Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Herman

on February 22, 2012

A few weeks ago a friend texted me to ask if I’d like a portion of German Friendship Cake batter.  It brought back memories of childhood as my Mum had once or twice received this from someone and the mixture lived on our kitchen counter for several days before being divided up for distribution and baking.  I hadn’t heard of anyone doing it for years and it was really exciting to be involved in something which has been going on for such a long time.

The origins are apparently Amish and in America (so an American friend tells me) it’s known as Friendship Bread, rather than cake, which is fair enough as it’s a sourdough starter and likely to have originated from some sort of bread recipe.  The finished product is quite muffin-y in texture so a sort of cross between a bread and a cake, really.

Anyway, I received my portion of batter, along with some instructions telling me that its name was Herman (Herman the German Friendship Cake, to give it its full title).  What you do, for those of you who haven’t come across this custom, is keep the batter in a large bowl, covered with a tea-towel, on a counter or table at room temperature and give it a good stir every day.  On day 4 you “feed” it with flour, sugar and milk and on day 9 you repeat this process and then divide the resulting mixture into 4.  Each portion can be either made into a cake, given to a friend as a new starter or frozen for future use (it can’t be fridged as this kills it, but freezing is apparently ok).  If you choose to make a cake you do so on day 10 by adding further ingredients, listed on the instructions which accompany your starter.

It’s like a sort of chain letter, but without the dire warnings of certain doom if you break the chain!  Also, the only beneficiary in this case is yourself – rather than “the person at the top of the list” who’s a friend of a friend of a friend, etc – because you get the cake at the end of the process.  So if you don’t want to pass it on, you can use your bit of batter to make a cake straightaway (because each starter is identical to the portion used to make the cake), or just tip it down the sink, and nobody loses out.

Having brought one lot to successful completion I received another starter back from one of my recipients and made a second one, but I had less luck persuading people to take it from me this week so I thought I’d do a third and blog the process as a project which may be of interest.

This is the starter as it stands.  It’s day 2 now – dividing day was yesterday.  Today and tomorrow it is stirred and on Friday it will be “fed”.

Herman, Day 2

(By the way, on the left you can just see the edge of the piece of this week’s very yummy Herman cake which I had put down on the counter to take the photo!  And I hope you like my new pink silicone spatula which I got in my Christmas stocking!)

So look out for further updates over the next 10 days!

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2 responses to “Herman

  1. fionamerrick says:

    How utterly lovely! Such a nice tradition and far better than a chain letter. I am delighted to have read about Herman having seen mention of him on Facebook! I am going to enquire of a scientist why freezing is okay but not fridging, since I don’t understand that part at all. And that is indeed a very attractive spatula 🙂 xxx

  2. cookingreadingsinging says:

    Thank you! Your comment has prompted me to realise that although all the photos of the subsequent stages are in my camera, I haven’t written the other blogposts as promised! I must do that soon!

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