I first met with ‘Herman’ in the 1980’s, when my children where young and good friend gave me the starter. (Oh yes, I know that ages me….)  I was given instructions that had been typed on a type-writer (remember them?) and then copied on the very strange paper that we had to use (it had a special surface) on what was then a very new gadget. But that was preferable to having to use ‘onion skin’ carbon paper ~ a nightmare when one made a mistake! Especially if there were several copies on which to rub out the offending letters without messing up the word.  I digress……

The instructions that came with ‘Herman’ then differed slightly from those on the website, but the ‘goo’ was the same. And so began my relationship with ‘Herman’.

Having a family to cook for and masses of friends to pass it on to was a distinct advantage.  On baking day the house was filled with this amazing yeasty spicy smell, and the somewhat complicated recipe produced a delicious cake (see below). I found that it kept well, if I could hide some of it, and the flavours even improved with keeping a day or so.

The instructions directed that one keep one portion for the next cake, and so every 10 days I obediently baked my ‘Herman’ cake, which was duly devoured by family, friends and visitors.  This went for many months, until in the end my long-suffering family pleaded with me to desist.  ‘Pleeease make some other type of cake Mum!’ they begged, and so somewhat sadly I used my last batch and gave all the other portions away.

However it was becoming very difficult to find friends who wanted it.  I had given away so many, and they in turn were giving it away….. We had a true glut of ‘Herman’!

And so ended my relationship with him….. or so I thought! (Incidentally, I have always thought it should have had a feminine name, what with the constant reproduction and all, not to mention always working!  What do you think?? Hermionie? Heidi? Germanica? Just a thought….)

The years passed packed with many events, and then last week, on the 13th July 2012, my neighbour knocked with a friendship gift, and to my utter amazement ‘Herman’ had reappeared in my life ~ but morphed into a different form!  A reincarnation!!! The instructions had changed a bit too.  I can’t wait to try it.  (Maybe you would like to try the 1980’s version….see what you think!)

To my delight I found that this new recipe includes apple.  I love apple cake!  But sadly now my family are gone ~ my husband is deceased and my children are leading their own lives.  So how will I fare with only me to eat the new ‘Herman’ cake?

Apparently it can be frozen.  But how will it be after freezing? Will it have lost some of its appeal, flavour and texture?  I could always give a slab of it away to each friend I give a starter to I suppose.  Get them hooked that way.  And now I have visited the website I find that there are loads of recipes to try.  Carrot and orange.  Mmmm.  So I may get back into cake baking in earnest!  God help my waistline……….


Day 1             When you receive the mix, feed with the following:

1 teacup of milk

1 teacup of unbleached or white plain flour

1 teacup of unbleached or white sugar

Mix well and place in a 1 litre container with a lid that seals (I used an icecream container)

Place in the FRIDGE (shock horror!) in warmest zone

Each day remove and stir, sealing and returning to the fridge, until Day 5 ~ Today ‘Herman needs feeding again.  Mix in the ingredients above and return to the fridge.

Continue stirring each day as before until:

Day 10           BAKING DAY!!!  Stir mixture well and then remove 2 cups to pass on, and one cup to keep.  Feed the one you keep as for Day 1 above and place in container in the fridge.


RECIPE for cake:   To the remaining mix add the following:

2 beaten eggs

1 cup sugar, Demerara or soft brown

1 cup dried fruit of choice

2 cups wholemeal flour

2/3 cup cooking oil or melted butter

2 teasp baking powder

2 teasp mixed spice

½ teasp of salt

½ teasp of bicarb of soda

Mix well and pour into a greased and lined roasting tin. Before baking add topping:


1 tablespoon mixed spice

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablesp white flour

½ cup melted butter or marg ( approx 50g/2oz)

Mix well and pour up and down the surface of the mix, and swirl with a fork.

Bake at gas 4, 350F/180C for 40-60 mins until firm in centre and tester comes out clean.

GLAZE while still hot with the following mix:

¼ cup melted butter or marg

1/8 cup of milk

½ cup brown sugar

Boil this for 3 mins to caramelize (time it!) Smooth over the cake, leaving to cool in the tin.

Cut into squares to serve.  Delicious! Eat and enjoy!!!


with the instructions

by Hazel