Meet Herman the German friendship cake. Someone told me about this chain letter-esque phenomenon that’s been sweeping the country a few weeks ago. You’re given a starter mix (akin to that for sourdough bread) along with a set of instructions, and you spend the next 10 days stirring it once a day and adding stuff to it. Then on the penultimate day you add more stuff, divide it into 4, give away 3 portions and add yet more stuff to the fourth portion on day 10 to turn it into a fabulous cake.
I have to say, I was a little dubious about it at the time, but when I acquired my own starter mix last week I was determined to give it a go. So, this is what my mix looked like on day one:
Doesn’t look that promising, right? But, amazingly, if you keep in a bowl loosely covered with a tea towel, it starts to bubble and rise. I diligently stirred it for the next three days, marvelling at how much it was bubbling each time. I added flour, sugar (I used light muscovado here because I didn’t have any caster sugar at the time) and milk, then continued with the daily stirring until day 9.
I added flour, sugar (caster this time) and milk again, and divided it up. The next day (which was yesterday!) I proceeded to add the rest of the cake ingredients. I chose to follow the original recipe (apple and raisin) but there are lots of variations you can choose from, including chocolate, lemon and almond, Christmas and marble cake.
I used 1 cooking apple instead of 2, because the ones I got were HUGE, and used sunflower oil where the recipe calls for cooking oil. I also (of course) used vanilla extract instead of essence. I would recommend making the optional topping, too, (I used demerara sugar) because it really is the icing on the cake, so to speak!
I put my cake mix in a 20 cm round tin, which is probably the smallest tin you can safely use considering the amount of mixture you end up with. You can use any tin you like, though, as long as it’s big enough. The recipe said to bake for 45 mins, leaving it in for an extra 20 mins if needed, but mine ended up baking for a solid 2 hours!
It was definitely worth the wait, though. I had my first piece while the cake was still warm and it was luscious. I would describe it as a fairly light but very sweet fruit cake, topped with a gorgeously crunchy sugar crust. The pieces of apple are really nice – I now wish I’d put in a bit more!
I love this cake and will definitely try it again! I’m going to freeze the leftover starter mix and try another variation – if I can’t give it away, that is! However, you can also make your own starter mix from scratch, so that’s a definite option too.