Herman Cake

german waving flagA while ago I was given a Herman friendship cake.  I had never heard of this phenomenon before (much to the surprise of my erstwhile friend) and she explained to me that Herman was a German ‘living’ cake that you nurture and then share/pass to/inflict upon some other friends whilst you bake up a bit of yours into a nice cake for tea.

I duly followed the instructions and rather enjoyed the smell of yeast that filled the kitchen and the bubbling ectoplasm they lay beneath the tea towel…(do try not to get it ON the tea towel cos it’s a bugger to get off).  Come the end of my 10 days I looked at the mixture and could think of not one soul in the vicinity who I could pass the ‘honour’ on to.  So I donated Herman to the bin.  Forgetting to save the bit that I was supposed to bake.

Since then, Herman has come back to haunt me….people have actually exclaimed ‘You killed Herman?’.  Erm…yes.  If throwing some gloop in the bin constitutes the murder of some cake mix then, yes.  I killed Herman.

To make up for this, and perhaps because I’m bored, I feel the need to resurrect Herman the German and at the very least bake him up and scoff him.  It is his destiny to be eaten and passed on and not to line my wheelie bin.  Fear not, I am not resurrecting him as such…more reincarnating him….from some ingredients in my cupboard.

Herman German Friendship Cake
It’s not a pretty sight…

Herman Cake Recipe

To make a Herman cake from scratch you will need to dissolve one packet of active dry yeast (or 2¼tsp) in half a pint of warm water for 10 mins then stir.  In a large bowl carefully mix together with 140g plain flour and 225g caster sugar.  Gently stir in 50ml of warm milk and cover the bowl with a clean tea towel.  Leave in a cool place (but NOT the fridge else you’ll kill him) for 24hrs.

Then start from day 1 of the official Herman Instructions below (these are what you give to your friends with a portion of Herman and a wry smile). Then run before they ask questions.

Official Herman Cake Instructions


Hello, my name is Herman.

I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on.

You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die.  If I stop bubbling, I am dead.

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 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and 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. Stir well and add the following:

225g sugar 

225g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

160ml vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla essence

2 cooking apples peeled, cored & cut into chunks

200g raisins

100g walnuts/almonds (optional)

2 heaped tsp cinnamon

2 heaped tsp baking powder


Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin.

Sprinkle with 50g brown sugar and 50ml melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 180°C.

Then cover in foil and bake for a further 25 minutes to make sure Herman is cooked in the middle.  

Cut up when cold.  The cake freezes well if you’re keen….

Serve as is or with ice cream!


herman the german friendship cake

I have successfully completed my Herman cycle and made the cake (minus the raisins).  I had to cook it for longer than expected and have altered the recipe accordingly.  It wasn’t very cakey – more of a pudding and had I any ice-cream to go with it (I love Haagen-Dazs vanilla) it would have been even better.  As it was, it was nice tasting but not, perhaps, something I’d rush to do again….

It was fun doing it though and over on For Bella and Will there are some great alternate recipes!


13 Replies to “Herman Cake”

  1. Lol it certainly is a ‘living’ cake – alive with germs! We got passed this once, I decided that the germs would be killed in the oven so we all tucked in – surprisingly tasty!

  2. No, no, no, no, no. Never let Herman the German into your house. He carries the germs, bugs, dead skin cells, dirt, snot, saliva and probably tiny weeny aliens that generally live on Bratwurst, of a hundred unknown homes within his sloppy, yeasty self. Sadly, the dog ate my mixture before I was able to cook him (no, really, that was what happened, Your Honour…)

    But, a Virgin, never been touched by unknown hand, Herman? Mmmm. He sounds far more palatable. Perhaps, I’ll sample him. But only because he is unsullied. That Herman who’s been around the block? No. Thank. You. Missus. That one scares the bejesssaz out of me.

    I’ll let you know how Herman the Virgin German and I get on…

    1. They were my thoughts precisely when a tub of grey looking gloop arrived via my ‘friend’. My current bowl of gruel-like mixture has only been sneezed on by me. Joking. Honest. *reaches for hankie*

  3. We have been caught up in the Herman craze but I must say without exception everyone in the village is raving about it and no one has been hospitalized yet with any serious bugs

  4. I hope you people are joking. If you don’t expose yourselves to a few bugs now and again, your immune systems will die – and then so will you.
    Furthermore, the sugar and yeast will sort out the majority of bugs anyway. That is why Herman isn’t rancid or mouldy when you get him.

  5. Our daughter introduced us to Herman a couple of weeks ago. After a few days the “aroma” forced me to re-name him Hermit. We stuck it out and the final result was great. Now Hermit is hidden away on my workshop in case any visitors call in unexpectedly.

  6. i love herman i made 10 until my mixture died non of us were ill and now husband has asked for Herman to come and stay sadly the craze has died down so going to try and make him from scratch…WE LOVE HERMAN..hehe


    Hi, my name’s Hannah, I am a previous parent to Herman and have made it my mission to document his journey from here. Currently a BA Hons Book Arts and Design student at London College of Communication I am taking this journey on as my final project and hope to collate a family photo album of Herman in all the new families in all the new homes he finds himself in.
    Once you have taken him in as your own and raised him until the end I would be so grateful for a family portrait to add to the collection. Just send a photo of yourselves with Herman in whichever baked form he takes with you to my email: hannahmfincham@gmail.com.
    I will let you know when it is done so you can keep an eye out for your family portrait!
    Thank you and good luck with your temporary parenthood.

  8. Sorry to ask an awkward question but… You’ve made a nice sourdough culture and kept it going, but when you make the cake you don’t give it any time to rise. To make up for that you have added baking powder to the cake mix instead. Is the Herman culture just there to give a yeasty flavour to the cake? I was wondering if the same cake mix would be better or worse without the Herman in it?

    1. I believe the Herman culture is less of a live culture and more of a community! I think Herman is all about the passing on, which is why you need the sourdough base. I am somewhat of a Herman novice and, I must admit, it’s not something I will probably do again….

      I do want to do some sourdough recipes though…lots in Paul Hollywood’s book so when I get some P&Q I will have a go properly.

      Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: