Herman friendship cake

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a blog about Herman the German friendship cake over at the Learner Londoner. Little did I know that a week later I would receive a text from a friend (who lives in the opposite part of the country to the Learner Londoner) asking me if I know what a friendship cake is!!

I first heard of this cake a few years ago from my sister who had received it from a friend. At the time I thought it sounded a bit strange, getting a bit of cake batter from someone and having it sitting in your kitchen for a number of days, while feeding a concision of flour, sugar and milk it ever so often. This was before I developed an interest in sourdough baking, so when I got the text from my friend I was thrilled to have a go at it.

Herman starter

Looking into the history of the cake, it is believed to have it’s roots in the Amish tradition where a sourdough bread or cake was passed around. In the UK it seems to be known as Herman the German friendship cake. In Sweden, where my sister lives, it’s just known as a Herman cake, but it seems to be pretty widespread cake that appears all over the world – it even have websites dedicated to it!

There are a number of different variations of the cake, but I stuck to the ‘original’ recipe which is basically an apple cake. I omitted the raisins though as I’m not that keen on raisins in cakes. I also omitted the sugar and melted butter that can be added on top before baking it, as I didn’t feel it was needed.

Herman friendship cake

The cake is flavoured with cinnamon and a bit of vanilla and it tastes wonderfully! It has a slight tangy after-taste from the sourdough but it is very subtle. I used Bramley apples which added a nice tart contrast to the lovely cinnamon sponge, but sweeter eating apples would be nice too. I did consider adding some cardamom to it as well but didn’t quite have time to peel and grind the cardamom pods I had at home this time (oh, to be able to buy it ready-ground cardamom in the UK – have yet to find it somewhere). If I make it again however, I’ll make sure to add it.

I’m not sure if it was the oil or the Herman starter but the cake kept lovely and moist for several days after being baked. It makes a very large cake, according to the website it freezes well, not that we had the opportunity to try! Although it was mainly me and hubby who ate it, it did disappear remarkably quickly…!

Herman friendship cake_without tin

Here is the recipe for the cake itself. For full instructions of how to care for it when you receive a portion, variations of the cake or how to make your own starter, have a look at http://www.hermanthegermanfriendshipcake.com/
It also has conversion details from cups to imperial and metric.

Herman friendship cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 heaped tsp baking powder
  • half tsp (teaspoon) salt
  • 2 heaped tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil
  • 1 portion of Herman starter
  • 2 cooking apples cut into chunks
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/4 (quarter) cup brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 (quarter) cup melted butter (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 175C and prepare a cake tin
2) Beat sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy
3) Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and mix
4) Add the vanilla extract, oil, starter and apples (and raisins if using) and mix together.
5) Put into a large cake tin. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and melted butter if using
6) Bake for at least 45 minutes. If using a normal round cake tin it will most likely not be ready then as it’s a BIG cake. I put a baking parchment over the cake after about 50 minutes and cooked it for almost 1.5 hours in total. If using a large rectangular cake tin instead 45 mins might be enough.

Slice of Herman cake


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