Remember the 1994 film Forrest Gump and the iconic quote “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”? Well, if you bite into chocolate-covered cherries, you still don’t know what you got. Yes, you got the flavor “cherry cordial” but the middle isn’t simply a cherry with its intense sweetness and oozing center.
What’s Really in the Center of Chocolate-Covered Cherries?
If you check the ingredients of these truffles, you might notice a strange product called “invertase”. This chemical is the secret of trapping the thick liquid into the chocolate’s hard shell. While the word “chemical” sounds scary when it comes to food, remember that everything is made of chemicals. This isn’t a lab-with-scary-vials sort of thing. In fact, invertase is an enzyme that can split sucrose (regular sugar) into two parts, glucose and fructose. And this chemical reaction is vital to making chocolate-covered cherries, according to Dr. David Chisdes, an American Chemical Society member affiliated with a major candy company.
Invertase is found naturally in human saliva. It’s a huge factor at the beginning of digestion because it breaks down complex carbs into smaller parts. This is why invertase is sometimes an ingredient in digestive enzyme supplements. (But talk to your doctor before taking them.) It’s also found in bees who use it to break down the nectar into honey. It’s also in baker’s yeast when making beer and some kinds of bread.  Plus, it’s a unique tool for candy makers who use invertase to smooth fondant and in oozing chocolate centers.
In the case of chocolate-covered cherries, invertase coats the cherries before they are dipped into chocolate. Or the cherries are wrapped in a sugary paste made with invertase. Then the cherries rest while the paste hardens. Then they are dipped in chocolate and left covered for one to two weeks. During that time, the enzyme breaks down the sucrose into its two parts, making it that smooth and syrupy texture we’re all familiar with.
“In effect, the outer part of the cherry liquefies in its own syrup, leaving the cherry center swimming in liquid,” Chisdes says. “This explains how these succulent candies can be made without there being a hole somewhere in the coating.” 
Creating the Chocolate
As far as the chocolate part goes, most chocolate products consist of a mix of cocoa butter, milk powder, sugar, and chocolate liquor made from cacao beans. The ingredients go through several roller machines until they reach their desired size.
“The size of the compressed particles is critical,” Chisdes says. “If they are too small, the chocolate will feel slimy in the mouth, and if they are too large, it will feel gritty.”
Additionally, before the chocolate covers the cherries, it needs to pass through varying cycles of heating and cooling. “This helps the cocoa butter to crystallize in a stable form,” Chisdes says. “If it doesn’t, as sometimes happens, a white or grayish tinge is visible on the chocolate surface. The general public usually considers this a sign of staleness but in fact, it’s only a crystal defect and has nothing to do with the age of the chocolate.”
That white and grayish color is called “fat bloom”. Chisdes advises people to store their chocolate at room temperature to avoid this reaction. But even if it does happen, the chocolate is still safe to eat and the taste should stay the same. 
Chocolate-Covered Cherries Recipe
If you’d like to make your chocolate-covered cherries, you’ll get to see the effects of invertase firsthand! Here’s a recipe by Elizabeth LaBau from The Spruce Eats.
- 40 maraschino cherries with stems, about one 20-ounce jar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons cherry liquid from the jar, or cherry liqueur
- 1 teaspoon liquid invertase
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 pound semi-sweet chocolate candy melts
- Drain the cherries and reserve two tablespoons of the liquid. Pat the cherries dry with paper towels and let them rest on a wire rack overnight.
- Prepare the fondant filling by combining the butter, corn syrup, cherry liquid, almond extract, and liquid invertase in a stand mixer and mix until combined.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar then mix on a low speed until the candy comes together into a ball. The texture should be soft and not too sticky that you can’t handle it with your hand. You may need to add more confectioners’ sugar, but remember the softer it is the better.
- Use a teaspoon to form a quarter-sized ball of fondant and roll it into a ball. Flatten it and place a cherry in the center. Pinch the fondant around the cherry ensuring the stem still sticks out. The fondant should be smooth with no wrinkles.
- Refrigerated the fondant-covered cherries until firm, at least half-an-hour.
- Melt the chocolate candy over medium heat in a double boiler.
- Dip about ¼-inch of the cherry into the chocolate and return them to the baking sheet.
- When that chocolate set, coat the cherrys completely until no fondant is showing.
- Let the cherries set at room temperature for 2 to 3 days to let the centers liqudify. Do not put them in the fridge because cold temperatures will slow down the invertase.
- Test the center of the chocolate-covered cherries after 2 to 3 days and continue to monitor their process until the centers are completely liquefied. Store the candies at room temperature. Don’t freeze them because that will cause cracks. 
Keep Reading: The Amazing Beet
- “Invertase and its applications – A brief review.” Journal of Pharmacy Research. Samarth Kulshrestha. PrasidhiTyagi. Vinita Sindhi Kameshwar. Sharma Yadavilli. September 2013
- “What is Actually in the Center of Those Chocolate-Covered Cherries?” My Recipes. Hannah Burkhalter, RD. February 14, 2017
- “The Inside Scoop on Those Chocolate-Covered Cherries.” Los Angeles Times. April 16, 1987
- “Homemade Chocolate-Covered Cherries.”The Spruce Eats. August 24, 2021