Books & Bakes

Herman the German Friendship Cake

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My office has recently gone insane for “Herman the German”. It all started when the lovely Miss A gave the equally lovely Miss G what can only be described as a pot full of goo. This goo was eventually passed onto my boss the dapper Mr C. Mr C then used all his skills of persuasion to convince me that I too wanted to provide Herman with a home.

What is Herman I hear you ask? Well, Herman is the baking world’s answer to the chain letter. Except it doesn’t involve discovering mysterious riches in your garden and you don’t become cursed if you fail to pass him on. Instead a friend passes you some tupperware containing a yeasty mixture which they have nursed for nine days. You are also handed instructions on how to babysit Herman and a recipe to use to bake your friendship cake on the tenth day (it feels a bit like the culinary version of the Creation!)

I must admit that until the lovely Miss A brought Herman into the office I had never heard of the phenonemon. But apparently it is quite a “fad” and even the Guardian has written about the yeasty goodness of Herman. Check out the Guardian’s blog on Herman the German.

The tradition originates in the Amish community. They used the yeast to bake a form of sourdough bread and then gave the mixture to the sick and needy. If you are interested then you can find out about the origins of Herman here.

Anyway, back to my experience of mothering Herman. After a day of sitting on my desk at work and making me smell like I had bathed in beer I took Herman to his new home. The first instruction says to place the mixture in a bowl and cover it loosely with a tea towel. I then had to give Herman a stir every day until day four when he needed feeding. This simply involved adding some plain flour, caster sugar and milk to the original mixture and then sitting back and watching Herman grow. This was actually quite scary and led to Mr H naming Herman “The Blob”!

Herman the German aka “The Blob” after feeding.

Over the next few days I became quite attached to Herman. I was frequently worried that I had killed him and I could often be found studying him and asking him if he felt okay. Luckily, Herman appears to be a robust little fella and is difficult to kill.

On day nine I fed Herman once more and divided him into four equal portions. One of these portions I kept to bake the actual friendship cake and the other three portions I passed on to some poor unsuspecting fools! Sadly, I don’t think I managed to convince them of the wonder of Herman and as I write I believe only the wonderful Miss Fifi has embraced the yeasty goodness of our German friend.

Mr H was thrilled when day ten arrived and I could finally bake the friendship cake. I love baking but making this cake did feel a little like murder. The cake also took much longer to bake then the recipe suggested and was in our oven for about three hours. We were staying with Mummy S and Daddy S for the Easter weekend so I took the finished article with us to add to the delicious simnel cake that Mummy S had made.

I am pleased to announce that Herman was yummy and went down very well. I am really glad that Mr C convinced me to take a pot of yeast home but I don’t think I will be making Herman again. I actually hate the smell of beer and at the end of the ten days our flat had the pungent odour of a brewery. Plus, I believe I could make the cake without the yeast and it would still be as yumtastic. This would also save me the guilt that I felt when I put Herman in the oven and ended his short life in our household!

Herman the German Friendship Cake – the finished article!

If you would like to start you very own Herman craze then check out the official website for your starter kit – Start your own Herman the German.

Happy baking!


Mrs H


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