Sunday, 15 April 2012

Herman the German Friendship Cake

I have been given a 'Herman the German' cake and have been excited at the prospect of looking after him and baking him. I have been curious about these sorts of cakes since I read about them in a newspaper article last year, but hadn't known anyone who had been given a portion of the start-up batter. The cakes really are no trouble to look after - you basically stir them once a day and then on day 4 add a cup each of milk, flour and sugar and stir around. You stir him once a day again for the next few days and then feed him the same amounts of ingredients as day 4, then divide him up into 4 equal portions. You give three of these portions away and keep the 4th portion for yourself to bake.

A Herman cake tastes like a combination of apple crumble/Strudel filling and Stollen. I have been so impressed with the cake that I have kept a second portion of start-up batter so that I can bake another Herman cake. On the next cake, I might add some small cubes of marzipan and lemon zest. I learned this trick from a fruit cake which Nigella bakes, containing marzipan.

When I transferred him to a bigger bowl like it suggests on the instructions on day 1, I also decided to add a fresh covering of cling film and then cover with the tea towel. When I saw him the next day, he had become very bubbly and frothy.

The Instructions:

Hello, my name is Herman, I am a sour dough cake. I am supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on. You MUST NOT put me in the fridge or you will kill me! If I stop bubbling, I am dead.

Day 1: Take Herman and put him in a large bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel. (I just had a clingfilm cover on the bowl and then tented the tea towel over this).

Day 2: Stir well.

Day 3: Stir well.

Day 4: Herman is hungry! Add 1 cup each of milk, plain white flour and sugar. Stir well.

Day 5: Stir well.

Day 6: Stir well.

Day 7: Stir well.

Day 8: Stir well.

Day 9: Herman's hungry again! Add the same quantities of ingredients as day 4 and then divide Herman up into  4 equal portions. Give 3 portions away to friends and keep the fourth portion for yourself. Pass on a copy of these instructions with Herman.

Day 10: Herman is hungry and ready to be baked! Stir well and add:

1 cup of sugar,
half tsp salt.
2 cups of plain flour,
2 heaped tsp baking powder,
2/3 of a cup of cooking oil,
2 eggs,
2 tsp vanilla
2 heaped tsp vanilla essence,
2 cooking apples cut into small chunks,
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ Gas Mark 4. Mix everything together and place in a large greased baking tin (I lined the base of my tin too with baking paper). Sprinkle the top of the cake with 1/4 of a cup of brown sugar and 1/4 of a cup of melted butter.

Bake for 45 mins ( my Herman took slightly longer at 55-60 mins). I tented him with foil from 45 mins into the cooking time.

Herman is ready when a knife inserted into him comes out nearly clean - you might get some slightly sticky crumbs on the blade. He is meant to be a slightly damp cake due to the apples, but the knife blade should not contain trails of uncooked batter.

Happy baking and eating!

Becky Bakeswell x

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