This delicious cherry cake filling is thick, sweet, and flavorful- perfect for filling cakes, pies, cupcakes, tarts, and more! It's easy to make in under 15 minutes with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.
Canned cherry filling can't compete with homemade cherry cake filling! Made with frozen cherries and a little cherry liqueur, it has a strong tart cherry flavor that is perfect in chocolate cupcakes, black forest ice cream, and more.
Like my strawberry cake filling, this particular filling is similar to a compote. However, it's made with a thickener (cornstarch) to create the perfect, sturdy yet jammy texture that won't leak out of your pies and cake layers.
The best part about this recipe is that it only takes 15 minutes to make. You'll never buy cherry filling from the store again!
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. For quantities and the full instructions, see the recipe card below.
- Frozen cherries- Frozen dark sweet cherries work best for this recipe. Frozen cherries release more water than fresh cherries, which creates the perfect texture for cake and pie fillings. Plus, frozen fruit is cheaper than fresh and available year round!
- Granulated sugar- White sugar enhances the natural sweetness of the cherries. Cane sugar and caster sugar can also be used in this recipe.
- Water- Use room temperature or hot water to dissolve the cornstarch. It can be filtered or from the tap.
- Cornstarch- This helps thicken the filling. Mixing it with water before adding it to the warm cherries keeps it from getting clumpy.
- Kirsch- This is an optional ingredient, but it makes the filling so delicious and perfect to use in a Black Forest cake! Kirsch (or kirschwasser) is a German cherry brandy made from distilling tart cherries. It's typically clear and traditionally used in Black Forest desserts. If you don't have Kirsch, you can use cherry liqueur or omit the alcohol completely.
- Kirsch: ¼ teaspoon of almond extract adds a similar flavor.
- Cornstarch: You can substitute another thickener, like potato starch, arrowroot powder, fine milled rice flour, or tapioca flour. Some thickeners, like potato starch, will thicken more quickly than cornstarch, so keep an eye on your filling!
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- A small saucepan is is an essential tool for every home baker! If possible, I highly recommend investing in a high-quality pan with a heavy bottom. It'll last longer than cheaper alternatives and prevent your filling from burning.
- You'll need a metal whisk for mixing the ingredients as they cook.
- You'll also need a mason jar or another airtight container to store the filling in when it's done cooking.
Step by Step Instructions
STEP 1: First, add the frozen cherries and sugar to a large pot over medium heat. Let the cherries cook and soften for 10 minutes, stirring often. Don't let the mixture come to a boil; keep it at a gentle simmer.
STEP 2: While the cherries are cooking, combine the water and cornstarch using a fork or a small whisk. Make sure to thoroughly mix the two ingredients until they are well-blended, without any cornstarch settling at the bottom of the bowl.
STEP 3: Once 15 minutes are up and the cherries are soft, turn the heat down to low. Gently stir in the Kirsch.
STEP 4: Next, pour in the corntarch mixture and let filling cook on low for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
STEP 5: Take the saucepan off the heat and let the filling cool completely for about 30 minutes before using it in your baked goods and other creations.
Expert Tips for Success
- Cook low and slow. To be sure that your filling has a thick, jam-like consistency, cook it over low heat for a longer period of time. This allows the cherries to break down and release all their juices.
- Mix cornstarch with water. Whisking the cornstarch with water before adding it to the filling prevents clumping and ensures that the starch is evenly distributed for a smoother texture.
- Stir often. Make sure to stir the mixture often while it's cooking to prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Additions and Variations
- Lemon juice: To enhance the cherry flavor, add a tablespoon of lemon juice after pouring the cherries and sugar into the saucepan.
- Vanilla extract: Instead of cherry liqueur or almond extract, try adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract for a sweeter flavor and aroma.
How to Use
There are so many different ways to use this filling! Here are some ideas:
- Slather it between layers of chocolate cake or vanilla cake frosted with cream cheese frosting or whipped chocolate buttercream.
- Use it as a filling for an icebox cake, vanilla cupcakes, or chocolate cupcakes.
- Try it as a topping for yogurt parfaits, overnight oats, cheesecake, or for a crumb cake.
- Swirl it into ice cream or spoon it on top with a dollop of whipped cream.
- Roll it up in sweet yeasted dough to make cherry cinnamon rolls.
- Use it to fill a cherry pie (you'll need to triple the recipe for a 9-inch pie), cherry turnovers, or danishes.
Storage and Freezing
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
You can freeze cherry filling for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
Defrosting fillings made with cornstarch can be a little tricky since they tend to split. To keep this from happening, add the defrosted filling to a saucepan and reheat it on low while whisking constantly. Do this until it thickens, and if it isn't thickening, add an extra ¼ teaspoon of cornstarch.
FYI- you don't have to do this if you're using it as a cherry pie filling since it'll get reheated in the oven!
Frequently Asked Questions
I've only tested this recipe with dark sweet cherries, so I'm not 100% sure. You can try using frozen tart cherries, but you may need to increase the amount of sugar in the recipe.
Yes! You can store it in the refrigerator for 5 days or freeze it for up to 2 months. Just make sure to let it thaw and stir before using it.
Yes! Pure cornstarch is gluten free, but make sure to check yours to be sure it isn't processed in a facility that also handles wheat.
More Frosting and Filling Recipes to Try
Cherry Cake Filling
- 1 saucepan
- 2 cups frozen sweet cherries
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon Kirsch or cherry liqueur optional
- Add cherries and sugar to a saucepan on medium heat. Cook while stirring constantly for 10 minutes.2 cups frozen sweet cherries, ¼ cup granulated sugar
- While the cherries cook, whisk water and cornstarch together in a small bowl to create a slurry.3 tablespoon water, 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- Once the cherries have softened and released their juices, turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the Kirsch.2 tablespoon Kirsch or cherry liqueur
- Pour in the cornstarch slurry and whisk the filling until it thickens. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
- Take the filling off the heat and let it cool. Once it reaches room temperature, immediately use in your baked goods or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container until needed.