I started baking this my Valentine and/or George Washington Cherry Cake when I was in high school and always made it from scratch. But, these days, to save time and make it easier, I use a box of white cake mix as the base for my cake.
1 box DUNCAN HINES white cake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup Canola oil
1 large bottle of maraschino cherries, reserving
1/4 cup of the cherry juice
1 box 10x powdered sugar (or 1/2 of a 2 lb package)
1 (1/2 cup) stick softened butter
1 small bottle of maraschino cherries for the juice and halved for decoration
Milk or half and half
Cake: Cut cherries into tiny pieces. In large bowl, add cake mix, eggs, water, canola oil, diced cherries and cherry juice, and mix on medium speed of hand mixer for two minutes. Pour into greased/floured and/or sprayed cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or until inserted toothpick comes out clean). Cool completely on cake racks.
Frosting: In large bowl, combine powdered sugar, softened butter, and cherry juice and beat on medium high with hand mixer (starting out on low speed until combined) until frosting is nice and smooth. Note: I usually buy a two pound package of powdered sugar and use half of it in the recipe. That way, if the spreading consistency is two thin after you add the cherry juice, you can add a little more powdered sugar to make it thicker. If it's too thick, add a little milk or half and half in order to make the frosting more spreadable.
Place first layer onto a nice serving plate and spread about 1/3 of the frosting over cake layer. Add second later and put another 1/3 of the icing and spread evenly over cake. Then frost the sides of the cake with remaining frosting. Slice 15 or so of the cherries in half and place around the outer edge of the top of the cake. You can add a few more cherry halves in the middle of the cake if you wish. Chill for at least two hours (or overnight) before serving.
The first time I made this cake was in honor of George Washington's birthday, who said, "I cannot tell a lie, it was I who chopped down that cherry tree." Later, it became my favorite Valentine's Day cake. Hope you'll enjoy it as much as I and, now, my g'kids do.