If you google Herman Friendship Cake it is basically all over the internet, there is even a whole website dedicated to it. Basically it is a sweet sourdough starter used to make cake, you divide it into 5 portions – make a cake with 1 and distribute the rest to 4 lucky friends. I’d heard of it a while ago and a couple of weeks ago I got my hands on a bubbling pot of Herman starter from Vanessa.
I fed it with milk, sugar and flour, stirred it (not with a metal spoon, very important) and it stunk out the kitchen with yeasty smells for about a week. I’ve tried sourdough before, and whilst it was successful soon my starter started to smell of paint and it didn’t make good bread anymore, so in the bin it went. Maybe my kitchen has the wrong atmosphere?
I wasn’t intending on keeping this starter or passing it on as you are meant to (what can I say, I am greedy) – mainly because I’d never remember to feed this little floury pet every few days for the forseeable future. So about 1/3 went into a Herman friendship cake and the rest into a semi-sweet sourdough loaf (which actually didn’t come out too well but let’s not talk about that…).
I used this recipe here but substituted the oil for cooled melted butter, because you know, butter is better in a cake. I also added four chopped pink lady apples (and a few sliced up on the top) and a generous amount of vanilla extract. The resulting cake is very proper looking – homey, HUGE with a lovely crispy top. Had I had got around to making custard, I’d say it would be great with custard.
The cake has a yeasty taste which isn’t as odd as it seems, to me it tastes a bit like a chelsea bun – which is why I expect the original recipe contains raisins, I think some nuts would be great too.
I now kind of wish I’d saved the starter for more cake, I’ll just have to make more friends with Hermans!