Coconut Cherry Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting — Less Processed Sugar

My Grandma Elaine didn’t bake or cook often, especially as she got older, but when I was about 4 or 5 years old I remember her making one of her specialties — Carrot Coconut Cookies with Orange Frosting.  The recipe came from a Betty Crocker cookbook and was only made for fancy luncheons with her lady friends.

If I happened to visit while she was making them she strictly forbade me from stealing any of them or sneaking a bit of buttery orange frosting off of any of the finished cookies she had lined up like little soldiers on cooling racks on her kitchen table.  I’m sure she just didn’t want my cruddy mitts germing up her elegant cookies, but I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just scoop a tiny bit frosting off with my pinky finger.  So when her back was turned I did just that.  The creamy butter and orange frosting melted like manna on my tongue and I squirmed in my seat from sheer delight.  I didn’t want her to notice what I’d done, so I snatched frosting off of a different cookie to even things up, so the bald patch wouldn’t be so obvious.  In a matter of minutes I’d stolen frosting from a dozen cookies.  When she finally turned around I was busily swirling a finger I’d thoroughly wet with spit over the frosting, trying to smooth out the divots I’d made.

Grandma’s face balled up like a roiling thunder cloud on a hot summer afternoon. I sat in frozen, sticky silence.

Then, suddenly, she laughed. “Oh Meggie, what did you do?”

She cuddled me up onto her lap as I cried, trying to explain how I was just trying to fix what I’d done, but no matter what that delicately flavored frosting just wouldn’t smooth out! She gave me a squeeze and a cookie and sent me into the living room to play while the sweet scent of another batch floated from the kitchen.

Now on special occasions I make my own version of those delicately flavored cookies, but my cookies not shy or retiring. They’re bold, brash and brilliantly pink, stuffed full of the things I liked best as a little girl: Angel Flake coconut, maraschino cherries, and just enough butter for melt-in-your-mouth flavor.

I designed them with indulging the part of me that is still that sticky-fisted little girl in mind. I make them with my bare (washed) hands instead of a mixer, so it is a little like playing in a pink mud puddle.

There are three secrets to making them as fluffy, pink, flavorful and moist as mine.

The first is that I make them without eggs. Instead I use Ener-G egg replacer powder and extra maraschino cherry juice. You can make them with eggs if you like, but know they won’t turn out as pink or flavorful as mine. Being eggless also makes it safe to eat the dough, which I do, liberally!

The second secret is part-skim ricotta cheese. I use it to replace the shortening in the original recipe. This is what gives the cookies their chewy, moist and satisfying texture. Plus it makes them low fat – but your co-workers or kids would never guess!

And the last secret is the way I shape the dough and put it on the cookie sheet. Most people scoop a spoonful of dough and drop it on the cookie sheet when making drop cookies. Instead of “drops” that melt and cook out flat, I make cookie “stacks” that rely on gravity and the heat of the oven to shape them and lock in moisture to form soft, high mounds of yum-ness. I’ll detail how to make stacks toward the end of this post.

For her birthday Ana requested I make my Coconut Cherry Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting, if possible, without adding processed sugar. The cherries and coconut have processed sugars in them, but my new recipe uses agave nectar instead. The cookies turned out even better than my version with sugar, so I’m sticking with the agave!

I did successfully make something like frosting, but I’m not yet satisfied with the recipe, so I’ll include the recipe for the crave-able original powdered sugar cherry buttercream frosting and you can decide which to use.

So, enough chat and here you go:

Coconut Cherry Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting – No Added Processed Sugar

1 cup diced maraschino cherries (I cut mine into eighths)

½ cup agave nectar

½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 Tablespoons real butter, melted

2 eggs –OR—1 Tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 4 Tablespoons extra maraschino cherry juice mixed until smooth

¼ cup maraschino cherry juice

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 to 1 ½ cups real Baker’s brand Angel Flake Coconut

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 ° F and grease a cookie sheet.

    2. In a large bowl, mix diced cherries, agave nectar, ricotta, melted butter, eggs (or egg replacer powder plus extra maraschino cherry juice, and ¼ cup maraschino cherry juice.

    3. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and Angel Flake coconut.

    4. Mix well (I like to squeeze it with my hands to mix).

    5. Take about 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons of the dough at a time. Form into a 3 inch tall “stack” that is wider at the bottom and slightly narrower at the top. Place wide bottom down on the greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough. Just before putting in the oven double check that no “stacks” of dough have tipped over.

    6. Bake 10-14 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched with a finger. There should also be slight browning on some spots. The cookies should feel pretty firm and not at all squishy.

    7. Remove from the oven. Immediately remove cookies from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.

    8. Cool completely.

    9. Frost, using one of the recipes below. Personally, I like the one with all the powdered sugar, but Ana likes the corn starch version. Then top each frosted cookie with ½ of a maraschino cherry cookie.

    10. Serve. If necessary, store in the fridge, but allow them to warm to room temperature before serving. (Usually they all disappear before I need to store them!) Do NOT microwave or they will dry out and the frosting will melt

Maraschino Cherry Frosting — No Added Processed Sugar

1 ½ cup corn starch

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1 pinch salt

1 Tablespoon maraschino cherry juice

  1. 2 Tablespoons agave nectar

    1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a fork or stiff whisk until smooth and no lumps are visible.
    2. If the frosting is too dry add extra maraschino cherry juice or agave nectar one teaspoon at a time.
    3. If the frosting is too wet, add corn starch a Tablespoon at a time.
    4. Adjust the sweetness and flavor level by adding more agave or cherry juice and cornstarch until you get it as sweet as you like and is a good, workable texture.
    5. Frost the cookies and top each with a maraschino cherry half.

Maraschino Cherry Frosting – With Processed Sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Pinch salt

2 Tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

  1. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients until smooth and no lumps are visible.
  2. If the frosting is too dry add more maraschino cherry juice.
  3. If it is too soft, add more powdered sugar.
  4. Spread on the cookies and top each with a half maraschino cherry.


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