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Anyone remember Amish Friendship Cake?

It was all the rage, as I remember, in the 80s. Sometimes the starter was called Herman. I haven't had it since but I had a very healthy sourdough going and several days ago I decided to turn some of it into a sweet starter. I made the AFC for my neighbor and a small loaf of it for my family. Everyone raved about it so I just got a second sweet starter going to make a chocolate one with cherries and pecans.

At least I was considerate enough to only make enough starter for the cakes so that I'm not saddling anyone with the demands of the starter. ;> But maybe it's time for this to be revived.

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  1. I completely remember the stuff, and calling the starter "Herman" as well. The cakes were really good. The neighbors who would start it would make a cinnamon but crunch type topping for it, and then everyone in the hood would grab their recipe and make it as well when the starter was portioned off to them. I'm gonna file this away for the deep winter this year, and try to make some.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gordeaux

      Yep, all my friends and I made Herman, too, back in the day. Forgot all about that. It was delicious, and it had the crunchy topping like gordeaux says.

    2. We have a recipe site, and have been seeing this Amish Friendship Cake and starter appearing a lot, so I think there must be some people who are still using this recipe. It sounds that this starter can really make some great cakes... I have to give it a try eventually.

      2 Replies
      1. re: happyzhangbo

        The starter can get the better of you unless you bake a LOT. But I found that once the starter batch was ripe, I could freeze it in one-cake amounts and thaw to bake as needed. No need to either keep it going indefinitely, or to throw it away.

        1. re: greygarious

          Sort of what I'm doing. I have a regular sourdough going for bread and waffles. It's no big deal to make half of the recipe for the sweet starter which is perfect for one cake. It means taking an extra day or two for the starter to mature and develop flavor but not devoting a 5# bag of flour to keeping it bubbling until you feel like doing a cake again.

          I'm using the cake and starter recipes from the King Arthur Anniversary Cookbook.

          I think when I do it again I'll substitute peanut butter for the vegetable oil and brown sugar for the granulated and throw in some chocolate chips. My first one had dried mango and for the sugar I used some granulated left over from the candied orange peels I made for Christmas stollen.

          If you use dried fruit don't forget to rehydrate it. I used Navan liqueur for the mango and I'm using Godiva chocolate for the cherries that will go in the chocolate version that's on deck in the next day or two.

      2. Funny you should ask. I just finished listening to an audio book "Friendship Bread". It was very light reading all about a community, a tragedy, Amish Friendship Bread, and recovery. I didn't pay attention to the recipes at the end.

        The starter went around our town back in the 80s, too. After reading the bread, I was thinking about trying it again.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dfrostnh

          "Friendship Bread" is a great book!!

          and I kept Herman in the freezer for decades. Every time he was defrosted, he puffed right up and made a tasty cake. Indestructible. Seriously. I think I need to do this again. haha

        2. Funny to remember this. I gained so much weight with all those loaves of bread and people were starting to get tired of receiving loaves from me. I played around w/ it a lot, chocolate, bananas, pudding (the recipe I had didn't call for it but some did), whole grains, cinnamon streusel, etc.

          1. This is news to me! How about posting a recipe and more details about the AFC?

            5 Replies
            1. re: roxlet

              The basics are available all over the intertoobz.

              1. re: roxlet

                As greygarious says, you'll find many sources and variations on the web. Here is my version of the King Arthur-based recipe I'm using. But, as I noted above, I'm halving the volume of the ingredients for the sweet starter and using it all in a single cake. If you wanted to have some starter for an additional future cake you could feed it once before baking (with half amounts) and freeze the leftover starter. When you wanted to bake another cake you'd thaw it, let it come up to room temp, feed it, give it a day and continue.

                Amish Friendship Cake

                FRIENDSHIP STARTER
                • 1 cup sourdough starter
                • 1 cup milk
                • 1 cup sugar
                • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

                • 2/3 cup walnut oil
                • 1 cup sugar
                • 3 eggs
                • 2 teaspoon vanilla
                • 2 cup Friendship Starter
                • 1 1/2 to 2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
                • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
                • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
                • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                • 2 teaspoon baking powder
                • 1/2 teaspoon salt

                1. MAKE THE STARTER
                Stir all the ingredients together in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it work for at least 24 hours.

                2. MAKE THE CAKE BATTER
                Preheat your oven to 350˚ F. Prepare a bundt cake pan or 2 loaf pans or 1 loaf pan and 4-6 mini loaf pans by greasing and flouring and/or lining with a parchment sling/s.

                Combine the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla and beat until light. Add the starter and beat until smooth. Blend the dry ingredients together and fold into the starter mixture. Pour into pan/s and bake for 30-45 minutes depending on size and shape. A finished cake will be approximately 190˚-195˚ and a tester inserted will come out dry or with only moist crumbs clinging.

                3. SHARE THE STARTER
                Choose 3 friends. Give each a starter, a piece of cake or a mini loaf, the cake recipe and the instructions for Feeding the Starter:

                • Day 1 - The day you receive the starter, pour it into a large glass or pottery bowl, stir it thoroughly, cover, and place on counter (or somewhere at room temperature). Do not refrigerate.
                • Day 2 - Stir and return to counter.
                • Day 3 - Stir and return to counter.
                • Day 4 - Stir and return to counter.
                • Day 5 - Add 1 cup each sugar, unbleached all-purpose flour and milk. Stir, cover, and return to counter.
                • Day 6 - Stir and return to counter.
                • Day 7 - Stir and return to counter.
                • Day 8 - Stir and return to counter.
                • Day 9 - Stir and return to counter.
                • Day 10 - Add 1 cup each sugar, unbleached all-purpose flour and milk. Stir and take 2 cups to use as an ingredient in a Friendship Cake. Take 3 more cups of the base and give one cup each to 3 friends with the instructions for keeping & increasing the starter and the recipe for the cake.

                My Notes:

                • Fold in nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, chopped fruit or whatever to the basic cake.

                • For a Chocolate cake substitute 1/2 cup cocoa for the cinnamon and nutmeg.

                • For a Carrot cake increase the cinnamon in the basic recipe to 1 tablespoon and add 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 3 medium carrots shredded, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chunky applesauce and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the basic cake.

                • For a Peanut Butter cake substitute creamy peanut butter for the vegetable oil and light brown sugar for the granular. Add chocolate chips.

                • For Pumpkin Spice reduce oil to 1/3 cup. Reduce cinnamon to 1 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend. Substitute light or dark brown sugar for granular. Stir in 1 cup canned pumpkin and, if you like, 1/2 cup of raisins and/or chopped nuts.

                • For Apple Spice reduce oil to 1/3 cup. Reduce cinnamon to 1 teaspoon and add 1 teaspoon apple pie spice blend. Substitute light or dark brown sugar for granular. Stir in 1 cup homemade applesauce and, if you like, 1/2 cup of raisins and/or chopped nuts.

                Baked and cooled bundt cakes can be drizzled with appropriate glazes such as melted chocolate or ganache or caramel syrup or confectioners sugar thinned with milk or citrus juice as examples. Or you can sift on powdered sugar or ground sweetened chocolate. Loaf cakes can be topped with a streusel mixture before baking.

                Contrary to the popularly circulated directions, the starter can be stirred with metal implements (I use a table fork). And once it's bubbly it does just fine in the fridge. When it's newly fed that usually means giving it an hour to 90 minutes at room temperature for the yeast to become active before refrigerating again.

                1. re: roxlet

                  If you do a search, it's also called amiss friendship bread.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Love that typo - I know lots of people who had to stretch their definition of friendship in order to get rid of all that accumulating starter!

                    1. re: greygarious

                      LOL, I'm on my phone and can barely see the keys, let alone proofread. It is appropriate, though. My friends almost ran the other way when I approached with ziplock bags in my hands.

                2. Memories -- it went around my office in the late 90s - we all went home sooner or later with a Ziploc baggie full of Herman. (wait, that sounds wrong...)

                  If I remember, ours was made with instant potato flakes, and it made a really delicious bread. I learned to use whole-wheat flour to make some of the greatest sandwich bread ever. I kept mine alive for a lot longer than anybody else did -- they were always amazed that Herman was still alive and going strong and sending in coffee cake for a couple of years after the "sharing".

                  Herman passed on to that great oven in the sky when my bambino came along - I just didn't have time to knead bread every week any more!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Amish Friendship Bread is a dessert-type sweet quickbread baked in 2 loaf pans or one bundt pan. No potato flakes, no sandwiches, no kneading.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      I can't conceive of it making a sandwich bread either but there's still a significant amount of variation in what English people (the Amish term for the non-Amish) mean by the term
                      Amish Friendship Cake/Bread. AFC can be something built on fermented fruit to something made with pudding mix to the plain from-scratch version I posted above.

                      I also read somewhere that the Amish have a thing that they call "Friendship Bread" which is a more or less conventional sourdough that they share with people that are ill, grieving, etc. I guess that would require conventional kneading and probably make some excellent sandwiches. They probably bake any number of quick breads too but they don't do this ritual thing of distributing them with a starter (I suppose any given Amish wife would have her own starter/s). But a quick bread is not what she'd think of as a "friendship" bread.

                      A number of the variations on the net have the starter stored in a baggie that gets kneaded as a method of mixing in the flour/sugar/milk when it's fed. All of this, plus the business of calling it a "bread" -- as in quick bread -- makes it easy to understand how things could get confused.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        the starter I was given was labeled "Amish Friendship Bread" and it had potato flakes. It was a true sourbread that needed to be fed every week.

                        I'm sorry that doesn't match YOUR recipe or what was written on YOUR Ziploc, but it is what I had, it is what it was called, and it's how I used it.