Herman, tucked up in his box, was in fact a sour dough starter for something called "A Friendship Cake". I am quite surprised I have never come across him before as he has obviously been around for years but I'm glad I have now made his acquaintance.
The idea is, for 10 days you follow the care instructions, which largely just involves a daily stir with a wooden spoon. On the fourth and nineth days he needs feeding with flour, sugar and milk. This allows the yeast within the mix to keep on reproducing as well as adding to the bulk of the mix. On the 10th day Herman is divided into 5 equal portions. One of these can be used to make a cake, whilst the remaining 4 can be given away to friends to continue the chain. It is, in fact, like a cake chain letter but without the menace.
The whole idea instantly appealed to me. Firstly I was pleased that someone had decided to give a "friendship cake" to me. Secondly, I had never made a cake based on sour dough so I was looking forward to experimenting with this new cake making technique. And finally, I liked the idea that I could pass on "friendship cakes" at the end.
My girls were fascinated with the whole idea too and asked after Herman daily, checking that I was caring for him appropriately. It was like having a pet but with the added advantages of only having to care for it for 10 days and getting to eat it at the end!!
I had always seen the 10th day as the end of Herman but of course I was wrong to think like that. I was merely a link in the chain and Herman was passed on to more people on the 10th day. I was pleased by the response that I got from the friends I passed Herman onto. He does seem to bring delight into people's lives, as long as you choose your friends appropriately! I also decided to keep one of the little Hermans to start off another one. However, the girls decided this one ought to be called Hermione as it made more sense for Hermione to have babies than a Herman!
The recipe I was given ended in a fruit cake, made with a little mixed dried fruit and two grated apples. Perfect for me as I was able to use a couple of apples from my stored harvest. But upon googling Herman I discovered a whole load of different end recipes for Herman, hence why I decided to keep Hermione for myself.
The fruit cake version was lovely. I cooked it in a 2lb loaf tin but obviously slightly overfilled the tin with mixture as Herman managed to have another baby in the oven, producing a blob on the bottom tray of the oven. As it happened, this blob cooked perfectly so that night when the girls got in from school we ate Herman's baby, "The Blob", leaving an untouched loaf of Herman intact for Steve when he got home. We all enjoyed the cake and it was eaten up within 3 days, whilst Hermione continues to grow in her bowl.
Below is the instructions for Herman. Should you not be lucky enough to have a Friendship Cake delivered to you, you can google for a Herman starter and become the start of a whole new chain.
HERMAN THE FRIENDSHIP CAKE
Herman is a friendship cake which you can’t buy, but you can give him away. He grows slowly but surely because of the yeast in him. It is usually 10 days before you can eat him.
Herman doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge and doesn’t require a lid – just covering him with a tea towel is sufficient. Herman grows at room temperature.
If you would like to spread a little friendship follow through instructions below and at end of 10 days you will have a cake to eat and four starter kits to pass on.
If you cannot wait to have your cake and eat it, go straight to day 10, but you will forego the opportunity to pass on some friendship.
Day 1: Today Herman is given to you. Put him in a big bowl (At least 4pt capacity). Cover Herman loosely so he can breathe. A tea towel or loose lid is ideal.
Days 2 & 3: Stir Herman 2-3 times a day with a wooden spoon (do not use metal, and which you can leave in the bowl)
Day 4: Herman is hungry. Give him the following:-
200g self-raising flour
Days 5, 6, 7 & 8: Stir Herman 2-3 times a day.
Day 9: Herman is hungry again. Give him the same ingredients you gave him on Day 4. Stir well then divide him into 5 equal parts. Give 4 baby Hermans away with a copy of this sheet. (or keep one back for yourself to grow and redistribute to other friends) Keep the 5th portion to bake.
Day 10: Herman is absolutely starving. He needs a holiday. He likes to go to a hot resort. The oven is his favourite. Pre-heat oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan-assisted oven) and grease a cake tin generously. Prepare him for his holiday using one of the following:-
1. Fruit cake Recipe:
150g self-raising flour,
100g finely chopped nuts/raisins,
100g light muscovado sugar
half teaspoon of baking powder,
2 teaspoons cinnamon,
3 eggs, 2 grated apples,
Bake in loaf tin or 9” x 9“ cake tin
2. Chocolate Cranberry Cake Recipe: 150g self raising flour, 250g sugar,100ml oil, 1/2tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1tsp ground cinnamon, 1½ tsp baking powder, 2 eggs, 3 oz melted semi-sweet chocolate, 100g semi-dried cranberries. Bake 30-35 mins in loaf tin or 20-25 mins in two 8-inch sandwich tins, and sandwich together with cream &/ thick cooked cranberries sauce .
3. Double chocolate Cake: ¾ cup butter at room temp,1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 4 eggs, ½ cup unsweetened cocoa, 1½ cup self raising flour, ½ tsp salt, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, ½ cup chopped nuts. Bake in 9 inch square pan.
4.Ginger Cake :150g self-raising flour,1½ tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp bicarbonate soda, pinch of salt, 125g golden syrup, 60g finely chopped stem ginger, 1 tbsp ginger syrup from stem ginger jar, 2 heaped tbsp sultanas, 75g dark muscavado suger, 2 eggs, 150 ml milk, 75 ml butter at room temp/softened in microwave
Mix everything together and pour into a very well greased cake tin. Bake for 40 mins to one hour, depending on your tin. Cool in tin for 10 mins then turn out.