A Cherry Blossom Dessert Recipe

D.C.'s famous festival puts cherries on top of everyone's minds.


cherry blossom festival

According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, approximately 100 of the original trees given to the U.S. by Japan in 1912 are still alive.

Photo by: Image courtesy of the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Image courtesy of the National Cherry Blossom Festival

According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, approximately 100 of the original trees given to the U.S. by Japan in 1912 are still alive.

Whether or not the trees are cooperating, the National Cherry Blossom Festival returns to Washington D.C. each spring. A gift from Japan in 1912, more than 3,750 Japanese flowering cherries draw thousands of visitors every year for flower shows, parades, concerts, street festivals, fireworks and a variety of scenic tours on land and water around the nation’s capitol.

Every year it's a bit of a nail-biter to find out if the stars of the show will cooperate—there's even a Bloom Watch on the Festival's website and a Blossom web cam courtesy of the National Park Service—but the one thing guests can count on is cherry-inspired menus across the city. Even though the ornamental cherries don't produce fruit, chefs honor the spirit of the festival with salads full of dried cherries, fish dishes covered with cherry glaze and creative cocktails made with cherry-infused spirits. 

This recipe for cherry blossom tea granita with vanilla panna cotta, created by Caitlin Dysart, pastry chef of 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia, combines the best of both kinds of trees with cherry blossom tea and cherry jam. 


cherry blossom dessert

A fondant flower accents this cherry blossom tea granita with vanilla panna cotta.

Photo by: Image courtesy of 2941 Restaurant

Image courtesy of 2941 Restaurant

A fondant flower accents this cherry blossom tea granita with vanilla panna cotta.

Cherry Blossom Tea Granita with Vanilla Panna Cotta 

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 bags cherry blossom tea (such as Harney & Sons)
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • Optional: rose water, added to taste
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 envelope (7 grams) powdered gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • Cherry jam
  • Shortbread cookies

For the granita:

Combine the sugar, hot water and tea. Cover this mixture and steep for five minutes. Strain the mixture into a shallow container and pour in the half and half (and rose water, if using). Place in the freezer. After 30 minutes, stir the mixture with a fork, breaking up any frozen chunks. Continue to allow the granite to freeze, stirring with a fork every 30 minutes, until the desired “slushy” texture is achieved.  Keep frozen.

For the panna cotta:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the cold water and leave the gelatin to bloom for five minutes. In a small saucepan, gently heat the milk, heavy cream and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, stir in the yogurt and scraped vanilla seeds. Stir in the bloomed gelatin to dissolve. Use a whisk or hand blender to combine all ingredients. Portion the panna cotta into four small cups or ramekins. Allow to set for three hours.  

To serve: 

Remove the panna cotta from the refrigerator and top with a shortbread cookie. Top with some cherry jam. Using a fork, scoop the cherry blossom tea granita on top. 

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