I was around five-years-old the day my mother received the lump of dough. It was small and white. The dough smelled odd, but sweet. Over the next week, my mother “grew” the dough, hiding it away in a covered bowl where it grew warm and fat, adding things to it as the days progressed.
In the end, my mother broke up the dough into several pieces, explaining that this was a friendship cake, and we would be passing along bits of the dough to my mother’s friends, so they could grow their own cakes and pass along bits of dough to their own friends in turn. Once our own cake was baked and I sat enjoying a warm slice, I remember thinking fondly that cake was a great gift to pass along to a friend. At five, any reason to have cake outside of a birthday was a phenomenal idea.
As I grew older, the friendship cake faded into the murkier recesses of my brain. It was only after baking with my own two children that the warm baking memories from my own childhood began to rise, and with it, the memory of the friendship cake.
I questioned several friends about friendship cake, wondering if any of them had similar experiences with it growing up. Since the mixture is usually passed on to 10 people, it only seemed logical to assume others had seen it passed around their homes as well. Not one had ever heard of it.
Disappointed, I began to wonder if the friendship cake had been something my overactive imagination had dreamed up. Perhaps I had misunderstood what my mother had said as a child, and turned it into a memory that had never happened. After airing my doubts to a close friend, she came up with a simple solution: Google it.
After a simple internet search, I received a wealth of verification. Friendship cake does indeed exist. Though the history of the tradition seems to be lost, there is a wealth of recipe variations out there, and most people agree that it’s the best form of a “chain letter” to receive.
Many of the recipes I found called for fruit or yeast in the starter, which are not included in my childhood memories of the starter dough. After much searching, I finally found a very basic recipe from a woman named Stephanie de Silva, to make a great starter for a cake or bread, to which you can make your own additions and variations to the final product:
The Friendship Cake Starter2/3 cup sugar2/3 cup milk2/3 cup flourMix in plastic or glass container with tight lid. Cover, store at room temperature for 17 days, stirring once a day.After that, leave undisturbed for 1 day. Stir again daily for 3 days. Add 1 cup each of sugar, milk ,and flour, then stir the next 4 days. Add another cup of each sugar, milk and flour. Mix well.Give 1 cup each to 2 friends, use 1 cup to make a cake or use as base for another batch of starter.The Friendship Cake1 cup starter2/3 cup oil3 eggs2 cups flour1 cup sugar2 tsp. vanilla2 cups chopped (apples, or blueberries, or any kind of fruit)1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon2 tsp. baking powder1 1/2 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp. salt1/2 to 1 cup nuts (optional)Combine all ingredients until well mixed.Grease and flour a bunt or loaf pan. Pour batter into pan and bake in preheated oven 350 until cake test done 40 to 50 minutes.Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and continue cooling.Friendship Bread 1 cup starter 2/3 cup oil 1 cup sugar 3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla 2 cups flour 1 tsp cinnamon 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp saltMix listed ingredientsYou may top with candied fruit, nuts, or apple slices before baking.Pour into 2 well greased sugared loaf pans. Bake 40 to 50 minutes at350 degrees. Cool ten minutes before removing from pan.Both of these recipes come out great, and there is no limit to the different fruits or nuts you can add to make the recipe your own.
Perhaps the best part of this project is sharing it with your friends and seeing what they say about it. The feedback is sometimes a bigger treat than the cake/bread itself.
This project is especially rewarding to do with young children. You can teach them the value of friendship and sharing, and tie it into a tasty reward at the end.
Try it, and see what the Friendship brings your way.