Thursday, December 3, 2009
Amish Friendship Cake, Surprise Version
As it is with writing, often it’s the surprise of a new, accidental combination rather than the recipe that counts. I don’t know how to make Amish friendship cake; that particular recipe was passed along to us from my wife’s friend, and my wife tends to its culture. The cake is the product of a ten-day process, during which she feeds the starter at regular intervals with flour and sugar, and roughs it up in its plastic bag in between. The mixture grows and grows; the bag threatens to explode; finally the day comes for baking in loaf pans, and a little of the starter is saved for the next go-around.
The first change she made to the recipe was to add blueberries. Superb. Then she tried blackberries. Again, superb. Strawberries, as expected, were terrible. They were too sweet for the sour mixture for one thing, and for another they broke down and spread throughout the cake, leaving it somewhat wet and mushy.
These days, after I shower in the morning, I make some chamomile tea, and while that’s steeping I eat a piece of friendship cake. I put it in a cereal bowl and top it with fresh homemade madzoon. After I finish my treat, I drink the tea at my desk and get back to work. And that is exactly how this piece is being written.
This morning, though, was the scene of the latest surprise. When my brother and his wife visited us recently from Armenia, they brought with them a beautiful pomegranate. Yesterday evening my wife and I broke it open. The seeds were so good, I practically wept. I didn’t think of it then, but about half an hour ago when I was preparing my snack I suddenly realized that they would also go with the cake, blueberries, and madzoon. So I put some in. And I was right — the flavor was incredible, no less than a symphony on my tongue.
And yes, I am quite emotional when it comes to pomegranates. They are so beautiful, and there are so many memories associated with them, of fathers and grandfathers and Old World dreams. I could never feel that way about a banana. My mother never made banana jelly. But her pomegranate jelly, and the way the sun shone through it on the Sunday morning breakfast table, was an experience divine.
When my brother and I visited Armenia in 1982, the first person we met was eating a pomegranate. He smiled, and offered us some seeds.
“Amish Friendship Cake, Surprise Version” added to Let’s Eat. (Past food entries archived here.)
In the Forum: an amazing archeological find.