Ten days ago my friend Sarah handed me a tupperware box and a sheet of instructions. In the tupperware box was a living and breathing Herman. Let me explain, Herman is a starter for a cake, a bit like a sourdough starter. You sit him on the sideboard in a large bowl and stir him daily, (talking to him is optional), and feed him occasionally. After ten days of love, care and chatting you add more delicious things to him, pour him into a cake tin, put him in a hot oven and then eat him. Poor old Herman. There is still some of the original starter though for you and two of your friends, so don’t feel too bad for Herman, he lives on.
I love the concept of Herman and I wonder how old my starter is and where it originated and how many people have lovingly tended to him in their kitchens and enjoyed his cakey loveliness.
My spare Hermans are going to my friend Nichola and my niece (the latter doesn’t know about it yet, so I hope she is ready for some Herman love).
If you would like to start your very own Herman so that you can spread cake happiness this is how:
460g plain white (all purpose flour)
500ml warm milk
90ml warm water
2 tbsp easy bake yeast
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, cover loosely with a clean tea towel (it will need the wild yeasts in the air to stay alive), and place in a warm place.
Once you have your starter, either your own or one from a kind friend then you need to follow these instructions.
Make sure Herman is in a large bowl, loosely covered with a clean cloth and in a warm place
Day two and three
Give Herman a good stir with a wooden spoon
Herman needs feeding. Add the following ingredients:
1 cup (120g) plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup (225g) caster sugar
1 cup (225ml) milk
Stir Herman well and cover again with his cloth.
Day five, six, seven and eight
Each day give Herman a good stir with a wooden spoon
Herman needs to be fed again so repeat the ingredients from day four and give him a good stir.
Divide the mixture into four portions, save one portion for making the cake on Day 10, give two portions away to friends and save one portion so you can make Herman again in ten days time.
Make Herman into a delicious cake.
You will need to add:
1 cup (225g) caster sugar
2 cups (240g) plain (all purpose) flour
two-thirds cup (150ml) cooking oil (I used groundnut)
2 heaped tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Then you can add any of the following:
2 tsp cinnamon (I did)
2 tsp mixed spice
¼ cup (40g) nuts (I added hazelnuts)
1 cup (150g) raisins or sultanas
½ cup (60g) chopped chocolate (I did but won’t next time, it just isn’t to my taste with the apples and the cinnamon)
pineapple chunks, cherries, or anything else that takes your fancy.
Mix everything together well, pour into a large greased tin (my instructions say a large roasting tin, I used my cake tin that measures 26cm x 26cm)
Sprinkle ¼ cup (80g) melted butter and ¼ cup (3 tbsp) soft brown sugar over the top of the cake and place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 of the middle shelf of the baking oven of the Aga for 35-45 mins until it feels springy to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack. Taste the love in every bite.
Thank you Sarah for giving me Herman.