Nanny’s Christmas Cherry Balls – So Retro So Delicious

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These Christmas cherry balls, also known as Cherry Surprises are so easy to make and great for making with small children or with a glass of wine….or three…. with friends.

Growing up, my Grandmother lived in our house. So when she passed away a few years ago it changed how we lived and how we celebrated Christmas.

We don’t try to replace the traditions that we had with her. It would be too difficult knowing it was better with her there.

Instead we try to create new ones.

We now make Instant Pot turkey as it’s faster than slaving all day in the kitchen and she’d shudder at the thought of Christmas pizza using leftovers.

And I’m not sure if she’d like Cuban crema de vie for the holidays.

But we will likely never give up is making her best holiday recipes.

I loved my grandmother dearly but Nanny was not a good cook. She married an Italian, who died before I was born.

And for some reason she really did not learn much in the years with my grandfather.

Maybe it was because she was of Scottish descent (sorry Scots) but the woman could not cook.

Except for a few things that she did very well and no one will ever make them better: seafood chowder, apple pie, mashed potatoes, stuffing, shrimp dip and Christmas cherry balls.

When she was getting older her health wasn’t as strong so I tried to get her to share her recipes.

Like many grandmothers she made it for so many years that she didn’t know the exact measurements.

As much as I love to try new recipes I will never make these items any differently.

Even if they were mostly recipes from the back of the box of some ingredient.

For me they are untouchable.

Coconut cherry balls ingredients on a baking sheet.

Christmas Cherry Balls

I know I’ve said so many times that I am not a dessert person.

And yet she would store these in the freezer and I would be so impatient to wait for them to thaw that I ate most of them frozen.

There’s something so amazing retro about maraschino cherries.

EASY FESTIVE RECIPE: Christmas Muffins

They are horribly inappropriate at any time of the year other than at Christmas or drinking a Shirley Temple.

Today I’m fortunate because my sister likes to make dessert and is in charge of making cherry balls each year.

This post is my reminder to her to clear her schedule so that when I go home for Christmas these will be in the freezer.

Coconut cherry balls in process shot, mixing dough

How to Make Coconut Cherry Balls

This Christmas dessert is similar to cocadas, one of the most popular Peruvian desserts.

I don’t often share recipe in process shots but in this case I think it’s good to show the texture of the cherry balls. 

Whenever I make them it feels like the mixture (above) is too moist. But it isn’t and they always turn out great.

To save you some doubt I shot each step.

Step 1: Mix coconut flakes with icing sugar and add butter, vanilla and milk.

Step 2: Fold 1 tbsp of mixture around half portion of cherry and roll into a ball.

This is where you will doubt yourself because it’s not a firm mixture. Using a spoon put the mixture on your fingers and gently fold around a cherry.

Don’t worry about making it round at this point. You can do that later once the graham crumbs are on it and your hands are dry.

Step 3: Roll ball into graham crumbs and refrigerate or freeze.

These will keep in the fridge for months so do yourself a favourite and make them late November before the craziness of Christmas.

Christmas Cherry Balls

Christmas Cherry Balls

Yield: 18 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

These Christmas cherry balls are so easy to make and great for making with small children or with a glass of wine….or three…. with friends.


  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes unsweetened
  • 1.5 cups icing sugar also called confectioner's sugar
  • .5 cup unsalted butter not margarine
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 9 maraschino cherries cut in half
  • 1 cup graham crumbs


  1. Mix coconut flakes with icing sugar and add butter, vanilla and milk.
  2. Fold 1 tbsp of mixture around half portion of cherry and roll into a ball.
  3. Roll ball into graham crumbs and refrigerate or freeze.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 171Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 43mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 1g

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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Join the Conversation

  1. That’s a recipe my Grandma made. Even the cup and saucer in the background was her everyday pattern. Memories…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Fortunately my sister loves making them because I love eating them!

  2. Your Nanny made cherry balls and my Nanny made coconut balls. Balls must be an east coast thing.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      There is coconut in our cherry balls, is there cherry in your coconut balls?

    2. Don’t forget the rum balls!

    3. Brandi Calhoun says:

      Def an eAst coast thing 🙂

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Do you make them as well??

  3. I always make my grandma’s brownie/cake recipe around Christmas. Great way to feel connected to family… and eat delicious things!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m slowly trying to collect family favourite to make into a book so they don’t go away when people pass on. It’s a nice way to keep family traditions.

  4. Looks rather tasty, and I had never heard of something like it!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s definitely an old school type of dessert.

  5. Oh wow these look incredible!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      They were delicious.

  6. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Those sound delicious! I didn’t even know that “icing sugar” is a thing. So is that just sugar specifically for making icing?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes I think it may also be called powdered sugar, but it’s quite simple to make icing from it.

  7. Emily in Chile says:

    I love making some of my grandma’s recipes for Christmas cookies too. And Thanksgiving isn’t complete without my great-grandma’s stuffing!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The few things that she did well we will never change, dressing and mashed potatoes will always be to her recipe.

  8. Sebastian @ says:

    My new years resolution is to cook more next year! Maybe I’ll try this one soon 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If you are new to cooking a great place to start is with Mark Bittman his New York Times blog is full of easy recipes that are all really fantastic.

  9. Regina @ aNomad'sDream says:

    Aww…I really miss my grandma too. And it also is not for her cooking…at all! Unlike my parents she was actually a picky eater. She cut onions into tiny pieces so you wouldn’t notice they are there but they give their good flavor. Ahhh, memories! So nice you have a recipe/treat to remember her by.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I swear my grandmother lived off tea and toast. It seemed like she never ate anything that wasn’t a dessert and lived well into her 90s.

  10. Looks interesting. I’m not a big cherry fan, but I love coconut!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m not a big cherry fan either but the coconut makes it delicious.

  11. umm… YUM.

  12. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) says:

    Any dessert with “balls” in the name is usually delicious!

  13. What does .5 cup of butter mean?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      1/2 cup of butter

  14. These are one of my favorite cookies for Christmas. I make them every year. You have 1 T of vanilla in your recipe. That seems like a lot of vanilla. I only use 1 tsp of almond extract or vanilla.

    Your thoughts?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s actually 1T, it’s a very strong vanilla flavour but this is a very retro recipe so you may want to be a bit more refrained in your recipe.

  15. These are yummy but super messy to make or eat!

    I use a fork and plate to spare my fingers.

    1. Forgot to mention that I also used vegan margarine because I am lactose intolerant and can’t have butter. I don’t know if that makes it messier or not.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        interesting, what is the texture of vegan margarine like? Maybe you need to chill it first?

        1. It’s like normal margarine as far as I can remember (haven’t had normal in quite a while). I froze the balls and thawed them in the fridge.

          The margarine stays in the fridge between uses.. I don’t trust it to keep on the counter.

  16. Sebastian Bach says:

    On this thanks, my mother made cherry balls for us at home. It’s a pure vanilla flavor. It was a sweet and wonderful delicious homemade cherry ball.

  17. Jillian Michelle says:

    My grandmother recently died, and I still make her Christmas recipes as well. It helps me to feel closer to her. <3 I've never heard of Cherry Balls before though. Her recipe sounds lovely. I know xmas has already passed, but I'm definitely still going to try it! <3 <3

  18. hello first time making….do you melt the butter?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      No don’t melt the butter, use it cold.

      1. Sherrie L Collis says:

        Cold butter? Not softened?

        1. Ayngelina Author says:


  19. eileen kinslow says:

    What is one .5

  20. Does it matter whether the coconut flakes are sweetened or unsweetened?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes, it is unsweetened coconut. Thank you for asking I’ll fix the recipe.

  21. Lovely recipe…I always knew about Rum Balls…never tried cherry balls though.

  22. Chef Dennis says:

    This is super delicious! My wife really loved this recipe.

  23. How long would you say is optimal for chilling in the fridge before serving? A couple hours? And also, how long will these keep in the freezer?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      A couple hours are absolutely fine. I’ve frozen them for up to a month.

      1. Well these sound fabulous! I love old fashioned recipes, and these must be wonderful- icing sugar, vanilla, butter, coconut…they must taste like coconut buttercream!! I wonder how they’d be without the graham coating, freeze the balls, then dip in melted semi-sweet chocolate, and refrigerate or refreeze to harden the chocolate coating. I’m trying both ways for my holiday cookie trays this year! Thank you Ayngelina!!!
        I’m on Instagram, too @my_practical_life

  24. My mom made these every Christmas….she was from NB, so, YAY to East Coast ‘balls’! However, half of the balls she would roll in coloured coconut. Very festive looking on the dessert platter.

  25. This was a great article…except for the line “Maybe it was because she was of Scottish descent (sorry Scots) but the woman could not cook.” I have to object. My roots are Scottish and both my mother and grandmother were fabulous cooks and bakers. In fact, my grandmother ran a restaurant. I am known in my family for making the best Christmas Shortbread. It’s simply wrong to say that somebody was a poor cook because of their nationality.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Of course you are right. It’s a bit of a joke in our family but not meant to be taken seriously.

  26. Gary Balkam says:

    Same as my Grandmothers Cherry Balls except Nan used almond extract instead of vanilla.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh I like that addition!

  27. Baishakhi says:

    It looks awesome. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

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