Herman the German Cake

I will admit, until my sister-in-law gave me this recipe and starter I had never heard of this cake before. A little researching and I found out it is a little bit like the cake of the sourdough world in that you are given a starter, you feed it then split it up and pass it on to friends. Claire from Things We Make & Fairyfeltmaker have been the lucky recipients of this batch of starter, though I did warn them at the time that I hadn’t made the cake and didn’t have a clue as to what it would be like! While over tea & cookies at the QUAD cafe in Derby, Claire & I christened this cake Herman the German because we love a bit of rhyming and it is thought the cake does originate from Germany.

It takes 10 days to turn the starter into something that is suitable for making a cake. When it came to making the cake I was pleasantly surprised as it was light and fluffy. Airborne yeast is used to make the dough rise.  Claire told me the Herman cakes she had tasted in the past were similar to a Mr Kipling Manor House Cake and I have to agree with her.

I’m not sure how you would go about making your own starter. The recipe I was given is quite cringy with the wording, but here it is. One thing I would say is that I did it in a 8″x8″ tin as the tin suggested seemed far too big. Within 50 min the cake was cooked perfectly. I also ditched the nuts and used 100g sultanas, 50g of glace cherries and 50g citrus peel.

Day 1 Herman is given to you. Pour him into a large bowl (not metal)
Day 2 Stir Herman 2 or 3 times with a wooden spoon (you can leave the spoon in the bowl)
Day 3 Stir herman 2 or 3 times with a wooden spoon
Day 4 Herman is hungry; give him – 200ml milk, 8oz/200g self raising flour, 10oz/250g sugar
Day 5 Stir Herman 2 or 3 times with a wooden spoon
Day 6 Stir Herman 2 or 3 times with a wooden spoon
Day 7 Stir Herman 2 or 3 times with a wooden spoon
Day 8 Stir Herman 2 or 3 times with a wooden spoon
Day 9 Herman is hungry. Give him – 200ml milk, 8oz/200g self raising flour, 10oz/ 250g sugar. Share him into 5 equal portion and give four little Herman’s away with a copy of these instructions. Keep the 5th portion for yourself.
Day 10 Herman is absolutely starving. Give him – 6oz/150g self raising flour, 3 eggs, 2 tsps cinnamon, 1 tsp baking powder, 4oz/100g finely chopped nuts, 2 grated apples or 4oz/100g of any dried fruit and cherries, 150ml sunflower oil

Now Herman likes to go to a hot resort, the oven will do. Pre heat the oven to 170oc/Gas mark 3.5. Mix everything together and pour him into a cake tin (10″ x 12″ baking tray). Leave him in the oven for about 1 hour. Herman is now ready to eat.

24 thoughts on “Herman the German Cake”

  • Oh friendship cake! I’d almost forgotten about that. I kept this going when I was a teenager for quite a long time and must have bored everyone I knew rigid by giving them cup fulls of starter. Glad to see it’s still going.

  • What a lovely looking cake. I bake a lot of sourdough bread and reckon you could easily modify a basic sourdough starter method to create a “herman”. I’d start with some raisins and live yoghurt with the flour and water, to maximise the number of yeast cultures – should work a treat.

  • Herman is ready to rise up and be counted in his new home… just hope he doesn’t try and make a great escape! Will let you know how he improves ;-)

  • My mum gave me “Herman” in June but it was the day before I went to India for a month – Herman looked a little worse for wear when I returned. It would be fun to pick up this again.

  • I love the idea of this, think may see if I can start a Herman invasion around the village! May take it as a housewarming gift for Best Foodie Friend, sure her husband will thank me!

  • Thank you for this unique recipe.
    There is something I don’t undrstand.
    You got the starter after it was fermented? or before?
    I have found a recipe for the starter (you said you don’t know where one might get it) which suggest treatment before giving away parts of it (as your sister did) as you suggest for the starter you recieved (which was fermented by your sister?). The cake uses only a fifth of the quantity.
    So this is the puzzle: Do I need to do all the fermentaion again?
    Thank you for your answer.

    • The starter I was given will have started it’s fermentation process while it was at my sister-in-law’s. She was given her starter by a friend. By stiring the mix and feeding it at regular intervals means the starter continues to ferment. I’m not sure how long the fermentation process would be if you making the starter from scratch.

  • The recipe says to add milk at two stages.Does this mean it will have to be stored in the fridge or can it still be left at room temperature as the recipe does not state either.Seems like leaving at room temperature will allow mother natures other nastier ingredients to join the mix.I have seen on the net that other recipes did not include milk.How has everyone got on with this recipe

    • Hi Rod. This recipe is the carbon copy of what I was given. It does say it doesn’t need to go in the fridge. Like you I was quite surprised given the addition of milk. I imagine if you had a warm kitchen it would be wise to put it somewhere cool.

  • HI I have just been given the started of Herman the German, hoping all goes well with it, as I have never done anything like this before!!! thank you for the info on how to do it, very helpful. Oh and ‘Herman the German’ is rhyming not alliteration, alliteration is where the words start with the same sound.

    • Good luck with your Herman. I really must get better at proofreading my blog posts, I can’t believe I missed the alliteration mix up!

  • Absolutely beautiful cake, very scrumptious! I have received the dough 10 days ago and not really sure how this would turn out! Very happy, trying to keep it going for my friend when she return from her holidays so that she can pass it on to other friends. can someone tell me if this recipe can be adjusted to make a Christmas cake?

    • Hi Monique, glad the cake worked well for you. I’m not sure if it could be adjusted to make a Christmas Cake however you can make Christmas Cakes using sourdough starter so I imagine it must be possible.

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