Last week I decided to make my own Herman starter then bake a nice Herman cake. What I wanted to do was to experiment a little to see if I could answer some of your questions that have been sent in. Can you freeze a starter to continue with at a later date? Can I leave Herman for a couple of days without stirring him? How much yeast is in a packet and how much do I put in? What if there are not many bubbles, have I killed him?
The information on the starter that I made is in the article How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter For a Herman The German Friendship Cake; there is a video with photos for you to watch to show you what I did and how it turned out.
Read The Instructions
This article is about making the final cake and there will be a video available soon to show you how it all went. At the end of this page I have highlighted some of the key points I learnt this time round.
The first thing I did was to read the instruction through to make sure I had all of and enough of the ingredients for the cake.
In the original instructions that I was given, the last paragraph tells you to pour and sprinkle melted butter and brown sugar over the mix after putting it in the tin. These are not in the ingredients listed above and could easily be missed. I have changed this on the Herman instructions that you can download from this website so you can decide if you want to do that at the start.
There Are No Set Rules
With all the bits I needed set out my little helper and I began. I got my starter mix and transferred him into a larger bowl. At this stage you will need a big enough bowl to fit everything in and be able to mix it too. The one you will see in the video is about the right size.
By the time I had added the dry ingredients the mix became very stiff and quite difficult to stir. This was probably not helped by the fact I was using a plastic serving spoon instead of a wooden spoon. Something else worth mentioning here is that this is supposed to be a bit of fun; something you can do with children or by yourself to pass on to your friends or just because. So, there is no exact science, nor do you have to use any particular technique.
In fact, when it comes to measures I wanted to clarify the question of cup size (no ladies, not those cups!). I measured out the cup equivalent of 150g or 5oz flour and poured it into a normal sized tea mug. It came to the top so I can say that by literally using a large cup, more like a mug you get the correct amount.
As the mixture stiffened I added the oil to try and loosen it all up a bit. A also added a splash of milk to get it mixing a bit better. It didn’t really do much to be honest but it was worth a try after a visitor to the website made the suggestion.
Another thing I wanted to do was move away from the generic ingredients of apple, raisins and cinnamon. I had been giving this some thought as I read through the recipe ideas page, where all your recipe suggestions have been posted. I eventually settled on strawberries and white chocolate. I love white chocolate and out of other things like cranberries and raspberries, strawberries win every time. That and I couldn’t find cranberries as they are out of season until September time I believe.
I didn’t have my strawberries pre-chopped and I didn’t have the chocolate broken down into chunks either, so there was a slight delay in the process. However, my 2 ½ year old daughter enjoyed tasting some of the ingredients (for quality assurance purposes of course) whilst we prepared them. I used a whole punnet of strawberries and chopped them into pieces, which made about a mug full. I used a whole bar of white baking chocolate (150g), broken up into pieces. Again this was about a mug full.
I had the mix all done and so I greased a baking tin. I used a round tin with a release clip on the side, which helps to get the cake out after baking. I greased it with butter then poured Herman in. I was about to pour over my butter when my wife walked in.
She reminded me that I should have used grease-proof paper, as not all cake tins are non-stick or grease-proof. Not only that but I was actually using a cheesecake tin! So, it was out with Herman, wash the tin, grease the tin, line with paper and back in with Herman. With the melted butter and brown sugar added Herman was ready for baking.
Wetter Than A Wet Thing
After the 45 minutes at 180°C allowed in the instructions I eagerly checked my Herman in the oven. “Looking good!” I thought. However, a knife test through the middle revealed a wet mess inside. I could actually see the top of the cake moving up and down as it bubbled away inside.
I covered the cake in tin foil and baked for another 20 minutes. I re-checked and the middle was still wet but getting better. The top was looking just about right. I decided to go for another 10 minutes but made the mistake of turning the heat up. DO NOT DO THIS – turn the heat down if you need to bake your Herman for longer. A higher heat will over cook and may burn the top, sides and base.
Even after another 10 minutes my Herman was still dragging his heels. I put him back in and sort of forgot about him for a while. Having turned the heat down, I got distracted in the garden with sunshine and family fun. When I went back to check on Herman he was pretty much done. At last and the 45 minutes had only been extended to nearly 2 hours!!
One possible reason, so my wife tells me, is that I should have patted the strawberries dry after washing. The added moisture could have contributed to the wetness of the cake.
The final result was still pretty good. The top was just about right, maybe a little darker than I had wanted. Inside was nice and moist and the sides and base were just a little overdone but nothing too unbearable.
The strawberries had sort of disintegrated into red/ pink suggestions that a strawberry was once there and the chocolate chunks didn’t stay in naughty little chocolaty chunks of sweetness as I had hoped. Both of these symptoms may have been due to the over cooking to get the middle right or it may just be that is the way it goes. It was still a very nice cake and tasted very more-ish; needless to say this Herman didn’t last very long at all. I definitely recommend a strawberry and white chocolate Herman.
Suggested Tips That May Help You With Your Herman
- Use a big enough mixing bowl
Be prepared for a lot of cake mix. By the time you have added all the ingredients a large bowl will be quite full.
- Just use a large mug instead of the exact measurements
As I said before, Herman is a bit of fun and there are no set rules other than ensuring he bubbles over the ten days. Instead of using scales to measure out all your ingredients, consider saving time and effort by quite literally using a ‘cup’. I found a tea mug was just about right to match the measure of the US baking cup.
- Sift the flour
Some people have written in to say their starter has developed lumps after feeding him. Although this is likely to happen anyway, by sifting your flour before adding to the mixture will help eliminate lumps and add air to the mixture. It is the thing to do with most baking recipes.
- If you use fresh fruit dry it after washing
Any extra moisture or water could add to the baking time of your Herman. Although minimal, by removing it from the equation it could help with a quicker baking time and less overcooked edges. To be honest most fresh fruit will probably melt and dissolve inside the cake at the temperature and time involved but it’s worth considering.
- Use grease-proof paper as well as greasing the cake tin
As my reliable wife says, not all cake tins are grease-proof or non-stick. Without grease-proof paper your cake will be more difficult to remove from the tin, even with a greasing of butter beforehand.
If you have any further tips, let me know so I can add them.