep an eye on your cake as it bakes and remove when a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Remove cake from oven, and a cool on rack in pan. Once pan is cool enough. Use parchment paper to remove cake from pan and place cake back on rack to cool fully.
  7. While the cake cools, let’s make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter and 3 cups powdered sugar. Beat until soft and fluffy. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons whipping cream (or other milks) and beat to combine.
  8. Frost cake once it is completely cooled, and then decorate the top with whole maraschino cherries.
  9. Slice, share and enjoy!
  10. Cover cake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature or in the fridge, depending on how you like your leftover cake!

*Gluten free All-Purpose 1:1 flour can be used.

**Any non-dairy milk can be used.

Make It Step By Step With Me:

Gang’s all here!

Grab a bowl.

1. Add 4 eggs to the bowl.

2. Add 1 cup milk.

3. Add 1 cup vegetable oil.

4. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

5. Combine.

6. Grab your sifter and place over bowl.

7. Sift 3 ¼ cups flour.

8. Sift 1 teaspoon baking powder.

9. Sift ½ teaspoon baking soda.

10. Sift 2 ¼ cups sugar.

11. Combine with a wooden spoon.

12. Strain 1 cup of maraschino cherries.

13. Reserve juices.

14. Chop cherries.

15. Add 1 cup to batter.

16. Add 1 cup chopped walnuts.

17. Combine.

18. You can take some of the reserved cherry juice and tint your batter pink! This is optional, but if you’re like me, you absolutely cannot pass up this opportunity!

Here she goes!


19. Butter pan and line with parchment. This pan is 13×9″, but you can use any pan you like! She makes a gorgeous bundt cake, layer cake, or cupcakes!

20. Add batter to pan.

21. Put on your bikini, dive in. When finished swimming, bake at 350º for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

22. Cool completely on a rack. You can remove cooled cake from pan using parchment paper after a 20 minutes, then place cake back on rack to cool completely outside of pan.

While she cools, let’s make some frosting!


23. Add 1 cup butter, softened.

24. Add 3 cups confectioners’ sugar.

25. Beat until soft and fluffy.

26. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

27. Add 2 tablespoons whipping cream, heavy cream, or milk.

28. Beat to combine.

Grab your completely cooled cake.

29. Give her a nice frost.

Any style is welcome. I am a casual froster.

30. Grab a few more cherries to decorate your cake slices.

This is how I like to serve the slices.

It always makes people smile. Enjoy!