Herman the German friendship cake

Herman the German friendship cake – starter mix

NOTE: Due to the popularity of this post and my interest in Herman I have created a page dedicated entirely to Herman the German Friendship Cake which includes frequently asked questions and links to all the Herman recipes I have trialed.

A couple of weeks ago now a friend gave me a starter for a sourdough cake named Herman. Talking to a lot of people this was something they had done as kids but even though we grew up baking we never had a Herman.

Herman arrived with his own set of instructions (see below), for feeding and ‘exercising’ and he has now become a part of our family. This cake is great for the kids as they are able to watch Herman bubble up and grow each day, are able to be involved in the mixing each day and the making of the actual cake. The first time I split Herman I gave two cuts to friends and baked the cake into the original Apple and Cinnamon Cake from the recipe and it was absolutely amazing, moist and very tasty with the cinnamon just right and the subtle flavour of vanilla behind the apple.

Since receiving Herman I have become really interested in the sourdough mixture and what else I can do with it. It is a very active mix and will expand to twice the size within 24 hours making me think that there is a lot of yeast in the mix. I will, over the next few months be experimenting with other variations of cake and may even attempt a sweet bread if I can work out the measurements to actually make the bread dough….I can probably count the number of times I have made bread from scratch on two hands so am a bit unsure of this but will give it a go.

Here are Hermans instructions:

German Friendship Cake

Hello, my name is Herman, I am a sourdough cake.

I’m supposed to sit on your work top for 10 days.

You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.

Day 1. When you get Herman put him in a large mixing bowl or container and cover loosely with a tea towel or cling film.

Day 2. Stir well

Day 3. Stir well

Day 4. Herman is hungry. Add the following ingredients, stir well and cover again.

115g/4oz plain flour (1 cup)

225g/8oz granulated sugar (1 cup)

225ml/8oz milk (1 cup)

Day 5. Stir well

Day 6. Stir well

Day 7. Stir well

Day 8. Stir well

Day 9. Herman is hungry again! Add the same ingredients as day 4 and stir well.

Divide into four equal portions and give three away to friends with a copy of these instructions or keep one if you want to start a new batch.

The remaining Herman stays with you to be baked the following day.

Day 10. Herman is very hungry. Stir well and add the following:

225g/8oz sugar (1 cup)

1/2 tsp salt

225g/8oz plain flour (2 cups)

2 heaped tsp cinnamon

2 heaped tsp baking powder

175ml/6oz cooking oil (2/3 cup)

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla essence

2 cooking apples cut into chunks

1 cup raisins

Other options include: Pineapple, cherries, chocolate chips, coconut etc.

Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with 50g/2oz brown sugar and 50g/2oz melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 180°C Gas Mark 4.

When cold cut into fingers. This cake freezes well and is also delicious warm as a dessert with cream or ice-cream.

Last night I made a cut of the Herman mix into a Toffee and Pecan cake, but that is a post for another day.

Have you ever had a Herman? Does anyone know any more than me about making bread? Any advice greatly appreciated! If anyone wants a cut of my Herman just let me know.

Hope you are enjoying your long weekend so far,

For now,


This entry was published on April 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm. It’s filed under Baking, Herman, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

18 thoughts on “Herman the German friendship cake

  1. mrsdressup on said:

    If you leave out the sugar, you have a classic sourdough starter for bread. you have to feed that every day. and throw out or use half. then add in the same weight of flour and water as the starter. If you keep it going, it can last forever.

    • Hi Denise, I thought that a classic sourdough starter was something like that, that’s why I was interested in if I could use the sweet version to make sweet cakes, think I need to ask Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstal 🙂

  2. becky greenaway on said:

    Hey catherine! First I would love to say that I love reading your blogs about gardening and cake baking! I love gardening and am hoping to set up my own little vegetable plot in our back garden soon and its really nice to see what other people are doing in their own gardens to give a bit of inspiration! Anyways the reason I am posting is even though I am not much of a baker mum gave me part of a herman cake a few weeks again and eventaully I baked him and it turned out really well although I did forget to split it into 4 sections! As you say it was beautiful and moist and delicious! I look forward to hearing about your experiments!
    Keep up the good work blogging,posting and gardening as I (like many others out there)love hearing about your progress!
    Love becky g =)

    • Hi Becky, thanks for your lovely message, hope you are well.
      I have got so much to write about and not enough time to do the writing in, if you do have any specific questions about baking or gardening I’m very happy to try to answer them.
      Your Herman cake must have been enormous, they are super though, no beating the butter and sugar, great for those new to baking or baking with kids 🙂

  3. Sophie on said:

    i am on day four and added in my ingriediants but it has gone lumpy i used caster sugar instead of granulate is that anything to do with it? Do you know how i can get the lumps out with killing him?

    • Hi Sophie, sorry I’ve only just seen your message. I have used caster sugar when feeding Herman and it is fine to use. Also when I mix in the flour, sugar and milk I use a metal whisk and give it a really good beating. This might not break up all the lumps but you will usually find that by the next day they have all dissolved into the mix.
      Good luck with your Herman, hope you enjoy baking him on day 10.
      If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask.
      Have fun, Catherine xxx

  4. Sophie on said:

    i am just making the cake now and it is very thick is it suppose to be like that? It doesnt look like a cake mix at all.

    • Hi Sophie, sorry I’ve only just seen your message, yes it is quite a sticky mix but it has eggs, baking powder and the Herman batter in that all help the cake to rise.

      Really sorry I didn’t get your message sooner, hope you baked your cake and hope it has turned out ok. I am on twitter if you want a quick response @BELLA_and_WILL

      Let me know how it is,
      Catherine x

  5. Love this! My mom had ‘Herman’ in the house when I was a kid – I remember many yummy cakes made with him! (my dad couldn’t have the same dessert for lunch and dinner LOL). Thanks for sharing this (and your post about how to start). My mom is visiting us from Canada for Mothers Day – this will be great try for a walk down memory lane!

    • Hi Lori, so glad this has brought back happy memories. Do you think your mum would have any recipes still?
      Hope you have a great Mothers Day with your mum, and happy baking.
      Catherine x

  6. Alex on said:

    Hi Catherine, my husband isn’t a fan of cakes but absolutely loves Herman! I keep making him but have run out of friends with whom to share. How can I reduce the volume produced after 10days so that I only have enough to able and continue for myself? I have the thought ne throwing out half the mixture each time.

    • Morning Alex, I have also been thinking of how I can continue with a smaller Herman so have come up with a Mini Herman or Half Herman. I think I will write this into a blog post but for now here are the basics (a bit of maths involved so I’ll use Imperial measurements so it’s clearer):
      One normal portion of Herman is about 12oz so for a Half Herman you would need 6oz of starter on Day 1.
      Stir as normal and on Day 4 feed with 2oz flour, 4oz sugar and 4oz milk.
      Stir again for next few days and on Day 9 feed with 2oz flour, 4oz sugar and 4oz milk.
      This will give you 26oz.
      You can then divide this into four portions of around 6oz each (I know, very rough maths 6×4=24 but you see where I’m going), you would keep one portion, then two parts would be used to bake the normal Herman Apple type cake and I am currently working on recipes to use small amounts such as for pancakes or you could bake a Half Herman cake which would fit perfectly in a loaf tin – just divide all the ingredients used for the full cake.

      What do you think, does this make sense? Hope so 🙂
      Any more questions do ask,

      • Alex on said:

        Thanks Catherine, that makes sense, yes, I’ll try it the next time. I’ve also tried freezing a portion to see how that works. A.x

  7. Alex on said:

    Apologies for using predictive text! That ‘able’ should read ‘bake’ !

  8. Samantha on said:

    Hi, I have only recently started baking myself and one of the ladies i work with decided to give me 1 of her portions of Herman. At first i didnt have a clue what Herman was all about until i asked my Mum and she had done a Herman in the 1980s and hadnt seen one since. Anyway I’ve had a lot of fun making Herman and its day 10 tomorrow so i can’t wait to finally be able to bake him. Just need to find some friends that actually bake now to take a portion of him 🙂

    • Hi Samantha, so great to hear you are getting into baking, Herman is a super for making great cakes and doesn’t require any beating of butter and sugar or any careful folding of ingredients.
      Have you decided what flavour cake you will bake? The apple and cinnamon version is super, I do keep going back to the original recipe as it is so tasty.
      You can always keep a portion going or keep a Mini-Herman so you don’t get overwhelmed with too much Herman.
      Hope all goes well tomorrow 🙂

  9. Hi…. How does Herman begin? How is he created from scratch? And if you retain a portion what are the correct conditions to keep it? Ie room temperature for x days or can it be frozen. I’d like to begin one whenever I’ve available time as apposed to waiting for one …. Pls advise. Thanks.


    • Hi Lorraine,
      Sorry I’m only just getting back to you we were away for a long weekend 🙂
      This post tells you how to get started on your own Herman https://bellaandwill.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/herman-starter/ I must admit I still haven’t personally tried this recipe but I know people have and it has worked very well.
      I had a batch of Herman on my counter in a large bowl for nearly four months just adding to him when he needed feeding and taking some out when I wanted to bake. He is best at room temperature, preferably a stable temperature not next to a cooker or radiator. He can be frozen if you do go away for any length of time, I still have one in the freezer I just hope he is ok after a few months.
      Really hope that helps, any more questions I will answer as soon as I can.
      Catherine x

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