introducing herman

Let me introduce you to Herman.

Herman is a cake mix, a German friendship cake mix, kind of a sourdough type of thing, and he sits on the windowsill, buttling away, fermenting and frothing, getting bigger and bigger by the day.

All he asks is a quick stir most days, and occasionally a feed of milk, flour and sugar.

After 9 days with me, he’s split into four, and I bake one quarter (oh dear, sorry Herman!), keep a quarter, and find two unsuspecting friends to saddle with the responsibility of raising the other two quarters.

I’ve had Herman for a few weeks now. He travelled across the Peak District in a tupperware tub, which made him go quiet for a little bit, but then he regained his enthusiasm for life, and got used to the different surroundings, and carried on fermenting away here.

It never occurred to me, but some folk have said they don’t like the idea of all that cake mix, which includes milk, sitting on the side, fermenting away with the wild yeasts in the air, for months, years, possibly even decades (after all, we had one of these when I was small – this might be part of the same one!)

I reckon we’re happy enough to let beer ferment, and vinegar, and sourdough bread, and this is pretty much the same.

And if you don’t want any, fine, that’s all the more for me…

Anyway, there’s more than one way to bake a Herman. The list of things to add on the last day that came with mine includes apples, walnuts, raisins, vanilla, all kinds of things. My mum left out the walnuts. In that picture above I left out, well, pretty much everything, as Peter remembered one from his youth that didn’t have any fripperies such as fruit and nuts, and was just cake.

(Incidentally, this one apparently tasted nothing like that one, but rather more like a chewy biscuit. Hmm.)

I made one with LOADS of apples in (it was rather soggy and you had to eat it with a spoon). And this one below has no apples in at all (I didn’t have any), but has quite a few dates (yum). There’s always a background yeasty taste, kind of like you get with a sourdough bread. I love it.

I can’t give you the recipe I’m afraid. In general you don’t start from scratch, you start from a quarter of the dough that someone else gives you with a list of instructions, although someone must have started it in the first place, so feel free to have a root around the internet and start your own Herman! (let me know if you do!)

I do feel a kind of sense of responsibility towards Herman now. I find myself grumbling on the days I have to feed him, and day 2 frequently becomes day 3, or 4, and he doesn’t get fed at all for a few days, but he still seems to bimble on alright. He’s pretty self sufficient.

I’m running out of friends to offer my quarters to now though. Is it significant that the two men I offered him to both (separately) said ‘it’s too much of a commitment’? (come on fellas – it’s ten days of commitment, not marriage, and you get a cake at the end!)

I’m planning to turn up on two doorsteps tonight, hoping that once he’s actually in someone’s house they wouldn’t be mean enough to throw him out. I think it’ll work.

And if all else fails, I suppose I could just bake him.

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9 Responses to introducing herman

  1. Maria says:

    I had a Herman earlier this year – baked it with apples and cinnamon and it was very tasty! I have to confess I didn’t want the temptation of eating a whole cake myself every ten days though, so I had to errr, dispose of three-quarters of it after the second time round. I also couldn’t find a man willing to take on the commitment! very funny. As you say, they seem quite resilient – will not die off altogether if they are forgotten for a couple of days.
    He was tasty… maybe I shall look at making one from scratch – it can be done.

  2. cheri says:

    Ooo, I love the sound of this. I also quite like the name, having known a Herman who was a Great Dane. I am intrigued as this is something I had never heard of.

  3. I wonder if you can send them through the post?? They’d be without air for a day or two, but I wonder if they’d survive??

    Herman’s a fab name for a Great Dane!

    I’m just writing out the instructions, then off to turn up on people’s doorsteps 🙂 I’ll still keep one though. You’re right maria, it is *such* a responsibility eating a cake every 10 days! We tend to keep one out, stick one in the freezer, and take one to work (no idea how we end up with 3 – they’re not huge though).

  4. Robyn says:

    Apparently you CAN post them, so long as it isn’t more than a few days. However, I’m not entirely certain that UK postal regulations provide for liquids being sent, and Herman is indeed quite liquid, isn’t he!

  5. Footpather says:

    That sounds very interesting and could be quite tasty. What a fabulous tradition. I wonder what the longest any one family has had one of these on the go?

  6. Tis indeed very tasty – and I’ve also figured out (goodness knows how it took so long!) that you can just ignore the instructions and bake him on whatever day you like! I managed to get rid of one last night, but not the other, so I’m scooping some more out and will bake one this morning – hooray!

    Everyone I’ve known has got passed it on after a couple of times through the directions, but I bet there’s some more committed families who’ve had them for years…

  7. How fabulous – remember you telling us about Herman so great to see a picture of him! If you’ve got any left, fancy a swap for a bit of ginger beer starter? Similar idea, feed it for a week, make ginger beer, strain gungy stuff out and put it back in jar for next time… it goes to sleep in the fridge then wakes up again when you bring it out into the warm 🙂

  8. Oooh, yes please to a ginger beer swap! Don’t stick Herman in the fridge though or he’ll die! (apparently). Will bring some when I see you, how exciting!

  9. Jan says:

    How wonderful is Herman! I wonder if he’ll survive on gluten free flour?

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