This convoluted confection comes from a friend on the Gulf Coast, but from what I’ve read it’s a variation on an Amish recipe, which seems fitting, since most people call it a friendship cake. It’s called that because you share the starter with your friends, and they share it with other riff-raff, and becomes an agent for social bonding. It can also become a commitment, if not to say a dire obligation.
You see, the cake is based on a yeast starter, a living thing, so passing along this starter is somewhat like giving someone a puppy to care for, since it does take tending. Of course losing a batch of smelly yeast is not nearly as traumatic or troubling as losing a puppy (no matter how smelly), but still if the donor should ask you how it’s doing, you must just fess up and admit that you didn’t care enough about him or her to keep the yeast working and make a cake, or you could just tell your buddy to lighten up, get a life and explain testily that you had more important things to do. Given the right set of circumstances the recipe is fun to pass around to your buddies at work or church, but probably not at the neighborhood bar.
For the starter, combine a package of dry yeast in a 1 gallon glass container along with a 12-can each of of sliced peaches and crushed pineapple, drained, a half cup jar of maraschino cherries, chopped, and a half cup sugar. Combine and place in mason jar with a loose cover at room temperature. Stir several times first day; then once daily using a plastic or wooden spoon. After 2 weeks this starter will have fermented enough to start the cake mix.
Mix yeast starter, with a cup of sugar and 2 cups of sliced peaches in a glass gallon jar. Cover loosely, and let stand; do not refrigerate. Set aside, stirring daily, for ten days. On the tenth day, add 2 12-oz. cans of chunk pineapple with liquid.Let stand 10 more days, stirring daily; on the 20th day, add 1 12-oz. can fruit cocktail with liquid. Let stand 10 more days, stirring daily. On the 30th day, drain juice off. This is your cake liquid; give 1 cup to 6 friends along with the recipe. You’ll have enough drained fruit for 2 Bundt or 9×13 pan cakes.
For your cake, add to 1 cup of the fruit liquid to 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 2 cups flour, a teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons each baking powder and soda, a cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and a tablespoon vanilla. A cup of chopped apples, raisins, or nuts–either one or all three–can be added. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan at 350 for about an hour. Remove from the oven, cool, and heave a great sigh of relief.