Posts Tagged ‘George Washington Cherry Tree’

I Cannot Tell a Lie: I Made Cherry Pudding

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


Happy Washington’s Birthday.
I appreciate the spirit behind the relatively new (1971) holiday of Presidents’ Day, which generously embraces all presidents, even the incompetent ones like James Buchanon and the downright dishonest ones like Richard Nixon.
I rejoice for my friends who work in offices; they now enjoy a three-day holiday weekend on the Monday before Washington’s birthday instead of celebrating his birthday as a single holiday whenever it occurs (sometimes on a weekend).
Nevertheless, I prefer to celebrate Washington’s birth on the day on which it occurred, February 22.
Pedants might point out that he wasn’t actually born on February 22, 1732, but rather on February 11 as marked on the calendar in use then, the Julian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar was adopted in Britain and its colonies in 1752, and dates were shifted 11 days to allow the calendar to catch up with the solar year.
Washington himself counted the 22nd as his birthday, however, and I think he’s an excellent source on this subject.
It’s traditional to make something with cherries on Washington’s Birthday, and I’m not a girl to mess with tradition.
John C. McRae, "Father, I cannot tell a lie: I cut the tree." (Library of Congress)

John C. McRae, "Father, I cannot tell a lie: I cut the tree." (Library of Congress)

Most Americans now know that the story about his chopping down a cherry tree and confessing the deed to his father was made up by Washington’s enterprising biographer, Parson Weems.
Nevertheless, we still associate Washington with cherries. The gift shop at Mount Vernon even sells souvenirs with cherries on them.
The cherry-tree legend is appealing and apt in its way. Washington was known for his honesty and indeed maintained that “the character of an honest man” was “the most envied of all titles.”
The cherry-tree story can thus be viewed as a metaphor for Washington’s overall character.
Besides, I like cherries!
While your cherry pudding is in the oven, you might want to take this little presidential food quiz, courtesy of the Food Museum Online.
If you’d like to read more about George Washington and cherries (yes, he did love them, even if he didn’t chop down that tree), here’s a great post about his eating habits at The Food Timeline.
Cherry Pudding
I adapted this recipe from one entered in the Pudding Hollow Pudding Contest by Jane Montgomery of Newton, Massachusetts. It’s one of those lovely comforting pudding cakes that are easy to throw together and satisfying to eat. It uses canned cherries because even in Virginia one can’t get fresh local cherries in February.
1 can (14.5 or 15 ounces) tart cherries (NOT cherry pie filling)
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
whipped cream as needed
toasted almonds or pecans (or even candied ones) as needed (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Drain the cherries, reserving their liquid. Combine the drained cherries and the lemon juice, and spread this mixture into a well buttered, 8-inch-square pan or a 1-quart casserole dish.
Cream the sugar with the butter. Sift together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon, and add them to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk; be sure to begin and end with the flour mixture. Use a spatula to spread the batter over the cherries as well as you can. Sprinkle the brown sugar over all. Pour the cherry juice over the top of the batter. Do not stir it in.
At this point your dish will look pretty messy, and you will begin to doubt yourself. Never fear: the magic of baking (or perhaps the inspiration of George Washington) will rescue your pudding. The cake batter will rise to the top and solidify, although there will be sauce at the bottom and the edges of the pan.



Bake the pudding until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake part comes out clean, 45 minutes to an hour. Be careful not to insert the toothpick too far, or it will hit the sauce.
When the pudding is done, dish it onto serving plates, making sure each serving has cake, cherries, and juice. Dollop whipped cream on the top, and put a few nuts on the cream if you like. Serves 8.

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