more cherries and a local classic

Jun 19

I am sad to say that the cherries we picked from Brentwood are long gone, but happy that they were used in some yummy baked treats!  I did make a cherry upside-down cake that was fabulous, but unfortunately the “model” was a bit temperamental and alas no good shots.  However, I may have another opportunity to make this again soon and hope to get better pics.

In the meantime, I am proud to present a local Hawaiian favorite–cream cheese shortbread.  It is usually made with canned pie filling for the topping, like blueberry.  This recipe is from my mother-in-law and my husband does an exceptional job at recreating this local classic.  This time my husband and I made it with the fresh cherries we picked.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide you specific measurements for the cherry filling since we did the “add a bit of this and a touch of that” for the topping.  However, here is a list of ingredients: fresh cherries, sugar, lemon juice, water, and cornstarch.  Over low heat we cooked the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, and water until the cherries became soft.  We took a little water and mixed it with the cornstarch and then added this to the cherry mixture.  Once the cornstarch is added it will thicken significantly and will have to be watched, so do not walk away.  I immediately poured the cherry mixture into a bowl to cool.

We prepared this homemade cherry topping the night before and so it thicken even more overnight in the fridge.  I didn’t like the consistency so I whirled the mixture in a food processor until I got a more smooth consistency.  It was almost like a soft jam.

This local favorite is made most often for parties.  As we made this fresh cherry version, it took me back to when we celebrated New Year’s with my Aunty and Uncle.  My Aunty prepared some onolicious (translated “very delicious”) Japanese and local food, and dishes that were considered to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.  And then we all looked forward to the Fresh Ohelo Berry Cream Cheese Shortbread.  Ohelo berries on the Big Island of Hawaii mostly grow near the Volcano area.  It has that right amount of sweetness with just a tiny hint of tartness, which is why I had that moment down memory lane as I took that first bite of the Cherry Cream Cheese Shortbread.

Here is the base recipe for the cream cheese layer and the shortbread crust.  You can use any canned fruit pie filling and even better use any homemade fruit pie filling.  The other substitution we made was using almond flour instead of the chopped walnuts.

A big thank you to my mother-in-law for sharing this recipe.

Cherry Cream Cheese Shortbread

Crust Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cubed
4 tbsp powdered sugar
2 c flour
1/2 c walnuts, chopped (or any nut of your choice)


  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
  2. Using a pastry cutter or two butter knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until you’ve reached a nice sand-like consistency.
  3. Press mixture into a 9×13 baking pan.
  4. Place in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour.
  5. While the crust is in the refrigerator, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake crust for about 20 minutes or until lightly brown.

Filling Ingredients:

1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1/4 c powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 container cool whip, softened


  1. In a stand mixer, mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until light and creamy.
  2. Fold in cool whip.
  3. Spread cream cheese mixture on top of the shortbread crust.
  4. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. Serve with your choice of pie filling (canned or homemade).
  6. Cut into squares and serve immediately.

Not only is this a great dessert for any occasion or potluck that is sure to WOW your guests, but it has the best texture and flavor all in one little bite–soft cookie shortbread, creamy dreamy filling, and that sweet with a nice tart fruit topping.

I am glad for classic recipes like these–that take you down memory lane in just one bite!

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Comments: 6

  1. Bluejellybeans June 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm Reply

    They look delicious and beautiful 🙂

    • ailovebaking June 23, 2012 at 5:32 am Reply

      Thanks Giovanna! These were easy to photograph, yummy to eat, and very dear to my heart : )

  2. Crystal August 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm Reply

    Could oats or coconut be substituted for the nuts (nut allergy), or would there be a better substitute for this particular crust?

    • ailovebaking August 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm Reply

      Thank you Crystal for visiting my site! I think some unsweetened finely shredded coconut would work as well. I have also used coconut flour (very finely processed coconut) in my baking and love the flavor as well. Hope this helps.

  3. Valerie Spidle Davis August 10, 2013 at 3:29 am Reply

    The topping on the pictured squares is not pie filling. What is it? It looks delicious, but not pie filling.

    • ai love baking August 12, 2013 at 5:43 am Reply

      Hi Valerie! Thank you for stopping by my blog. Yes you are correct it isn’t “canned” pie filling. I explain mid-post that my husband and I made “homemade” pie filling that turned out more of a puree. I don’t have the exact recipe since we added a bit of this and that, but refer back to my post for the ingredients I did use. Hope this helps 🙂

ai would love to hear from you!