The Delight of Cherry Spumoni

Cherry spumoni -- a celebration of almonds, chocolate, and glace cherries.
Cherry spumoni — a celebration of almonds, chocolate, and glace cherries.

It’s been ages since I last dined at an old-school Italian restaurant, the kind that sets down a brimming relish platter almost before you’ve ordered, and ends the meal sweetly with a frosty goblet of spumoni.

Thought to have originated in Naples, this fanciful creamy dessert can’t help but feel festively nostalgic with its cherry, pistachio, and chocolate or vanilla ice creams all mingling together in one scoop, often with crunchy nuts, bits of dark chocolate, and chewy candied fruit. Talk about an entire party busting out in one spoonful.

So, when I received some samples recently of red candied cherries, otherwise known as glace cherries, from Paradise Fruit Co., I couldn’t help but grow wistful for that classic treat, especially as the holidays approach.

Paradise Fruit Co. candied red cherries.
Paradise Fruit Co. candied red cherries.

Rather than going to all the trouble of making three different flavors of ice cream, I zeroed in on this New York Times recipe for “Cherry Spumoni.”

As you can guess, this one is all about cherries — from the tart cherry juice concentrate that flavors the ice cream base and gives it a bubblegum-pink color to the chopped fruit that gets stirred into the ice cream base before freezing in your ice cream maker.

I used an entire 8-ounce container in this spumoni.
I used an entire 8-ounce container in this spumoni.

The recipe calls for frozen or canned cherries. But I decided to swap that for the candied cherries instead, which are fat-free and gluten-free, and possess a tacky texture from corn syrup. I actually think they work better than frozen fresh cherries as a spumoni ingredient because they lend that old-world quality that this ice cream calls for.

Don’t skip the tart cherry concentrate, even if you have to make a special trip to the store or order it on Amazon. Thick and viscous, it may be only a small amount that’s needed in this recipe, but it really adds a ton of cherry flavor overall to the resulting ice cream. Don’t try to use regular cherry juice, either, as it won’t have the same potent effect. Any leftover tart cherry concentrate is delicious to sip when diluted with still or sparkling water over ice.

I got my tart cherry concentrate via Amazon.
I got my tart cherry concentrate via Amazon.

This ice cream recipe is a cinch to make. You don’t have to fuss with tempering any hot egg custard base carefully to guard against scrambling. That’s because there are no egg yolks in this recipe. Instead, all you have to do is heat milk to dissolve sugar, then stir in half and half, heavy cream, almond and vanilla extracts, and the cherry concentrate.

Chill the mixture well, then process in your ice cream maker, adding the chocolate and almonds halfway through. The ice cream will still be fairly soft at this point, so transfer to a container with a lid and freeze until firm.

This spumoni is wonderfully creamy and potent with cherry flavor. Every spoonful is a little different as you enjoy crunchy almonds, sticky sweet cherries, and rich crunchy bits of chocolate along the way.

Treat yourself to a big scoop — preferably after a heaped plate of your favorite pasta.

As good -- if not better -- than any store-bought ice cream.
As good — if not better — than any store-bought ice cream.

Cherry Spumoni

(Makes about 1 1/2 quarts)

¾ cup milk

¾ cup sugar

⅛ teaspoon salt

¾ cup half and half

1½ cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons tart cherry concentrate (see note)

½ cup (packed) frozen, pitted tart (sour) or sweet cherries, defrosted, or pitted tart or sweet canned cherries (do not use fresh fruit), or glace cherries

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons slivered or sliced blanched almonds

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips

Place milk in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat until bubbles just begin to form around edge of pan. Remove from heat, and add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.

Add half and half, heavy cream, vanilla extract, almond extract and cherry concentrate. Mix well. Transfer to a bowl, and set in an ice water bath until cool, about 10 minutes.

Coarsely chop cherries. Press between paper towels to remove excess liquid (skip this step is using glace cherries). Add to chilled milk mixture. Begin freezing in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream has begun to thicken, after about 10 minutes, add almonds and chopped chocolate. Continue freezing until ice cream is very thick.

Tip: Tart cherry concentrate is available from; other brands are also available on Amazon.

Adapted from The New York Times

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  • I am (almost literally) drooling at the thought of flavoring this with the vanilla & almond extracts. What a taste treat in combination with those other ingredients!!! Pretty sure we don’t still have an ice cream maker stashed away (though you can be sure I will check!) but I might just have to try this in chilled but still-liquid form as a really decadent milkshake. And I love that you probably wrote this while still in the middle of our unseasonable heat wave. Such a perfect weekend for homemade ice cream!

  • My husband would be thrilled with a scoop of your Cherry Spumoni and I agree about using the glace cherries.

  • Hi Karen: I’m glad your husband is such a fan, too. I couldn’t believe how quickly my husband devoured this ice cream. LOL

  • Hi Carroll: I love the image of you chugging this as a milkshake. I can’t blame you, though, as it is just that good. And yes, we did enjoy this ice cream during the recent heatwave, and when we also had some pretty spicy Chinese food for dinner one night. LOL

  • Rosamond Cummins

    This looks delicious. I love cherries in all their forms, especially glaceed.

  • Hi Rosamond: This recipe is right up your alley then. The glace cherries really star in this ice cream. Enjoy!

  • What do you think about using Luxardo brand Maraschino cherries? Between the red food dye and the HFCS those glace cherries are not for us…

  • Hi Reuel: Ah, I get that. I think Luxardo cherries would work great. You could also just use frozen cherries at this time of year. Either way, it makes for a great combo of flavors in this ice cream. Enjoy!

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