Saturday, 14 April 2012

so long, Hermann my friend,and thanks for all the cake

I’ve been living in retroville for the past couple of weeks as it seems that German Friendship Cake (aka Hermann Cake) is doing the rounds again – perhaps he never went away?

Back in the eighties when we had hungry daughters in the house I was given my first Hermann starter – a type of sweet sourdough, consisting of flour, sugar, milk and wild yeast. It makes a moist spicy cake with the optional addition of apples, raisins and nuts – very nice with a cup of tea or coffee, or even as a warm dessert with cream or ice cream. The starter comes with strange anthropomorphic instructions (“Hermann is hungry – feed him today”) and takes ten days before you bake your first cake. Before the cake is baked, however, the batter has to be divided so that you can pass it on to other bakers.

I seem to remember that I kept it going for a few months, passing on batches of starter to school-gate friends, until I got fed up of the cake tyranny – “Hermann is hungry!” and the family got fed up of always having the same cake. I haven’t got so far this time. For a start I couldn’t find many people to pass it on to. Daughter no. 1 declined the offer as she had recently killed one in her care and didn’t feel up to the responsibility! Daughter no. 2 accepted and we carefully transported a batch up to Stratford last Monday. (I hope they manage to keep it going as I love the prospect of it being passed round the RSC). Other than that, no takers as the friend who gave me my batch is a member of the same Knit and Natter group, so she had them all covered.

I could probably have put a bit more effort into finding people to pass it to, but we’re off on holiday on Monday so won’t be here to stir it every day. So this morning I have stirred up a huge batch of Hermann and made three cakes for the freezer. Should keep us going for a while.


  1. Hermann is also doing the rounds of central Scotland. There was a slot on Woman's Hour about him recently...but I missed it. Several people who refused my starter mixes likened it to chain letters but instead of the implied threat if you break the chain, the sense of guilt about feeding, caring then eating Hermann. As if it were similar to eating one's children. It's CAKE for goodness sake!!

  2. No one has ever offered me a starter mix ... if only I'd been closer!