Last Monday my French friend E called me to ask if she could come to drop off a surprise… I was very curious when she gave me a little container with some liquid, and a small bag with three slices of cake. She explained that it was a “Amish Friendship Cake” and that she would email me the instructions on how to take care of it.
She also told me that her mother had received a similar “chain-recipe” back in France a few years ago, but it was for bread and it was called “Herman” for some reason. The funny thing is that when I spoke to my grandmother a few days later, and told her about my cake project, she also knew of “Herman” (actually “Här kommer Herman” in Swedish, which means “Here comes Herman”) and the so-called “starter” liquid that you have to nourish before baking! It reminds me of the sourdough that my mother subscribed to back in the 80’s – she would get it by mail. And coincidentally my friend Erika has today written about the sourdough starter (in Swedish) that she keeps in the fridge.
Back to the Amish Cake, there are lots of recipes on this kind of cake on the internet, but below are the instructions that I received. It is very easy, for the first five days you don’t do anything, except “mushing” the bag (or in my case, stirring a little in the container). The liquid starts to become a little inflated and bubbly but that’s just the natural “fermentation” and nothing bad. You add some simple ingredients and then continue “mushing” for another couple of days, before adding some more ingredients, divide the mix in five parts and make your cake with one fifth of the fermented mixture.
If you are interested in starting a “Amish Friendship Cake” for yourself and your friends, check out this link for a “starter recipe”. I think that it is quite a nice idea to share a recipe with your friends and “pass it on”, especially nowadays when everything is supposed to be so “instant” (all those semi-made cakes and cookies in the TV commercials).
Recipe to Pass On
Accompanying these instructions when you make this bread and wish to give it to a friend should be a Ziploc bag of starter. Keep the starter on your countertop.
DO NOT REFRIGERATE!
Day 1: Do nothing
Day 2: Mush bag two times during the day.
Day 3: Mush bag two times during the day.
Day 4: Mush bag two times during the day.
Day 5: Mush bag two times during the day.
Day 6: Add to the bag:
2 Cups flour; 1 Cup of milk; 1 Cup of sugar
Close the bag, letting out as much air as possible. Mush thoroughly.
Day 7: Mush bag two times during the day.
Day 8: Mush bag two times during the day.
Day 9: Clip off corner of the bag and squeeze into a large bowl.
Add to the bowl:
1 Cup flour; 1 Cup of milk; 1 Cup of sugar
Stir thoroughly. Measure out four 1 Cup starters into Ziploc bags.
Give these bags and a copy of these instructions to other to enjoy.
To the small amount of starter left in the bowl, add:
1 Cup oil; ½ Cup milk; 3 eggs; 1 tsp. vanilla
Mix well then add:
2 Cups flour; 1 Cup sugar; 1 ½ tsp. baking powder; 2 tsp. cinnamon; ½ tsp. salt; ½ tsp. baking soda; 1 or 2 small Vanilla instant pudding mixes; 1 Cup chopped nuts (optional)
Mix well. Spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick spray. Sprinkle pans generously with cinnamon and sugar mixture. (1 Tbs. cinnamon & 4 Tbs. sugar) Shake or stir together. Pour batter into pans and sprinkle tops with more cinnamon/sugar mixture generously.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick comes our clean.
Tomorrow starts Day 1 again.
Comment: Since I prefer cardamom to cinnamon and didn’t have any “Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix”, I decided to use cardamom and some Belgian dark chocolate (Côte d’Or, 200 grams) instead. Maybe a strange combo but it turned out really tasty!
Speaking of chocolate, I read on a couple of Swedish blogs that it was the “Day of the Swedish Brownie cake” (Kladdkakans dag + recipe on Erika’s blog) last Sunday. However, since I started making Elle’s Chocolate Cake many years ago, I just can’t make a chocolate cake with cacao powder (cocoa), it has to be real chocolate! So call me a brownie snob, but try my recipe in the link above and taste the difference! It contains very little butter (25 grams) but 250 grams of dark chocolate…
And now for the etiquette discussion: One of my friends here in Puerto Rico and I have lately been talking about weddings. Her daugher recently got engaged and now they are starting to plan the wedding. Apparently the future mother-in-law has mentioned that it is custom that the bride’s family pays for the wedding, which we can all agree used to be the custom in most cultures… However, nowadays I would say that, at least in Europe, both families as well as the couple, would share the financial burden of a wedding.
I just asked O if he and his parents would expect my parents to pay for a possible future wedding of ours and he said no (my parents are probably thinking “phew!”). He explained that he thinks that it depends on how many guests the different families are inviting and that there are some expenses that traditionally have been covered by the groom’s family and other ones by the bride’s family. This will be an interesting topic once we decide to organise our “real” wedding…
What do you think? Who paid for your wedding? What is your impression of how it works in other cultures?
Margareta Ribbing, the etiquette expert of the Swedish newspaper DN has written about the same topic here.