Cherry Layer Cake (A Doctored Cake Mix Recipe)

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If you love cherry desserts, this easy Cherry Cake from Cake Mix is sure to become a favorite! This flavorful cake consists of cherry cake layers filled and frosted with a heavenly cherry cream cheese frosting!

Cherry Cake from Cake Mix, sliced, on a white pedestal. Topped with maraschino cherries.

We have a popular scratch cherry cake recipe (as well as cherry chocolate chip cake) in our  Recipes Section , and are so happy to now have a cake recipe version as well!

Why we Love it!

How to Make a Cherry Cake from Cake Mix

You can find the full, printable Doctored Cake Mix Cherry Cake recipe below, but here is a quick rundown of our steps!

  • First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, grease and flour three (8x2 inch) round pans. (We also like to line our pans with parchment paper).
  • Next, in the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with paddle attachment), add the dry ingredients and whisk at least 30 seconds to blend. 
  • The cherry flavor in this recipe comes from maraschino cherry juice as well as an added flavor boost from cherry extract. If you do not have cherry extract, a little cherry jello powder is a great substitute.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, mixing on medium speed for a minute.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 more minutes ( a little longer if using a hand mixer).  Add the finely chopped cherries during the last minute of mixing.
  • Divide your cherry cake batter between the three 8 inch cake pans and bake for  25 to 30 minutes.  Check at 25 minutes, if a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs attached, it's done!

Assembling the Cherry Layer Cake

Place the first cooled layer onto your cake plate or pedestal. Brush with a little maraschino cherry juice. This step is an easy way to add an instant boost of cherry flavor.  

Spread with cherry cream cheese frosting- repeat for the next two cake layers.

Decorating the Cherry Cake

To decorate the cake, we frosted the cake with cherry cream cheese frosting. We created a spiral on top of the cake using an offset spatula.

To do this, apply slight pressure to the center of the cake while rotating the cake. Spiral outward with each rotation of the cake. We demonstrate this in a few of our tutorials, including our naked cakes tutorial. (Skip to the 2:35 mark).

Then, I frosted around the sides of the cake with a little texture and added a bottom border as well as stars on top using a 2D piping tip. (Find out how to pipe simple shells in our star tip piping tutorial!)

As a final touch, we added maraschino cherries on top! 

Cherry Cake Recipe

More Cherry Flavored Cakes

We've made several cakes over the years that have wonderful cherry flavor! Sometimes the cherries play a starring role, and other times the flavor is more subtle- but always delicious!

Some of our most popular cherry cake recipes are our scratch cherry cake recipe, Black Forest Cake, and Chocolate Cherry Cake! Here are a few more:

Thanks so much for stopping by! Don't miss our collection of scratch cake recipes as well favorite doctored cake mix recipes! You can find them all in our Cake Recipes section!

You can also find all sorts of fun cake decorating tutorials in our cake decorating section!

Yield: 15 servings

Cherry Layer Cake (A Doctored Cake Mix Recipe)

Cherry Cake Recipe

This moist and delicious Cherry Layer Cake is so simple and delicious! We love it with our cherry cream cheese frosting.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


For the Cherry Cake

  • 1 box (15.25 oz) white cake mix, sifted, we used Duncan Hines
  • 1 cup (114g) all purpose flour (plain in the UK)
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (242g) sour cream (we use full fat sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) cherry extract - see Notes below for substitution
  • 2 Tablespoons (13g) vegetable oil (we use canola oil)
  • 1 (16oz) Jar Maraschino Cherries. We'll use ⅔ cup of the cherry juice (reserve the remaining juice for brushing onto layers).
  • ⅓ cup of milk
  • Maraschino cherries from the jar of cherries-- approximately ½ cup or 18 cherries finely chopped- reserve additional cherries for decoration on top.
  • *Pink coloring gel for additional color - optional. (If using jello instead of extract you won't need the coloring).

For the Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) (226g) unsalted butter (slightly softened)
  • 2( 8oz.) packages cream cheese (total weight 452g) slightly softened --
  • use full fat cream cheese. Using reduced fat or the spreadable cream
  • cheese will cause the frosting to be too soft. Do not soften the cream cheese in the microwave
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) cherry extract *See notes for substitution
  • 6 to 61/2 cups (690g to 747g) powdered sugar
  • Wilton Rose Gel Color, optional - I used a very small amount, putting the color on a toothpick to add to the frosting.


For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour 3 (8x2 inch) round pans
  2. In the bowl of your mixer, add the dry ingredients and whisk at least 30 seconds to blend.  If  using cherry jell-o powder instead of cherry extract, add now.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. and mix on medium speed for 1 minute.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 more minutes ( a little
  4. longer if using a hand mixer).  Add the chopped cherries during the last minute of mixing.
  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Check at 25 minutes, with a toothpick inserted into the center, when it comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached, it is done.
  6. Cool in the pans 5 to 10 minutes then turn out.

Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Cut the slightly softened butter into slices and add to the bowl of your mixer. Beat on low to medium speed until the butter is softened and smooth.
  2. Cut the softened cream cheese into pieces and add to the butter, beating at low to medium speed until incorporated.
  3. Add the vanilla and cherry extract. Gradually add the powdered sugar beating on low speed until blended (cover bowl with a towel to keep a cloud of powdered sugar from floating over your kitchen).
  4. Add the gel color at this point, increase mixing speed to low to medium and beat until fluffy, don't over beat. Over mixing will make your frosting too soft. You may need to chill the frosting 10 to 15 minutes until it is the spreading consistency you like.
  5. If piping with the frosting, you will need to chill a short while. You can make it in advance, refrigerate and when ready to use, let it soften slightly then remix. Do Not Soften in the Microwave.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place the first cooled cake layer onto your cake plate or pedestal.
  2. Using a pastry brush, lightly apply maraschino cherry juice onto the cake layer. Just a light coating is enough. Spread with a layer of cherry cream cheese frosting- I stop about ¼ inch from the edge of the cake.
  3. Apply the next cake layer, brush on the cherry juice, and repeat. Add the final cake layer, and frost the cake with cherry cream cheese frosting. I like to freeze the cake for about 10-15 minutes after crumb coating and then apply the final coat. If the cream cheese frosting is too soft, chill to firm it up.
  4. I applied the frosting with a bit of swirly texture. I added a spiral to the top of the cake with my offset spatula by starting in the center of the cake and then spiral out as I rotated the cake on a turntable. I then added stars around the top edge of the cake with a 2D piping tip and topped each star with a maraschino cherry.


  • If you cannot use cherry extract, substitute with 3 Tablespoons (36g) Cherry Jell-O powder in the cake batter.(**If using in frosting dissolve powder in a small amount of hot water first to make sure sugar granules dissolve.)
  • This cake recipe makes 8 cups of batter.
  • Works well for cupcakes, for standard size cupcakes bake at 350 degrees, 18 - 20 min. 
  • Do not mix over medium speed
  • If you do not want to chop the cherries by hand, you can use a food processor, a blender might liquify the cherries. Finely chopped cherries are less likely to sink to the bottom as the cake bakes.  



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  1. Hi Deirdre, The 2/3's cup cherry juice and 1/3 cup milk were written as 2 separate ingredients added to the cake mix. I am sorry that was not clear.

  2. I need to make 100 of these cherry cupcakes, and would like to know how I would go about freezing them for a day or so before I frosted them. Thanks Donna

  3. Hi Donna, When we have a large number of cupcakes we place the cupcakes on a large cake board and cover (wrap) the board and cupcakes in plastic wrap. We then wrap all in aluminum foil. It is important that the cupcakes be kept airtight to avoid freezer burn. If you place a 2nd
    layer of cupcakes on top of the first, I would put a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper between the 1st and 2nd layer. Two cakes boards taped together will give extra support to hold the cupcakes.

  4. Thank you for the tip, and getting back to me so fast! This is why I love this site. Donna

  5. Hi Amy, I prefer using cherry extract if it is easily available, but you will also get a nice cherry flavor using cherry jello.

    1. Hi Rachel- Yes you can. Since cream cheese frosting is soft already, you won't want to add much liquid to the recipe- but I would dissolve a bit of the cherry jello into 1-2 teaspoons of hot water- then allow it to cool, and add to the frosting bit by bit, adjust liquid/jello amount as needed. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

  6. I made this cake for Christmas and it is DELICIOUS!!! I could not find cherry extract so I used cherry emulsion. Also I added semisweet chocolate chips. I forgot to brush the cherry juice onto the cake layers, but it turned out really well! I am so excited.

    1. Hi Rachel, I missed your comment before but am so glad that you made & enjoyed the cherry cake! I'm sure that the chocolate chips were a great addition too. Thanks for your feedback! ;0)