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Questions about Amish Friendship Cake

  • m

My stepmother made this cake on several occasions and it was about one of the most amazing things I've ever tried. Unfortunately, as seems to often happen, her starter died and she couldn't get another.

I've tried making a new starter, but it is just not as good.


How long does it take for this starter to develop?
Can I freeze it and will it affect the quality?
Does anyone have a recipe for a good starter?
Is there any way to speed up the development of the starter?
Did you make the starter with the fruit or just the flour/sugar/milk?
Do you use pudding mix in the cake?

I will greatly appreciate answers to any or all.

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  1. Wow, I'd never heard of anything like this and it sounds amazing - I just read a couple of sites. First it seems like many were calling friendship bread "friendship cake" and using yeast but then I found this site:


    Seems to answer all your questions and sounds incredibly intriguing but it takes SIXTY DAYS to make a cake!!! I hope you do this and report back on the process. I'm fascinated.

    1. I don't like to be a party pooper...well, maybe I do actually like to be a party pooper...but anyway once a so-called friend gave me the starter and it was a curse on my life for about a year. There's nothing like a jar of cake-starter sitting and staring pathetically at you from the refrigerator to ruin your day when you had no intention (nor need) to bake a cake. Sourdough bread starter I can live with. You always need bread. But cake? I finally dumped the whole thing down the drain and danced merrily around the swirling mess.

      I can't even remember now if it was good or not. Doesn't matter. It was more guilt than I needed.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nyleve

        as I recall they were AWfully sweet

      2. according to one of the sites I was reading (and this cake on the link I found above is actually fruit juice-ish thing that - I would guess - ferments) you can freeze this starter and take it out when you want to use it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: krissywats

          I never thought of that. But anyway my starter wasn't a fruit juice-ish thing. I can't remember what was in it though. The dratted substance.

        2. LOL. Yes Nyleve, it is a curse. And really 60 days if you don't have a starter.

          But... this is truly one of the best cakes I've ever tried, and I've tried a lot.

          I'll persevere and if I can get it down to a science will post a recipe.

          1. Wow. I checked the link and that is fascinating. One question. When you get to the final recipe and actually get to make the cake, it calls for 1/3 of the fruit prepared with the starter to be added to the cake. So in the end, you are adding only the fruit to the cake, none of the starter, and the starter's purpose is to "macerate" the fruit and it never gets added to the cake, right???

            1 Reply
            1. re: ClaireLiz

              Claire - yes, that's my understanding that after you have made three cakes (that's how much fruit you'll have) and you want to make your next batch, you take your starter and start with the SECOND set of 30 day instructions. I think I'm going to try it!! I'm excited.

            2. Mila, I think that I can help you. Go here: http://recipecircus.com/recipes/Kimbe... for the starter recipe and here: http://recipecircus.com/recipes/Kimbe... for the bread directions. It is titled 'bread' but its really a quick bread - very cake like. It is not terribly complicated or hard to do and is delicious. It is easy enough that you don't feel horribly guilty for letting it 'die' ;-).

              1 Reply
              1. re: kim shook

                Kim - I'm not 100% sure, but as I said in my post above, amish friendship bread is not the same as the cake, even if the bread is cake-like. From reading around the web I found that the cake has no yeast in it and starts with a fermented fruit starter with pudding in the cake itself whereas the bread is a typical quick bread with a starter. Just what I gathered.

              2. I thought the idea is to make enough fruit starter for three cakes/loaves and to make only one and to give the rest of the starter to two friends, or maybe not friends.

                2 Replies
                1. re: yayadave

                  It looks like on the site I referenced above the fruit and the starter are different items. The fruit - you make enough for three cakes WITH the starter (and could well give it away). By the end you strain the fruit from the starter that has tripled, you keep one third for yourself and give the other two thirds to friends so they can make their own 30 day fruity-goodness to use in cakes and then give away the starter.

                  1. re: krissywats

                    I remember many years ago having a fermented fruit jar that was good on orange sherbet.
                    More recently I took a little look at Friendship Cake/Bread and found it all a little confused and confusing.

                2. This is a very confusing recipe, hence my questions.
                  To clarify a little, it is the Friendship Bread I was making, not the cake. But, to confuse the matter a little further the bread is more like a cake than a bread.

                  Here is the recipe from my stepmother, minus the starter, which the recipe assumes you have. I also really believe the older the starter the more flavour it will have, similar to sourdough bread.

                  Amish Cinnamon Bread

                  Day 1: Set aside starter on counter. Do Not Refrigerate

                  Day 2: Stir only

                  Day 3: Stir only

                  Day 4: Stir only

                  Day 5: Add 1 cup of flour, sugar and milk, Mix well

                  Day 6: Stir only

                  Day 7: Stir only

                  Day 8: Do nothing

                  Day 9: Do nothing

                  Day 10: Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Mix well.

                  Place 1/4 cup of starter batch into 4 small containers.
                  Keep one container to re-start your own batch.
                  Give 3 away, or keep 1/4 batch to re-start only and put rest into the cake - works well.

                  1 cup sugar 2 cups flour
                  1 cup oil 1 tsp. baking soda
                  4 eggs 1 tsp. baking powder
                  2 tsp. vanilla 1 1/4 pkg. vanilla instant pudding /lemon

                  In a small bowl mix together:
                  5 tsp. cinnamon
                  1/2 cup brown sugar
                  Grease 2 loaf pans and pour 1/4 of the batter in each pan. Sprinkle each with 1/4 of the sugar mixture.
                  Pour remaining batter evenly into both pans.
                  Top with remaining sugar mixture.
                  Swirl with a knife to marble.
                  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes, or until done.
                  - 9x9 line cake tins with grease proof paper
                  - 9x13 bake for 60 mins. - check after 30 minutes

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Mila

                    Yes, we used to make this recipe a lot, but our starter also died. It is really good!

                  2. Wow - that sounds like cake to me! I'm really intrigued and might do a little research into this whole cake/bread thing - wikipedia knows ALL!!!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: krissywats

                      It's a dark and twisty tunnel with many side tracks leading to dead ends and slippery slopes. Send up a flare if you find the land of Friendship Cake and Good Wine.

                      1. re: yayadave

                        ::::donning pith helmet and tranquilizer gun...heading off into the jungle::::

                    2. I'm new to this site, and just found this thread.

                      I use the recipe that is linked in one of the first replies. That is the only version I've ever used, and I've made the initial starter when I've been out of the starter juice. It's the best. I'm not sure why everyone is so confused over it. I've made it for years and years. Anyone still confused? I'll do what I can to help. And I've already got my pith helmet on. LOLOL!!

                      1. Hmmmmmm. I used to be into Amish Friendship Bread (which is more like a quickbread). My starter came from the King Arthur cookbook. It involved first making a sourdough starter then using some of that to make a sweetened starter. No fruit whatsoever (tho I know you can use fruit to make the basic sourdough starter).

                        I kept it going for quite a while. I shared some with friends. I simply threw out a lot. I liked the quickbreads and cakes I made with it but I also like them very well without.

                        Oh. I forgot. The original starter I got had all the dire warnings about not letting anything touch metal (or even be in a kitchen that *contained* metal). I stirred with a metal spoon just to be a wiseass and kept it in a Mason jar with one of the metal two-piece lids. It didn't make a damned bit of difference.

                        1. Here's the recipe for the BREAD starter:

                          1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
                          1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
                          3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
                          3 cups white sugar, divided
                          3 cups milk


                          In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.
                          On days 2 thru 4; stir starter with a spoon.

                          Day 5; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk.

                          Days 6 thru 9; stir only.

                          Day 10; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk.

                          Remove 1 cup to make your first bread. Give 2 cups to friends along with this recipe (see notes below first), and your favorite Amish Bread recipe.

                          Store the remaining 1 cup starter in a container in the refrigerator, or begin the 10 day process over again (beginning with step 2).


                          Once you have made the starter, you will consider it Day One, and thus ignore step 1 in this recipe and proceed with step 2. Make sure that if you give friends a start with this recipe, that you show step 2 as being the first step THEY should start with. Step 1 is strictly for when you don't have a "start" of your own!!

                          You can also freeze this starter in 1 cup measures for later use. Frozen starter will take at least 3 hours at room temperature to thaw before using.

                          1. Hi, this may already be resolved but I just got the starter for this bread from my grandma....I have 4 going right now!!!! But they're so yummy! I have even been on adiet and have been eating these :( Anyway, I have found the exact same recipe as you have listed here (farther down) and I have made.

                            One is: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,196,1... which includes yeast in the starter.

                            The other is: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,166,1... which does not include a package of yeast. I have never made it from the starter and noticed some other recipes that were way too involved.

                            Now, to answer some question: I have not done the fruit starter, only the flour/sugar/milk. Do not freeze the flour/sugar/milk, but you can freeze the fruit starter one. (When you seperate the amounts that are supposed to be given to friends, you evidently can freeze these for later!). I do use pudding in the cake, it makes it really good!!!!!!! More moist than not using it. It appears from both of these links I gave you, one with yeast, one without, you make the day you mix those ingredients day one and continue to day 10 just as with the recipe you have. I think over time it all gets better!! Let me know which starter works best for you, if this has not been resolved yet. thanks

                            1. Not so long ago, someone gave me a glob of Friendship Cake starter in a little baggie. There was a little card attached with instructions, including instructions for passing the starter along to seven friends, who pass it along to seven friends, etc. All of a sudden, it began to remind me of all those chain letters I get, and so the starter met the same fate as the chain letters - DELETE (in other words, into the trash). Did I make a mistake? Have I missed something wonderful?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: CindyJ

                                YES you have! It does turn into a Sorcerer's Apprentice situation unless you have a very large circle of family and friends, but I controlled it by freezing one-cup baggies of starter, which I could then thaw and use to make a single cake/bread. I'm talking the non-fruit one, which uses pudding. I especially like it with butterscotch pudding.

                                Sometimes the starter loses some of its flavor after a few cycles. The first loaves that came from the bag I received were better than in later weeks, I have twice made the starters from scratch and one was better than the other - yeast is a living thing and temperature/humidity variations change it. The thing to do is give a slice of the cake along with the baggie - one taste and you're a convert!

                              2. It's really very simple:

                                AMISH FRIENDSHIP CAKE STARTER:
                                1 pkg. dry yeast
                                1 c. milk
                                1 c. flour
                                1 c. sugar

                                In a glass bowl using a non-metal spoon, stir 1 package dry yeast into 1 cup milk. Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar, stirring until smooth. Cover loosely and place on kitchen counter. Do Not Refrigerate Starter. Count this as day 1. Day 2, 3 and 4 stir mixture. Day 5 add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk and 1 cup flour to starter mixture, stirring until smooth. Days 6, 7, 8 and 9 stir mixture. Day 10 add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk and 1 cup flour to starter mixture. Starter is now ready to be used to make cake and give to friends.

                                AMISH FRIENDSHIP CAKE:
                                1 1/3 c. starter
                                2/3 c. vegetable oil
                                1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
                                1/2 tsp. cinnamon
                                1 c. sugar
                                3 eggs
                                1 tsp. salt
                                2 c. flour
                                2 tsp. baking powder
                                1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
                                1 c. chopped apple (optional)
                                1 c. raisins (optional)

                                In a large bowl mix 1 1/3 cups starter with oil, soda, cinnamon, sugar, eggs, salt, flour and baking powder. Beat well until smooth. Fold in nuts, apple and/or raisins if desired. Bake at 350 degrees in a greased and floured (or sugared) tube pan for 50 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan. Remaining starter can be divided into 1 1/3 cup portions and given to friends.

                                1. In addition to my earlier post:
                                  The day you make the starter is day 1.
                                  It can freeze very well, but make sure it is in freezer quality container or you'll kill the yeast.
                                  True Amish Friendship Cake and/or Bread does not include pudding. They use all natural, pure ingredients. But, many recipes do include pudding. It's your choice.

                                  1. OK, I've read through this thread, most of which is 2.5 years old, but since a couple people have posted recently, I'll start here with my questions.

                                    I have the friendship bread, which eats like a quick bread (can't call it "quick" if it takes 10 days, LOL), involves no fruit, and does call for pudding mix. (I had it ages ago when I was single -- roommates and co-workers loved it, but I was working full time and in grad school at night, so I eventually let it die. But I had fond memories when a friend offered it a few weeks back.)

                                    It's pretty darn sweet, so I've been doing little variations for the 3 rounds I've done this. I found one site that gave directions for "french bread," which I have rising right now.

                                    Random thoughts/questions -- any baker/chemists have any insight? Mostly just curiosity, not concern ;-) My chem classes were too long ago.

                                    * Why is it OK to leave a milk-based substance on the counter forever?
                                    * What happens if you use metal spoons/bowls/measuring cups?
                                    * Why, if it's feeding and growing its yeasty goodness for 10 days, do I still have to add baking soda and baking powder?
                                    * I gave starter to one friend who is allergic to penicillin, and the bread made her break out in the same kind of rash penicillin gives her -- that was her analysis, anyway. Any idea how the yeastie-beasties are related? (Aside: I note that my household hasn't been sick since we started making it, despite various bugs going around the kids' schools ;-)
                                    * Any thoughts or pointers to variations? I've already cut the pudding mix in half, and may eliminate it altogether next round. DH thinks it's sweet. Kids like it better with chocolate chips. I like it all, so I'm not looking for a specific target, just ideas -- I don't understand the chemistry enough to feel confident changing it up much beyond what muffin mix-ins I add.

                                    Thanks ;-)

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: momjamin

                                      The pudding version is the only one I've had, and it's clearly a quick bread/coffee cake so the "bread" designation shouldn't be that confusing and nobody should be surprised that it is sweet. I haven't made it in close to 10 years, but I really like it. First time I was given a baggie and went from there. That generation eventually weakened and I started my own; one time it was great, another time I made starter from scratch it was stillborn. I have no idea about the metal directions but it was easier to follow them than to risk failure. This dough doesn't have a traditional rise like other yeast doughs so that's probably the reason for the bs/bp. As to milk on the counter - think cheese, yogurt, etc. I am allergic to penicillin - or I was as a child last time I had it, some 45+ years ago - but never had a reaction to the Amish Friendship Bread.

                                      I made one with coconut pudding and shredded coconut, and a chocolate one with chocolate chips. My favorite was with butterscotch pudding and butterscotch baking morsels. Never did get around to trying pistachio. If you are looking for variations, start with what's available in instant pudding and choose add-ins that complement the pudding.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Thanks! Looks like you and I are nearby, geographically, so let me know if you want a bag o' goo ;-)

                                      2. re: momjamin

                                        I did it for a while about 10 years ago, too. I didn't particularly care for it, didn't think it was that much better than a good quick bread recipe. The one I had didn't use pudding in the bread. It was fun for a while, and I played around with adding bananas, chocolate chips, cocoa, coffee, made it like cinnamon coffee cake, used pumpkin, etc. and cut the fat, used whole grains. This is probably the recipe I had:


                                        Instead of making the amount and then giving out starter at the end of 10 days, I cut it in half so I'd have enough to keep the starter going and to make my own bread. This is why it's okay to leave it out:


                                        I used metal bowls and measuring spoons and had no problems. This brings back memories, but I have to say, it was freeing to get rid of it altogether.