Herman the German Friendship Cake

Herman Sourdough Starter

I am totally loving having Herman to stay with us and am having so much fun inventing new recipes to include the sweet sourdough starter, below are the links to the recipes I have baked so far.

Herman the German Friendship Cake
Herman Starter
Toffee and Pecan Herman Cake
Hot Cross Herman Buns
Basic Herman Sponge Cake
Herman Scones
Herman Chocolate Cinnamon Loaf
English Honey Herman Cake
Herman Bread
Chocolate Herman Brownies
Herman Carrot Cake
Pear and Ginger Cake
Herman Ginger Cake
Herman Banana Bread
Cinnamon Herman Biscuits
Triple Chocolate Herman Muffins
Herman Lemon Drizzle Cake
Herman Banana Loaf Cake
Herman Toffee Apple Cake
Herman Malt Loaf

I have been asked a few times now about keeping smaller portions of Herman going, here are instructions for a Half-Herman or Mini-Herman for those who are overwhelmed by Herman!

I am also going to write the answers to any Frequently Asked Questions below so if you do have any Herman questions do ask and I will try to answer them here so everyone can benefit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who or what is Herman?

A. Herman is also know as Herman the German Friendship Cake, it is a sweet sourdough starter made up of flour, sugar and milk.

Q. My Herman is lumpy what can I do?

A. When you feed Herman he may become lumpy, the best way to get rid of the lumps is to give the mix a whisk with a metal whisk. This has the added bonus of incorporating more air which may also bring in wild yeasts to keep your Herman mix fermenting.

Q. I forgot to stir Herman today, will he be ok?

A. Herman will be ok if you don’t mix him for one day but you should give him a very good stir as soon as you remember.

Q. Can I make my own Herman starter?

A. Yes, you can make your own starter. Follow this recipe for Herman Starter then you can start your 10 day cycle the day after.

Q. Can I make bread with Herman?

A. Herman ferments with yeasts that are naturally found in the air and with the flour, therefore Herman can be used to make breads, the breads will be sweet due to the high proportion of sugar in Herman.

Q. What else can I make with Herman?

A. Herman can be used to make a large number of cakes and yeasted baked goods, your limit is your imagination, above are some ideas but do try your own and let me know how you get on.

Q. Can I put Herman in the fridge?

A. If you received your Herman with a set of instructions they will most likely say ‘You Cannot put me in the fridge or I will die’. This is however not the case, putting Herman in the fridge just slows down the rate of fermentation to about half the normal, so extending the cycle. This is recommended for a weekend away.

Q. Can I freeze Herman?

A. You can also freeze Herman, this is not recommended for very long periods of time but will cope with a few weeks and the cycle can be started again once Herman has defrosted.

Q. How much should Herman expand by?

A. Herman can expand by up to four times given optimum fermenting conditions so put him into a bowl large enough to contain this growth.

Q. Do I have to follow the 10 day cycle?

A. You don’t actually need to follow the 10 day cycle, if you need to use Herman sooner than in 10 days time you can give him each of his feeds a day or two earlier.

Q. If I am following the 10 day cycle what days can I bake with my Herman?

A. As with traditional sourdough starters it is usual to feed the mix the day before it is to be used to bake with but I have used my Herman to bake with on days 1, 2 and 3 and the results were fine.

Q. What makes my Herman smell?

A. The smell of your Herman is from the fermentation of the yeast in the mix producing alcohol and this in turn turns into acids.


I’d love to know if you bake any of the recipes here and how you have found them, any feedback greatly welcome.

Also, if you have any questions about Herman don’t hesitate to ask, leave me a comment below, ask on twitter @BELLA_and_WILL or join my facebook page and message me there 🙂

As always, happy baking 🙂

41 thoughts on “Herman the German Friendship Cake

  1. Ahah! You are a Herman Hexpert! 🙂 And you have a nice blog too! 🙂

    • Hi Mo and Steve, thank you for your comment. I am a practicing Herman Hexpert, poor thing has been subject to all sorts of things in my house, maybe I need to put a disclaimer on the bottom, although I do have to admit that one has not survived…. 😦

    • beatrice southall on said:

      I have baked 10 Herman’s so far and froze as I baked. I lost the starter so have used one that says ‘refrigerate’ which came as a shock as I was warned about the fridge. I hesitantly placed in the fridge and, obviously, the vigourous ‘activity’ stopped but I learn that it is still o.k. I am pleased to read from you that it will make little difference. I shall be ready to bake in 5 days,will each ‘feeding’ rekindle the bubbles?

      • Hi Beatrice, I hope you are enjoying your Hermans, sounds like you have had yours for a long time too. Each feeding should start the mix bubbling again but it may not be as vigourous if it is in the fridge. I think in this hot weather it is worth putting Herman in the fridge for at least a little bit anyway. If you are concerned leave it out overnight to see if the warmth encourages Herman to bubble again.
        Hope that helps,

  2. sophie d'agostino on said:

    New to the world of Herman, came across your blog and very impressed at all the variations you’ve tried. Not tried it yet but thought peach and raspberry sounded good, will use frozen raspberries as fresh seem too delicate and might get all smooched.

    Will keep you posted with how it goes.

    • Hi Sophie, welcome to the world of Herman, he is a super house guest, eats little and not very often and makes some super cakes 🙂

      Peach and raspberry sounds fantastic, I may try one of those if you don’t mind me pinching your idea, let me know how yours turns out.

      Any other questions don’t hesitate to ask x

      • Ooooh another Herman nut 😀 I have to confess to being a little Herman’d out at the moment so he is brewing slowly for a while!

        Re the raspberries – fresh raspberries pressed into the batter once it’s poured into tins or cases works fine, rather than mixing them in.

      • Hehe, Herman Nut sounds about right 🙂 I do however know what you mean about being Hermaned out, I am managing to create lots more recipes to keep things interesting though 🙂

        That’s a great tip for the raspberries, thank you, it is quite upsetting when they all sink to the bottom. x

  3. Georgina on said:

    I’m new to Herman and have just baked my first cake – he is yummy! I have three herman offspring to pass on, how long will they last on my counter before I hand him out, they’ve been there since monday and I’ll be seeing my sister tomorrow to spread the love of herman! Will he still be OK to use?

    • Hi Georgina, great to hear you are enjoying your Herman cake. Herman will be fine, yesterday will have been Day 1 for your baby Hermans so if you just give them a bit of a stir they will be very happy.
      Any other questions just ask, Catherine

  4. Coconut and choc chips make a gorgeous cake!! My young boys loved it!!

  5. What about gingerbread-men Hermans? I won’t be making any Herman for a while but it is an idea for you 🙂

  6. love the sound of the raspberry and peach, I am a new hermon(ion) and could soon become addicted with the whole idea 🙂 lee aka pudsey pickles….born in Hannover Germany via chester, Devisis, little rissington, nairn, Inverness, Berlin, colchester and for the last 20 years Leeds

    • I still have to try a raspberry and peach version, it is on the list…. which is getting slowly shorter.
      I fear I am already addicted to Herman, if you do get overwhelmed have a look at my Half-Herman idea which will leave you enough Herman to make 1 large cake + 1 loaf OR 1 large cake + 12 muffins OR 3 loaf cakes OR 1 loaf cake + batch of biscuits + scones….list goes on but basically it is much more managable in consumption terms than 3 large cakes OR 6 loaf cakes OR 72 muffins worth of cake every 10 days!
      Great to meet you 🙂
      Catherine … born in Chester, Hereford for 20 years now West London 🙂

  7. Elsa on said:

    I’ve has Herman staying for about 6 weeks now. Have done the traditional cake and also your pear and ginger variation, which was delicious and light, but didn’t keep as well as it went a bit soggy! Had great success with date and walnut Herman cake (one cup of chopped dates and one cup of walnut halves instead of the raisins and apple). I’m now getting back into bread making – I used to make all my own bread when I lived in Kenya a few years ago, but hadn’t had time since we came back to the UK. I used your hot cross bun recipe but used a loaf tin instead and gave it 6 hours next to a warm oven for the first rise and overnight for the second rise, which worked well. Same recipe with walnuts added also works really well! Thanks for the recipe inspiration. My husband is delighted to have homemade cake in the tin, but my 2 year old son is unimpressed ( ‘I don’t like it Mummy!’ when he is offered anything, even when he hasn’t tried it)!


    • Hi Elsa,
      Super to hear about your Herman and very glad my recipes have inspired you back into bread making, I have only really just got into bread baking myself and am really enjoying it, it is so exciting watching for the dough to rise then seeing how it rises further in the oven. It’s interesting to hear about your rising times, that sounds like a good idea as then the loaf can be baked first thing in the morning, I will try that next time.
      I have a 2 year old boy and 3 1/2 year old girl, they can both be very fussy at times but will jump at anything called cake! Good job as my husband isn’t so interested in eating much cake 🙂 my neighbours and friends help eat my experiments too 🙂
      The date and walnut cake sounds good – I love dates.
      Lovely to hear from you,

      • Elsa on said:

        Hi Catherine,

        Yes, I’ve been giving away lots of cake also! Reading your bread recipes, it sounds as though you knead them in the mixer – the best bit of bread making for me is kneading by hand, it’s brilliant stress relief and doesn’t take too long. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go. Hand kneading also helps you to judge the consistency – I find I usually knead in quite a lot more flour!
        Charlie is usually a very good eater and will at least try most things – I think I may have scared him off with very dry chocolate cupcakes a few months ago!

        Best wishes,


      • Hi Elsa, you’ve caught me out, hehe, I do use a mixer but will often finish off the kneading by hand just to make sure it is right. I will have a go at kneading it completely by hand next time as I do love it, I just have the mixer there and am usually trying to get two things done at once so put the dough in on slow for 15min to do its thing.
        Kids are funny, mine see anything green and get suspicious but Isabella is trying more and more and enjoying things like asparagus now, amazing 🙂
        Best wishes,

  8. I am fairly new to Herman – I’m feeding up my third one! The whole process is fascinating and addictive. I am seriously fearing for my waistline and my husband’s!

    I’ve made 2 cakes out of each of my previous batches and frozen one portion from each. I’ve no-one yet to share the starter with but I promise I have shared the results. From the first batch I did the standard apple one; and carrot and banana with walnuts. From the second I did a coconut and orange one; and nectarines, dried apricot and sultanas. All have been yummy but it’s clear that the “cakes” are more accurately puddings due to their more stodgy consistency than say victoria sandwiches which I’d previously been baking. As a result they are better warm with cream or icecream etc. (For instance, I prefer my all-in-one victoria sandwich coconut and orange cake to the Herman version.)

    I think I’m doing it right; I gave some of the carrot and banana one to the neighbour who gave me Herman and who bakes loads of it and they complimented me on it and its consistency! However, I’d like to know more about the mixing method to see if I can optimise my results.

    Apart from the first, standard one which I did mostly by hand, stirring in the ingredients one by one in the listed order, I’ve done the others with my electric hand-mixer using an all-in-one method (apart from stirring in the fruit at the end). I’ve done this because despite being careful in adding the flour to the Herman on the first one it was difficult to avoid lumps (I actually therefore finished it off with a quick zap with the mixer). I’ve since read that should make a well in dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients so that may help (and I did it that way round on my second batch, but using the mixer).

    Am I “spoiling” the mix by using a mixer (being conscious that you’re generally told to fold in flour rather than beat) or helping or is it neutral? If the best result – ie lighter, more risen – is achieved by slowly adding ingredients and mixing by hand then I’ll try to be patient!! How long should it be mixed for, just to blend the ingredients or to incorporate air? Am I knocking out the air? They are rising to slightly more than double in size. Is that about right given the size of the tins I’m using – a 9x9ins sq tin for one and a 9x11ins for the other.

    Finally, I should add that I’ve reduced the sugar to 110g.

    I’d love to hear how others are doing and for any advice on the mixing / tins.


    • Hi Tina,
      Thank you for your message, I know you said you are new to Herman but it sounds like you are doing very well already, the flavour combinations that you have made sound delicious. I completely agree with you that many of the cakes are very pudding-like, the inclusion of the fruit causes this I think. I have previously made just a plain cake and it turned out very much like a Madeira cake (a heavy sponge, ideal for shaping and decorating for birthdays etc.).
      I think the Herman mix is very much like a muffin mix as it is very liquid and has the oil in, due to this I think the less mixing the better. If you sieve the dry indredients first then make a well in the dry ingredients like you said then gently mix in the liquid ingredients gently. Having said all of that, if your cakes are rising to slightly more than double in size I think you should keep doing what you are doing!
      In terms of tin sizes I have used many different sized tins, both the sizes you have used are fine. I have also put the mix into 2 small loaf tins, this is a great size for giving one away or freezing one.
      I too reduced the sugar in a number of my recipes, especially with the sweet fruits in the cakes can just turn out too sweet.
      It really does sound like you have got the hang of Herman baking, hope you are enjoying it all.
      Catherine 🙂

  9. Thanks for that encouragement. I’ll proceed as before – and as you advise – but will keep the electric mixer time to a minimum, just to ensure blended and no lumps!

    Cheers, Tina

  10. Hi. You certainly seem to be an experienced Herman! After being introduced to Herman at a baking level, I’ve created an online tool to track Hermans so that you can see it’s “Family Tree” – I would certainly appreciate your feedback and welcome you to add any previous / current / future Hermans on there!

    • Hi James, I was baking about three different Herman bakes every week at one point, I now only have one Herman in the freezer. Your site is very interesting, not sure if I could remember the dates that I had all my Hermans but if I start one again I will definitely add it to your site.
      Regards, Catherine

  11. Hi, I have just received Herman and he supposedly on day 3, will it be ok if I pretend its day two as I am not convinced it really is day 3?

    • Hi Kay, Herman will be fine either way, he is very easy going. I have fed mine sooner than I needed to and also left him for longer without feeding 🙂
      Just keep him in a not too warm place and he should be just fine.
      Hope you enjoy having him to stay,

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  13. I’ve just got my Herman, and I’ve bookmarked several of your recipes. 🙂 Do you know if there is an egg free version as my daughter has an allergy?

  14. Hi there,
    I remember my mum got herman’d when i was a kid and i fell in love with the cake but she lost the recipe,i just found it here cos i’d wanted to make a herman with my daughter(also a bella,lol! Isabella-Selene) and i started today,hoping to suprise my mum with it when we see her with a brand new portion of herman! Thank you! P.s cant wait to try the brownies and the bread…

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  16. Hi I am New to the Herman cake I am wondering if you give the cake to a friend do they have to add the starter ingredients or just the one cup of flour , sugar, milk ?

    • Hi Devana, if I remember rightly my recipe called for two additions of flour, sugar and milk spread out over 10 days. It detailed what to do for each of the 10 days…sometimes you just had to mix Herman.
      Hope that helps,
      Catherine 🙂

  17. Thanks I didn’t think you would have to more yeast etc as it is still bubbling.

  18. Pam James on said:

    My recipe cautions against using any metal spoon, bowl or baking pan. I noticed one of your posts talks about using a metal whisk. Is there anything to this warning? It seems silly.

  19. Molly on said:

    Hi, this is my second Herman, but right now its not rising! It was for ambit but we had to transfer it to another bowl!!! What should I do?

    • Hi Molly, how does your Herman smell? Is he still sweet and yeasty? Is he due for a feed? I’d give him a good whisk and see how he is once he’s been fed. Good luck…hope he’s ok 🙂

  20. Molly on said:

    I mean a bit

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