When I was given my first German friendship cake I had no idea what it was. A friend of my wife knocked at the door one day and presented me with a small bowl of goo. It was a bit odd to have been given a bowl of goo that had a name and strict instructions to follow for ten days. Nevertheless I decided to give Herman a go and after 10 days I cooked the final cake. He was the first cake I had ever baked and he was surprisingly good! If you get given a Herman you must give it a go.
Herman the German friendship cake apparently originates from the Amish people, many years ago. From what I have found out they would give out a type of sourdough bread that was passed among the needy and sick. I will happily post the correct origin if this is wrong; use the contact form to drop me a line if you know more.
Herman is a sourdough cake, whose recipe dates back centuries. Similar to an annoying chain letter he gets passed round circles of friends and families but actually isn’t quite as annoying. You must nurture Herman for 10 days before baking as a yummy cake.
What you get given is usually a starter mix, which is a substitute for baking yeast. It can also be used for other types of yeast-based baking such as breads, it can be shared among friends and can even be frozen for use in the future.
After someone gets the friendship cake starter they follow the instructions and every so many days they add sugar, flour and milk. When the time is right the growing mixture is separated into four portions; one to bake with and three to share – and so the cycle goes on. This is a great idea for getting your young child baking. They can look after Herman for 10 days before getting to help bake him into a delicious cake.
Here is Herman the on the day he arrived. All he appeared to be was a bubbling mess in a bowl. This was my German friendship cake mix. An A4 sheet of paper had some typed instructions for me and they were very specific. In particular ‘You cannot put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.’ Was I ready for such a task? What if I killed him?
Actually, as I read the instructions I soon realised that I didn’t have to do much with Herman other than give him a stir. What a relief!
Surely even I could manage this – after a few days add some milk, flour and sugar, then after ten days mix in some more ingredients and bake a cake. I was up for the challenge (as a man who had never baked before it was a challenge, believe me).
I hadn’t realised just how popular Herman is. Its quite simple really and the whole process is based on letting him sit for four days, on the fifth day adding equal quantities of flour, milk and sugar. Following this Herman sits for four more days and gets baked on the tenth day. Before baking the mix is shared into four equal amounts for the cycle to start again or for cakes to be baked.
If you have been given a Herman starter recently and you have baked a Herman cake it’d be great if you could drop me a line with a photo. The Herman Adventures feature is for your Herman stories; tell others what you thought when you were given your starter mix, what ingredients did you use and how did your Herman turn out?
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