A couple of months ago a friend popped round with a plastic tub with some yeasty smelling gunk in it. “A gift!” she brightly called and she shoved it into my hands. Then she gave me some instructions written in first person from the cake on how to make it. And this is how I came to know Herman, the German sharing cake…
Herman the German is a sourdough cake recipe which has been going for decades, it passes through circles of friends and family similar to a chain letter.
The origin may have been from the Amish people, who passed around a sourdough bread. The starter mix that is given away for this friendship cake is a substitute for baking yeast. A friend shares a cup of the liquid yeast culture with people who would like to make this cake and is maintained by adding sugar, flour and milk every few days.
Herman The German Friendship Cake
Hello, my name is Herman.
I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on.
You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.
Day1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.
Day 2: Stir well
Day 3: Stir well
Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.
Day 5: Stir well
Day 6: Stir well
Day 7: Stir well
Day 8: Stir well
Day 9: Add the same as day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.
Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:
- 1 cup of sugar (8oz or 225g)
- 2 cups plain flour (10oz or 300g)
- half tsp (teaspoon) salt
- 2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil (5.3oz or 160ml)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 cooking apples cut into chunks
- 1 cup raisins (7oz or 200g)
- 2 heaped tsp cinnamon
- 2 heaped tsp baking powder
Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with a quarter of a cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 170‐180C. You may need to cover in tin foil and bake for a further 20 minutes to make you’re your Herman is done in the middle.
When cold cut into finger pieces. The cake freezes well and is also delicious warm with cream or ice‐cream.
So I followed the directions and 10 days later had an amazing cake, it was soooo good. Kind of tasted like a light christmas cake, it lasted all of an hour with the kids. I passed on three portions to three friends along with the instructions and all was good in the world.
Herman the German cake number one. Added some ribbon and chicks and made an Easter Cake 🙂
Then 9 days later, my neighbour knocks on the door with another batch of Herman. How nice, I thought… I have cakey friends 🙂
I repeated the process and passed it onto another three friends. A week later I got another batch. A week after that one more…
Herman cake number 2…
I seem to have gotten a little lackadaisical though and this poor Herman sat on my counter top covered in a tea towel and readers, Im ashamed to say, I forgot all about him and GASP he died 😦
Ok so Im taking the piss a bit, mainly because I find a cake person speaking in first person kind of creepy, but its actually a lovely thing and has got lots of people talking and baking.
If you haven’t come across this yet and want to start your own you can make the starter using this recipe.
- 5oz plain flour
- 8oz castor sugar
- 1 packet of active dry yeast
- Half a pint of warm milk
- 2 fl oz. of warm water
- Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
- Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
- Slowly stir in the warm milk.
- Cover the bowl in a clean cloth.
- Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
- Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle.