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.
What Is A German Friendship Cake?
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.
Accepting My Herman
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 until recently 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.
German Friendship Cake Instructions
Click to download your Herman instructions in PDF format. This is what my set of instructions told me to do:
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.
- You get Herman and put him in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.
- Stir well
- Stir well
- Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.
- Stir well
- Stir well
- Stir well
- Stir well
- Hungry again. 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 4th one.
- Herman is very hungry. Stir well and add the following:
- 1 cup sugar
- half tsp (teaspoon) salt
- 2 cups plain flour
- 2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 cooking apples cut into chunks
- 1 cup raisins
- 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. When cold cut into finger pieces. Cake freezes well and is also delicious warm with cream or ice-cream.
The Finished Article
This is how my Herman turned out. Although I followed the instructions that state 45 minutes in the oven, I recommend adding another 15 – 20 minutes using tin foil to cover the cake. This will help ensure Herman is cooked well enough all the way through.
If you have baked cakes before you will no doubt know about sticking a knife into the middle of a cake. This is a good idea to make sure the cake is cooked in the middle. If the knife comes out with wet mix on it you need more baking time; the idea is that the knife will come out clean as the inside of the cake is cooked sufficiently. With the apple content of this Herman I think he will always be a little bit moist inside.
When it came to sharing Herman out to others I chose my neighbours who all have young children. Straight away they were so excited about Herman and loved the thought of having to care for him until he was ready to be baked. This is a great way of getting kids involved in the kitchen.
The Herman Starter Mix
If you have never been given a starter mix for a friendship cake, it is very easy to make. This way you can start your own Herman and get sharing right away. Here’s how:
- 5oz plain flour
- 8oz castor sugar
- 1 packet of active dry yeast
- Half a pint of warm milk
- 2 fl oz lukewarm water
What to do:
- Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes and 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.
If you want to make contact or share a photo of your Herman, use the contact form.
I’m always pleased to know how people get on with Herman so don’t be shy!