Bake an Amish Friendship Cake

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What exactly is a Friendship Cake? Although it is attributed to the Amish, no one knows for sure if they actually started it or not. Among the Amish, Friendship Bread is actually sourdough bread given to the needy and the sick.

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Amish Friendship Cake starts with a mixture of sugar, flour and water or milk, lightly covered and allowed to sit at room temperature for up to 10 days. Wild airborne yeasts land and ferment the concoction, and then when ready, one portion of it is used as an ingredient in the cake recipe, one portion is kept to start the next batch and two portions are given to friends or family members.

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Amish friendship cake

Sharing this fermented, yeasty mixture (usually a sourdough starter) was necessary for making breads, cakes, muffins, pancakes, etc., in times past since you couldn't just go to the store and buy packets of active dry yeast. People through the ages have enjoyed sharing the stuff they've made and putting something of themselves into it; hence the name "friendship cake". Sharing the starter for a friendship cake has been likened to an "edible chain letter".

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When a portion of starter is shared, it usually comes with a cake/bread recipe and instructions for keeping and making additional starters. These instructions are often a prescribed ritual of stirring and feeding the starter. Careful nurturing is necessary; otherwise the starter will die. And, since the starter can quickly grow to incredible proportions, sharing, or at least freezing it, is also a necessary part of the process.

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Differing Opinions

Having done some research on Amish Friendship Bread/Cake, I've found many different opinions about various elements. For instance:

  1. 1
    The resulting baked product is a bread with a cake-like texture and sweet taste, or it is not a bread but is actually a cake.
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  2. 2
    Some recipes use instant pudding, and some don't.
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  3. 3
    There are many recipes and variations on the theme, such as adding apple sauce, various instant pudding mixes and other ingredients like coconut pudding and shredded coconut, butterscotch pudding and butterscotch chips, chocolate pudding and chocolate chips, and even shredded carrots were added to one of the cakes/breads.
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  4. 4
    Some people say don't use metal bowls or utensils while making your bread/cake, some poo-poo this as an old wives' tale and say it doesn't matter what you use.
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  5. 5
    Some people say don't refrigerate the starter; others say put it in the fridge since it gives you a welcome break from the round of making cakes and starters.
    In fact some say, you can freeze the starter in handy portion-sizes. You should, however, always use freezer-quality containers and each portion takes about three hours at room temperature to defrost enough to use.
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  6. 6
    Some think the Amish Friendship Bread is the best things since sliced bread (sorry for the pun, couldn't resist!) and others thinks it's not worth the effort and that it enslaves you.
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  7. 7
    Many recipes call for milk in the starter.
    However, some people say use only water, as milk in the starter can, when left out at room temperature, encourage the growth of bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcus areus or clostridium perfringens. Food safety is necessary since things in our world have changed significantly since pioneer times �" they had less exposure to harmful chemicals and polluted water, had more exercise and generally LED much healthier lives. So maybe refrigerating the starter isn't such a bad idea.
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Starter Recipes

There are lots of different recipes for sourdough starters, some containing yeast and others without yeast. The following are just two of the many available.

Sourdough Starter Without Yeast

Ingredients 1 cup each - flour, sugar and milk.

Directions

  1. 1
    Day 1:
    Combine in a large glass jar and stir until smooth. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and leave on the kitchen counter (not in direct sunlight).
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  2. 2
    Days 2-4:
    Stir mixture twice daily.
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  3. 3
    Day 5:
    Stir, then add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk to the jar, stir well. Cover with a clean cloth and leave on kitchen counter (not in direct sunlight).
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  4. 4
    Days 6-9:
    Stir mixture twice daily.
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  5. 5
    Day 10:
    Stir, then add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk to the jar, stir well. The starter is ready to portion up to use for your cake, to make a new starter and to share or freeze.
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Sourdough Starter With Yeast

Ingredients

  1. 1
    1/2 cup lukewarm water
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  2. 2
    1 packet active dry yeast
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  3. 3
    2 cups sifted plain flour
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  4. 4
    1½ cups lukewarm water
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  5. 5
    1 tsp.
    of salt
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  6. 6
    1 tbsp.
    of sugar
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Directions

  1. 1
    Day 1:
    Combine the yeast and 1/2 cup lukewarm water, then stir to combine. Add 1½ cups lukewarm water, sugar, flour and salt, and stir well. Leave on the kitchen counter, uncovered (not in direct sunlight).
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  2. 2
    Days 2-9:
    Stir 2-3 times daily.
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  3. 3
    Day 10:
    Your starter is ready, it will smell yeasty but should not smell sour. Stir. Take out 1 cup of the mixture for your cake. If not sharing at this point, and keeping remaining starter, add 1 tbsp. sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. Stir. Allow to stand at room temperature, uncovered until it is well fermented and bubbly (this should take about a day). Cover and store in fridge. Use within 10 days, if baking to give to friends or to make a new batch of starter.
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Caring For Your Starter

  1. 1
    Use tap water that has set in a container for 24 hours, or distilled water if your water is chlorinated.
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  2. 2
    The container holding the starter should never be tightly covered.
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  3. 3
    "Feed Me!" Although you may store your starter in the fridge and not use it right away, you will still have to feed it, roughly every two weeks.
    Stir the mixture, then add 1 cup flour and 1 cup water, and stir to blend well.
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  4. 4
    Put the sourdough starter on the bottom shelf of your fridge.
    This will allow you to keep it longer since the lower temperature slows down fermentation.
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  5. 5
    A yellowish liquid will develop on the surface of a healthy starter and will contain between 12-14 percent alcohol.
    Don't worry, the alcohol burns off during baking.
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  6. 6
    It is important to keep your starter container clean, so every few days, put the starter in another bowl and wash the container it is normally in.
    Use hot, soapy water and rinse well.
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Amish Friendship Cake/Bread Recipes

As with sourdough starters, there are many variations for the cakes or breads called Amish Friendship Bread. What follows is four recipes that friends and I have tried, and enjoyed one with chopped apples, nuts, raisins and cinnamon, another with apple sauce and nuts, a third with a streusel topping and a fourth with just cinnamon. We hope you, too, will enjoy baking and eating these.

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Amish Friendship Cake With Apples, Nuts & Cinnamon

  1. 1
    1 1/3 cup friendship starter
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  2. 2
    2/3 cup of good vegetable oil
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  3. 3
    1 cup granulated sugar
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  4. 4
    1 tsp.
    cinnamon
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  5. 5
    1½ tsp.
    baking soda
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  6. 6
    2 tsp.
    baking powder
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  7. 7
    1 tsp.
    salt
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  8. 8
    2 cups plain flour
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  9. 9
    3 large eggs, lightly beaten
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  10. 10
    1 cup chopped nuts or chopped apple or raisins or 1 cup of a combination of these
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (or sugar) a tube or Bundt pan. In a large bowl, combine the starter with the oil, eggs and dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat until smooth. Fold in apple, raisins and/or nuts, if using. Bake for 50 minutes, cool in the pan for 10 min., then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

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Amish Friendship Cake With Applesauce & Nuts

  1. 1
    1 cup friendship starter
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  2. 2
    2/3 cup of good vegetable oil
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  3. 3
    1 cup granulated sugar
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  4. 4
    2 cups plain flour
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  5. 5
    3 large eggs, lightly beaten
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  6. 6
    1½ tsp.
    vanilla extract
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  7. 7
    1/2 tsp.
    salt
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  8. 8
    1 tsp.
    cinnamon
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  9. 9
    1½ tsp.
    baking powder
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  10. 10
    1/2 cup ready-made applesauce
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  11. 11
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour or grease and line with parchment paper two 1-lb. loaf pans. Mix all ingredients together. Pour batter into the loaf pans and tap gently to level. Bake for 40-45 min. or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

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Amish Friendship Cake With Strudel Topping

  1. 1
    1 cup friendship starter
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  2. 2
    2/3 cup any good vegetable oil
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  3. 3
    1 cup granulated sugar
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  4. 4
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
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  5. 5
    2 cups plain flour
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  6. 6
    2 tsp.
    vanilla
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  7. 7
    2 tsp.
    baking powder
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  8. 8
    1 tsp.
    baking soda
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  9. 9
    1½ tsp.
    cinnamon
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  10. 10
    1/2 tsp.
    salt
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients and stir well. Add 1 cup of any of these ingredients or a combination �" chocolate chips, raisins, chopped apple, chopped nuts, crushed pineapple.

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Grease and flour (or sugar), or grease and line with parchment paper, a 11x13 inch baking pan. Pour batter into the pan and tap gently to level.

Combine:

  1. 1
    1 cup brown sugar
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  2. 2
    1 tsp flour
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  3. 3
    1½ tsp cinnamon
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  4. 4
    1/4 cup softened margarine
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Spread the streusel layer on top of the batter and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Amish Friendship Cake With Instant Pudding & Cinnamon

  1. 1
    1 cup friendship starter
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  2. 2
    2/3 cup good vegetable oil
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  3. 3
    1 cup granulated sugar
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  4. 4
    2 cup plain flour
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  5. 5
    1 tsp.
    baking soda
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  6. 6
    4 large eggs, lightly beaten
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  7. 7
    1 tsp.
    baking powder
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  8. 8
    2 tsp.
    vanilla extract
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  9. 9
    1 pkg.
    instant vanilla pudding (or flavor of your choice)
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Cinnamon Topping

  1. 1
    5 tsp.
    cinnamon
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  2. 2
    1/2 cup brown sugar
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line one 9x9 inch cake tin or two 1-lb. loaf pans with parchment paper.

If using cake pan, put half of the batter in the tin; if using loaf pans, pour 1/4 of the batter in each pan.

Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over the cake pan or a quarter of the sugar mixture in each loaf pan. Pour remaining batter into pans and top with the same quantity of the remaining sugar mixture. Swirl to marble. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Regardless of which cake recipe you use, you will enjoy it the first 4-5 times you make it. However, you may find that after a while, the starter becomes a slave driver and you will begin to wonder to whom you can give the stuff to next. I have known people to give starter portions only to people they really don't like �" some friendship!

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Some people even secretly thin the stuff with water and pour it down the drain, dancing in glee at their emancipation. So be careful and consider whether or not you really want to start down the road of the Amish Friendship Cake.

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  • Amish friendship cake is sometimes called a Herman or Hermann cake.

Other Tips on How to Bake an Amish Friendship Cake

The Amish Friendship Cake is a kind of cake or bread that is out of sourdough starter, which is typically, shared in a way same with how chain letter is being shared. Basically, the starter is considered as alternative for the baking yeast. It can as well be utilized in creating various types of breads that are yeast-based. It could be shared by friends or be frozen to be eaten in the future.

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As defined by Elizabeth Coblentz, one of the Old Order Amish, as well as the author of The Amish Cook, The Amish Friendship Cake/Bread is simple sourdough bread, which is being shared to those who are sick and needy. It has been in the circulation for many decades already. Typically, it takes about 30 days in order for this cake to be prepared, once the doer already has a "starter fruit juice." However, if not, doer should allot another 30 days in order to prep the first "starter." Nevertheless, making this friendship cake is indeed worth sweat, time, and effort.

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The Amish Friendship Cake- Initial Starter

Day 1 up to Day 14

Ingredients

  1. 1
    Drained and cubed pineapple (1 cup)
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  2. 2
    Sugar (1 cup)
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  3. 3
    Brandy (2 tbsp)
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Instructions

  1. 1
    Combine the indicated ingredients in a gallon jar (glass).
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  2. 2
    Let the mixture set in the jar for about 2 weeks.
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  3. 3
    Cover the jar loosely using an aluminum foil.
    There should be a wooden spoon, which should be inserted through the aluminum foil- for the purpose of daily stirring. NEVER REMOVE THE SPOON AND THE WOODEN SPOON
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  4. 4
    Day 15.
    Put a cup of maraschino cherries plus the juice; a cup of sugar, as well as 2 tbsp of brandy. Just let it set for another 2 weeks , and make sure to stir daily
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  5. 5
    Day 30.
    Separate the fruit from the juice by straining however; don't utilize a metal strainer. The juice will then serve as the starter for the Amish Friendship Cake/Bread.
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The Cake

Ingredients

  1. 1
    Yellow cake mix (1 and without pudding)
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  2. 2
    Oil (2/3 cups)
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  3. 3
    4 eggs
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  4. 4
    Fruit (1/3 which is prepped together with the starter)
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  5. 5
    Chopped nuts (1 cup)
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  6. 6
    Vanilla instant pudding (1 box)
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Instructions

Combine all of the ingredients, and then bake it in a Bundt pan (greased) at around 350 degrees, for about fifty minutes- until it is done.

Recipe for Substitute Cake

Ingredients

  1. 1
    Sugar (2 cups)
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  2. 2
    Oil (1 1/2 cups)
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  3. 3
    3 beaten eggs
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  4. 4
    Soda (1 tsp.)
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  5. 5
    Vanilla (2 tsp.)
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  6. 6
    Flour (2 cups)
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  7. 7
    Pecans (2 cups)
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  8. 8
    Fruit mixture (3 cups)
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Instructions

Mix the sugar and oil, and then add the beaten eggs. Add the dry ingredients- soda and flour, and then put in the fruit mix. Put the pecans, as well as the vanilla. The oven must be preheat for about 325 degrees, and then bake the mixture in the Bundt pan, preferably for about an hour and 15 minutes or an hour and 30 minutes. Before removing the cake from the oven, check if it is fully cooked by putting a knife. Freeze the cake.

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Questions and Answers

How long does the starter stay good?

I have a starter that I have had for a long time. How long before one goes bad?

It depends on what the starter is made of. If it's made of tomatoes, you may want to get rid of it if it's more than a day as tomatoes are very well known to get rancid rather quickly. Also, if you did not keep it in the fridge, the likelihood that it will go bad will be higher. Also, if you did not expose it, let's say you kept it covered for a long time, the likelihood that it will undergo chemical reactions that make it go bad is higher.

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In general, if you would like to preserve food, it's best to put it in the freezer and just thaw and reheat it when you want to consume it later on.

What happens if you prepare an Amish friendship cake in less than thirty days?

Is there any way of making the Amish friendship cake a little faster?. I have tried: I have tried the thirty day version but I wish I had some kind of shortcut for making It.. I think it was caused by: I am always in a hurry.

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Tara Grimshaw has added a No Starter Amish Bread recipe on Justapinch.com. I personally have tried it when I really wanted friendship bread but did not want to wait 30 days. It came out excellent. The 30 day versions still have a bit of extra magic to them I suppose because this recipe was a very close but not exact bread like the ones I have made from the starter versions. Still it was wonderful and my family loves using it to make French Toast if any with leftover.

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My questions are: Refrigerate fruit starter mixture or starter only without fruit? Once refrigerated, should I cover with a lid or just cheesecloth? Thank you?

It has been 30 days and I have a starter with fruit ready to make cakes but no time. . I have read that I can refrigerate indefinitely with feedings every 2 weeks.

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