I live in a van down by the river….

Each year, round this time, there is a woman who sits along the side of the road for two weeks and sells cherries out of the back of her truck. She doesn’t really speak, I’m not sure her English is all that great. If it sounds sketchy, it probably is, but they are the best cherries I have ever had and so I hand over my cash no questions asked. :P
However, every time I see her I can’t help but think of the Chris Farley Saturday Night Live character Matt Foley. It was one of my favorite SNL sketches. If you don’t know the character, he was a “motivational” speaker and a pretty bad one at that. Often sent to homes to get kids on the “right track”. He would usually get frustrated and end up telling them in some manner that he lives in a van down by the river:

“You kids are probably saying to yourself, “Now, I’m gonna go out, and I’m gonna get the world by the tail and wrap it around pull it down and put it in my pocket!” Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re probably gonna find out, as you go out there, that you’re not gonna amount to JACK SQUAT!” You’re gonna end up eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river!”

I keep thinking that if the side of the road cherry lady ever does talk to me she will tell me that she lives in a van down by the river. :)
Okay, enough of that and on to the food. Since I did have these gorgeous cherries, I needed to do something with them. A few weeks ago Joy the Baker had on a Strawberry Cake that she got out of a cookbook called Sweets. I went and hunted down that book(you can’t buy it new) and immediately had a crush on the book when I opened it up. If you can, get a hold of a copy yourself. I spied the Strawberry Jam Cake and decided to use my mother’s cherry jam and some fresh cherries to make my own version. The actual cake is a layer cake and you spread jam in between the layers, but I made a cherry jelly glaze instead. I am sure both ways are equally delicious.

Cherry Jam Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4 ¼  cups cake flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup sliced fresh cherries
1 cup cherry jam

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease and flour a 8-x-8 inch square pan. Set aside.
Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
In a small bowl combine baking soda and buttermilk together.
In another bowl, sift together flour, salt and spices.
Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients; mix well.
Fold in walnuts, cherries and jam. Mix well to make sure it is incorporated in the cake batter.
Pour cake into pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Remove from the oven. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pan.
After cake has been removed from pan and placed on serving platter, drizzle cherry jelly glaze over cake.

Cherry Jelly Glaze

1 cup cherry jelly( you want jelly because it has no chunks of fruit in it, you want this to be smooth)
¼ cup sifted powdered sugar

Place jelly in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, heat jam until it becomes liquid. Take off of heat and add in sugar. Whisk until sugar has dissolved.

Source: Adapted from Sweets: A Collection of Soul Food Desserts and Memories by Patty Pinner


  1. I LOVE that sketch! Classic! I can see him falling on the coffee table right now! Ha! I’m so glad you found the book! Leave it to you to put the most delicious twist of recipes! This cake looks amazing- perfectly browned and with that glaze… yea, good stuff!

  2. Oooooh, this looks like a fantastic recipe! We’re just getting our cherries in now, and I’m on the lookout for new recipes to try. Thanks!

  3. Pump up the jam…I love it!

  4. I know exactly what sketch you’re talking about! One of my favorites too, lol. (I hate that Chris Farley’s gone, he was one of my all-time favorites.)

    Aaanyway, mmmm, your cake looks and sounds perfect.

  5. Hahaha! I’ll have to hunt for that sketch, I’ve not seen the early SNL sketches (what can I say, I’m young, hee :)
    The cake looks really good, plus points as cherries are one of my favorite fruits! For the glaze maybe heating and straining the jam would work– I’ve not seen cherry jelly in these parts :)

  6. What a delicious way to use the fresh cherries and jelly. Cherry cake sounds so good!

  7. jaishree says:

    I have bid goodbye to baking and cooking for a month-think I have put on 3 pounds ever since I got addicted to your blog. Still cant keep me away from browsing.

  8. I’m starving right now (it’s 7;15 am where i live and although I’ve been up for 45 minutes I haven’t eaten a crumb). I could literally eat my screen right now if it were at all possible!

  9. No you know if you keep on telling funny stories I am going to have to stop reading because I’ll become to happy… Oh wait, that was my anonymous stalker speaking :)
    Yeah to cherries! Yeah to cherries in cake and glaze! I don’t care if I gro a cerry tree in my stomach this summer, I just can’t get enough!!

  10. Love that skit… I can just imagine him yankin’ up his pants over and over… That cake looks absolutely yummy and so simple!

  11. I love that sketch.. but seriously, the best fruit is sold by people sitting on side of the road. I bought two flats of strawberries from a guy sitting under a bridge in April, and now I’m waiting for the watermelon man to show up. :D

    Love the cake — the glaze looks amazing.

  12. I was laughing as soon as I read the title, but then you went and talked about cherries and I couldn’t help but love you even more! Looks awesome!

  13. Hahaha. I loved that character too! Great story and the cherries really do look beautiful! :-)

  14. I’ve been dying to do something with cherries, but I can’t find any decent ones here. I keep thinking I’ll steal some out of the neighbors trees, but all of the ripe ones are half eaten by the birds. I’ll have to keep looking because this cake looks delicious!

  15. So you have a the side-of-the-road-cherry lady, eh?? Sounds like something out of a fairy tale or something, haha. How fun!! :0)

    Love the cherry-jelly glaze that you made for the cake!! Yum!!

  16. I love cherries. Mmmm.

    I like how you often show a small photo of the delectable thing you’re made and then later a larger version. It’s like you’re saying, ‘look closer, see how good it smells?’ :)

  17. Looks good. Not quite cherry season here yet, so no beautiful cherries for us for awhile.

  18. How can you not like that sketch its so funny. Great cherry cake it looks very tasty.

  19. i knew your snl reference immediately upon reading your title. that’s one of my favorite skits of any season (rip chris farley), and i use that line all the time.
    meanwhile, awesome cake. cherries rule. :)

  20. I wish I had a local “cherry lady” too, especially if it could inspire a delicious cake like this.

  21. Cherry jam? Yum!

  22. I promise my husband there would be no more books for now. Not until we move to our new apartment. You’ll make me break my promise, Pea. ;)
    Gorgeous cake!

  23. okay i gotta say that i nearly choked on my coffee when i read that title! gotta love chris farley… fat guy in a little coat..

    great work as usual!

  24. Hahahahaha! My son has that whole segment memorized and he mentions it so often at the strangest times, I KNEW exactly where you were going with this.

    Yum on those cherries…We’ve had them around, too. Ours are hit and miss on the flavor, unfortunately.

  25. ROFL – I saw the title of this post and it was exactly what I thought of – man, those were good times on SNL. Ahhhh… the cake looks awesome and since I just made 6 half pint jars of cherry jam this weekend your timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

  26. I absolutely hated cherries when I was a kid. I think it was because my mom ate cherry twizzlers in the car on road trips and the smell made me puke. Anyways . . .

    Cherry is my new favorite flavor. I don’t eat a lot of desserts, but as an adult, I like to offset the sweetness with some tart. Your pictures make my mouth water!

  27. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about this cake. The soft colors are oh-so-pretty.

  28. I wish I had a cherry lady.. I can eat them everyday!

  29. Those photos are beautiful and the cake looks amazing!

    Seriously though, I think that’s my favorite sketch EVER. Lol.

  30. those are some gorgeous cherries! and i totally feel ya on the chris farley bit. i remember that from time to time and it totally cracks me up.

  31. I need a secret cherry stash lady. Even if she does live in a van down by the river.

  32. Pea- this is a fabulous cake and oh how I wish I had a woman waiting down by the river for me to take my cash out. I adore cherries and this looks like the perfect way to use them. Great photos.

  33. We’d like to invite you to participate in our July berry recipe contest. All competitors will be placed on our blogroll, and the winner will receive a fun prize! Please email me, sophiekiblogger@gmail.com, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details. (Click on my name in the message to visit our blog. :)

  34. My *lord* these look good. Would they work with Rainiers, you think?

  35. What a magnificent use of cherries. I like the idea of using the jelly as a glaze…so pretty!

  36. Gorgeous fruit and a lovely cake.

    My parents’ cherry tree has fruited and I’m waiting (not so patiently) for the fruit to ripen. Last year they had a neighbour with a cherry cat who scared away all the squirrels, so we wound up with bags of cherries…alas, cherry cat (and the neighbours) moved away, so I fear the squirrels will get more fruit than us…


  37. I left this page open when I went to have a shower and my husband came in to ask me if this was a blog written by a homeless person?!?!?!?!? Tee hee he obviously I married him for his brains!! Very funny that he took all that from “I live in a van by the river”!!!

    The cherry lady sounds fantastic, we have one that sells strawberries and potatoes every summer on the road to Dublin!!! Loving the thoughts of this cake!!!

  38. This sure looks like a nice treat to have on a summery afternoon. I haven’t splurged on fresh cherries yet this season… it’s about time, I think!

  39. Oh SNL just hasn’t been the same since those classic skits… chopping broccoli, van by the river… those were the BEST!

  40. There’s nothing quite like good cherries for a summertime snack! I love eating them, and that cake looks ever so tempting.

  41. That looks delicious….

  42. Oh yeah… Chris Farley was hilarious in that sketch! And for the cake..? What can I say that the other bloggers didn’t say… yummy!!!

  43. My cherry loving self is definitely going to have to try this cake and order this cookbook!

  44. aaahhhh! i live in a van DOWN-BY-THE-RIVER! laughing hard here. thanks for that. it’s been years since i thought of that brilliant sketch!

  45. I just made this recipe and am waiting for the cake to cool. It looks so yummy! I think there must be a mistake with the size of the pan written in this recipe because the batter makes far too much to fit into an 8X8 pan. It fit very well into a 9.5X13.5, though. Can’t wait to try it!

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