Another experiment: Herman the German friendship cake

the ingredients for Herman

Now that I have successfully achieved my sourdough ( and tomorrow I will blog the evidence of my first creation using it) let me tell you (and please don’t laugh) about ANOTHER experiment I have embarked on: Herman the German friendship cake. And what on earth is THAT, I hear you ask. Basically it’s something very similar to a sourdough , only it is sweet and the end result is  a cake. The idea is that you make a starter dough using flour, yeast, sugar, milk and water (see exact quantities below). You then nurture it and feed it every 4 days and stir it on the other days. At the end of the ten days your  dough (you end up with something similar to sourdough: a yeasty, bubbly mixture) can be used to make a cake (recipe will follow in time). But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no! It would be too easy if it did! No: at the end of the process you divide the dough into four pieces, you use one to make your cake and you pass the other three on to your friends (hence its name: friendship cake). They should start the whole process again, in other words nurture  it and feed if for ten days then divided it and pass it on. It’s a bit like a chain letter (or catena di Sant’Antonio as we say in Italian) only with dough. It potentially goes on and on and on and in theory you mustn’t interrupt it or bad things will happen to you. How bizarre is that? In truth I am not even sure that the friends you give Herman to would be all that chuffed to receive a yeasty mess that they have to care for and pass on to other unaware friends. It might very well mark the end of a beautiful friendship if you find out that the person you gave it to committed a Hermanocide by throwing it in ze bin. And by the way: why is it called Herman? And why is it German? Does my friend Beate know? ….I must do a bit of research on line. The weird thing is that, like in the case of  sourdough, there are all sorts of websites, blogs and forums devoted to Herman. Even a facebook page (which I have liked, of course!).  They have even talked about it on the BBC during the Woman’s hour programme (see here). So how do you make it then? I got the recipe and the instructions from this website which would appear to be the mother of all the Herman the German cake websites . By the way, I tactically started mine on Wednesday just gone as ten days from then I will host my Italian book group. Three “lucky” friends will be presented with a baby Herman, willing and ready to find a new home by then. By the way: there is no reason why these friends couldn’t use it straightaway to bake a cake, when you think about it. And I’ll tell you now that I won’t be offended if they decide to dispose of it. Only I’ll never talk to them again..ha ha. Be afraid my Italian friends. You know who you are!!!


  • 150 gr. plain flour
  • 225 gr.  caster sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast (2 tsp)
  • 240 ml. warm milk
  • 60 ml. warm water

What You Do

  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
  2. Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly stir in the warm milk.
  4. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth.
  5. Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
  6. Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle.

How to take care of Herman

Rule one: do not put in the fridge!

Day1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.

Day 2: Stir well

Day 3: Stir well

Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 150 gr. plain flour,  225 gr. sugar and 240 ml. warm milk. Stir well. Day 5: Stir well

Day 6: Stir well

Day 7: Stir well

Day 8: Stir well

Day 9: Add the same as day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.

Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake.

For the cake recipe you’ll have to wait till next Saturday!  I am currently at day 4 of the cycle. See below a happy 4 days old Herman who has just been fed:-)

a contented Herman


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7 Responses to “Another experiment: Herman the German friendship cake”

  • Hermann is a friend of my childhood, my mum though, I’m sure, is still a bit traumatized since for what seems years we were sort of forced to bake a Hermann cake whenever it was ready and in the end we just threw the friendship bits away as all the friends were getting fed up with the demands of Hermann too. I couldn’t say it actually promoted any lasting friendships… But good to hear it being revived after 30 years or so! By the way I didn’t know you’d call it Hermann THE GERMAN and I’ve no idea why. It could be either that Hermann is a distinctly German name or it could also refer to Hermann The Cherusker who beat the Romans and freed the Germans all those years ago. For more information please consult with the historian of your choice.
    I really enjoyed reading about the sourdough experiment and am considering doing the 3 beans casserole tomorrow (that’s actually why I went on the site just now) because the weather is wintry (again!) and it seems to fit. Keep on blogging! Ciao Beate

  • Hey Beate how lovely to hear from you! I was going to e-mail you to alert you that I had mentioned you on the blog and needed your German expertise. But it would seem you were already on the ball! :-) By the sound of things our friend Herman seems a bit of a demanding character! Ha ha. How funny to hear your story. But don’t worry! I don’t intend to keep on inflicting him on people nor do I expect the “unfortunate” friends who will be landed with a bit of it next Saturday to keep him alive. However I AM curious to bake at least ONE cake from it. Shame you don’t live nearby anymore or you would have found a jar of Herman on your doorstep! :-) I hope you are well. Keep cooking from the blog and don’t forget to leave your comments!

    • Well, have fun with Hermann (we always spell the name with double nn)and let me know once you’ve found out why he is called Hermann and not James, and why a “he” I wonder even more? I also hope you don’t get too confused with who to feed when and what to (Tomik, Hermann and Spouse)!

  • Ho visto Herman questo pomeriggio da lucina.Confermo la sua splendida forma,uno schianto!
    Aspetto con trepidazione sviluppi…….;-)

  • Attenzione a non conforderti Hermann con Tomik. La tua cucina comincia a diventare un po’ trafficata, my dear. Rimane un posticino per Bill, in mezzo a tutte queste creature aliene?
    Che Hermann si chiami così da Hermano, fratello?

    • Il povero Bill si sente decisamente trascurato. In più la cucina si sta riempiendo di ciotole, vasetti e recipienti vari contenenti miscugli più o meno “vivi” ( che fermentano, si moltiplicano e chissà cos’altro!) e dagli odori non sempre piacevoli. Però quanto mi diverto, cara Candi a mettere le mani in pasta (letteralmente!). Se fossi vissuta ai tempi della caccia alle streghe mi sa che a quest’ora sarei già finita sul rogo! Ah ah :-) Comunque il povero Bill in fondo in fondo non soffre più di tanto perché è sempre il primo ad assaggiare gli esperimenti culinari vari. Con tanto di leccamento di baffi. Sta tranquilla che a conti fatti ci guadagna! E così pure il suo giro vita..;-)

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