It’ll Be Our Secret: Putting the Cordial in the Cherry Cordial

gooeyDid you ever wonder how the liquid gets inside a chocolate-covered cherry?

Whether or not you’re a big fan of chocolate-covered cherries, or cherry cordials, you have to admit they have a special place in the pantheon of the gods of chocolate candies. They are unremittingly sweet and gooey and have that liquid stuff in the middle that is messy, fun, and sort of mysterious.

How did it get there?

I used to imagine someone, maybe an elf or an Oompa Loompa, with a syringe, injecting each and every bonbon with a little gooey syrup.

The truth is both simpler and more magical than that. And I am prepared to share that secret with you.

You are being invited into the inner sanctum of sweets, the cabal of candy, to join the chosen few who know how they put the cordial in the cherry cordials.

Last week, when my fellow Americans were roasting turkeys and stuffing them with stuffing, I took a day off from candy making . . . and made candy.

At our friends’ annual Christmas Eve party last year, while in the throes of holiday cheer and good red wine, I indulged in a little self-aggrandizement and bragged about being able to make cherry cordials.

One of the other guests at the party allowed as how he loved chocolate-covered cherries better than almost anything and I, in my warm, cheerful haze, promised to make him some, to be delivered at this year’s party which, it occurred to me, is soon!

So, I took Thanksgiving Day off from making candy to sell and made candy to keep a promise. Such is the price of self-aggrandizement.

Making chocolate-covered cherries is a multi-step process. It involves making fondant, coating each cherry with the fondant, and then dipping the cherries in tempered chocolate.

Oh, and the most important step—waiting, waiting for the syrup to appear, like an alchemist’s dream, within the chocolate shell.

First, I made fondant, really just cooked sugar syrup, which stayed creamy while I dipped maraschino cherries into it but then hardened to a white, opaque shell. The fondant would stay hard, white, and opaque forever (which would make for a really unsatisfying chocolate-covered cherry experience) except . . . for the secret.

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Shhh . . . come closer.

The secret is invertase.

Invertase is an enzyme that changes sugar to liquid or, in plain terms, it “catalyzes the hydrolysis of sucrose.”

A tiny bit of invertase, added to the fondant, will turn that hard, white, opaque shell to sweet, sticky syrup, syrup to dribble down your chin as you gobble one cherry cordial after another.

The switchover from solid to liquid is a bit of a delayed reaction. I had plenty of time to dip the cherries into the fondant, let the fondant harden, temper the chocolate, and dip the cherries into the chocolate before the transformation began.

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In fact, my recipe for these candies says that the cherries will need to sit for 10 days to allow the magic to happen.

Luckily for me, and my burning desire to start snacking, the change really occurs much more quickly than that. Within a half hour of dipping the chocolates, I could start to see a bit of sugar syrup oozing, already, out of a tiny break in the chocolate shell.

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Abracadabra! Magic in the making!

And it continues. By the Christmas Eve party, I should have a couple of dozen chocolate-covered cherries to take along, to fulfill my promise.

I would never make these candies to sell. Making the fondant is too unpredictable, at least for me. In honesty, I screwed up the first batch I made last week and had to start all over again!

The process is even more laborious than other candy making with more waste, since even a tiny air bubble in the chocolate shell will become a weak spot from which the syrup will ooze. Trust me, if you end up with a syrup-less cherry in an empty chocolate shell, it simply isn’t magic any more.

And, while leaving the stems on the cherries, those sweet little handles, makes dipping the cherries so easy, it makes packaging the finished candy impossible—just ask the people who have, in the past, received ooey-gooey packages of exploded candy in the mail from me.

This was candy making simply for pleasure and that’s its own kind of magic. It was nice to make candy just for the fun of it, just for the challenge, with little pressure, and to make people happy. And it gave me the opportunity to share this particular secret of the universe with you.

But, remember—it’s a secret. Just between you and me.

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58 thoughts on “It’ll Be Our Secret: Putting the Cordial in the Cherry Cordial

  1. Oh my, this post reads like a detective novel, a page from an old book of magic spells, an acient letter found in old chest from a rummage sale…I held my breath, my eyes flew over the words and photos. I will keep it a secret Kerry and I will never ever look at a cherry bonbon in the same way again. And to quote Terry Pratchett : ‘it is still magic…even if you know how it is done.’ Also thank you for a fascinating new (to me) word: aggrandizement. ( I won’t even try to pronounce this with my Dutch/Canadian accent;0) It says in the dictionnaire: ‘ making something look bigger than it is’ and ‘increasing power’…hmm, in your case, I will go for the latter!

  2. Kerry, those cherries are stunning! And I love the challenge which you set yourself and the perfectionism which was demanded to reach the alchemy of the fondant ‘melting’. I was so excited to see the droplet of syrup oozing out of the chocolate shell.
    When I was first married, my now, ex-husband, who was a chef in Jermyn Street, London, used to bring me Physalis dipped in fondant, with the fragile, papery outer case pulled back like little wings. Little luxuries, just like your cherries. Your friend is going to be bowled over when the cherries are revealed!
    Thank you for this very special post.
    Karen.

    • I loved chocolate-covered cherries as a kid, even the ones you can buy of a couple dollars at the drugstore, and was fascinated by the texture combination. It feels pretty cool to be able to re-create that in my own kitchen!

  3. Wow I had no idea, you had me on the Oompa Loompas and the syringe! No matter, the pictures are beautiful and tantalizing! And now I appreciate those gems even more. Oh your creative talents just keep going!

    • I don’t know how the cherries are mass-produced–I’d love to visit a candy-making factory to see the differences between what I do and what they do. But now you have a sense for why they cost more when you buy hand-dipped ones, rather than the ones in the supermarket!

  4. Since I’m not a fan of chocolate covered cherries (or strawberries) your revelation of the creation process left me scratching my head about whether the effort was worth it. Obviously, it is – for you and the future recipient of your labors. Speaking of candy I just don’t get, what about the kind with the jelly interior? To this day my disappointment is huge when I inadvertently choose this kind from the box.

    • It’s funny, I don’t much care for chocolate-covered strawberries but I quite like the cherries. The effort is really probably not worth it, except for the challenge and I do like a challenge (and choco-covered strawberries hold no challenge whatsoever!) I don’t get the jellies, either–I think the candy companies throw them in as fillers?

  5. I love a good secret!!! I also love chocolate covered cherries… Yours look absolutely delicious . The next time I eat one , I’m going to savor the magic. 🙂

  6. I’ve always wondered how these were made. I still remember eating one for the first time and not realising they had syrup inside – my shirt was a bit of a mess but I was very happy! This post is really interesting and you’ve made me seriously hungry.

  7. Super thank you for sharing this, I always wondered how these are made. Too bad they aren’t suitable for sending by mail, I would have loved to have a taste and try out one. Or two 🙂

    • You wouldn’t believe the mess they make in the mail! I sent some to my sister, with some other boxes of candy, and there was sticky syrup all over everything! And that happened just being mailed across New York state. Can you imagine if they went all the way to the Netherlands?!

  8. I am crushed! I have been for some 65 years an inveterate believer in the little chocolate elves and fairies carefully siphoning the gooey liquid into the chocolate shell and carefully massaging the outer rim into soft chocolate perfection. Now you tell me no fairies – simply an unknown element that almost equally as magically does the job! Mmmmmm – I have to rethink my association with chocolate cherries.

    But before I go I just must say how very wonderful you are – not only at making chocolates and tea towels but also in your writing. This read like a detective tale and when I finished I found I was leaning forward in my chair, keenly involved in the magic that was unfolding before my eyes despite my fantasy being so clearly crushed! 🙂 xoxo

    • Pauline, I always look forward to your comments! You are so kind and I’ve noticed that you respond to other bloggers with the same enthusiasm! That makes me feel all the worse in having crushed the magic of chocolate for you! Could you re-think this, and imagine the elves as the ones who carefully stir the cauldrons of invertase that will then create the cherry magic?

      • It’s too late Kerry, the damage has been done and now chocolates are just chocolates – no more magic. But I did learn a new word [invertase] and that is always a very good thing! I am planning on [ruini] sharing this info with some more choc fantasists over the holidays 🙂

        PS There is always the possibility, given my current state of memory, that I shall forget all this and simply revert back to the elves 🙂

  9. I have no words for how cool this post is!!!! Thanks for sharing the chocolatier secret. Even Willie Wonka might not have been so generous 😉 Am not a fan of cherry cordials, though yours look far better than what I’m used to seeing. Betting your DIY is amazing. And it’d be fun to try the invertase in different applications–with caramel? apricots?

    • You know, I pondered your idea about caramel, etc., for awhile and did a little looking around. I think the invertase only works with pure fondant. I didn’t see anything that suggested it would work with caramel–I wonder if it’s because of the dairy products? This is something I’ll need to do more research on!

    • I have no patience–I started sampling the cherries the moment the chocolate had set. They ere good, even though the fondant was still still crunchy! But they’re better now . . .

  10. “Such is the price of self-aggrandizement”. Well, I am grateful for it. Wow, Kerry, first of all a beautifully written and photographed post. And secondly, I will never eat another of these without having just a moment of appreciation for what actually goes into it. Loved this post!!

    • If you do try these, give yourself plenty of time! You can’t do the fondant one day and the chocolate coating the next–the fondant will start dissolving and you’ll have SUCH a mess!

    • It kills me that I can’t sell them! I think I could if I made them without the stems–the stems are the weak point in the chocolate shell. But the stems are also the handles for dipping them and I’ve tried managing without them and it is just too much of a hassle to make it worth it!

  11. I had no idea that’s how they were made! I guess I really did always assume there was a tiny syringe full of gooey deliciousness ready to be ejected into each candy. But it’s even more fun to know the real secret — it just reminds me of how much there is to learn in this world! One of the more baffling things to me used to be shanghai dumplings (a Chinese dim sum treat in which there is hot soup inside a steamed dumpling). I had a few epic failures at making them myself before I realized it was best left to the professionals. =)

    • Those Shanghai noodles sound pretty amazing–dd you learn how it’s done, even if you don’t do it yourself? The cherries are fun to make but, honestly, probably not worth the bother.

      • A friend and I did make them once but they didn’t turn out good at all. Really tragic. I blamed it on the fact that we both had horrific hangovers that day but I’m doubtful if that was the real reason for our failure. They are just really tricky and require some serious expertise and patience. So I only get my fix when we go out for dim sum. I guess it makes them still feel special that way!

  12. Are cany-mistakes (e.g. one’s oozing drops of sugar) like broken cookies? No-calories and must be eatten before being discovered by guests? No wonder you chocolate-covered cherry work from Thanksgiving to Christmas yeilds only a “couple of dozen” for the party 🙂
    Also, could you include the chemical formula so that we could get college-course credit for reading this blog?
    Oscar

    • Oh, but giving you the chemical formula would be divulging way too much secret, insider information! And besides, I don’t have time–too busy gorging myself on my mistakes! 😉

  13. I am absolutely, 100% impressed!! Your chocolate covered cherries are gorgeous … the chocolate is so smooth and perfect and your photos of them, divine.
    Your secret is safe with me as I’ll not be able to remember the term, although I will remember the magic.
    Very cool!!

    • The secret to the smooth chocolate is tempering real chocolate. Melted chocolate chips would never come out that nice, for instance. The candies are still sitting, waiting, and getting gooier . . .

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