Thursday, 23 February 2012

Herman the German Friendship Cake

‘I’ve got something for you,’ said a friend at work. ‘It’s a Herman.’

‘It’s a what?’ I asked, staring in bemusement at the tub of goo being pressed into my hands, along with a photocopied sheet of instruction.

‘A Herman!’ she replied. ‘It’s a German friendship cake. Follow the instructions and then pass it on.’

Ah. I thought. It’s like a chain letter, only one you can eat. A chain letter with no horrible consequences, apart from... I looked again at the mixture. What exactly was in this, again?

The instructions stated that he is a sourdough cake, and that you can't put him in the fridge or he'll die. If he stops bubbling, then he is dead.

I frowned. Herman’s immediate future didn’t look good. Still, with the greatest will in the world, I took him home, announced him as the new house guest and made him comfortable.

‘Here you go, Herman’, I said, popping him into his new bowl, aware that I was already making a fatal error.

You see, I’m not very good when objects are anthropomorphised. I get horribly sentimental and then refuse to part with them. And now, not only did I have to keep Herman alive, but at the end of his sojourn with me I was expected to eat him.

And so began a peculiar ten days of Herman related activity and enquiries after his health. Was he still alive? Just about. We’ll keep quiet about the day I forgot him. Has he been stirred? Yes, either very early in the morning as the cats clamoured to be fed, or very late at night (with the cats still clamouring. My cats default position is to clamour as soon as anyone steps foot in the kitchen. Pavlov would have saved himself an awful lot of time if he’d just shared his home with a cat.)

But Herman was a fairly easy addition to the household, I have to admit. He didn’t require any scales, for one thing. None of this two confuddled ounces and sixty confusing milligrams nonsense. Instead everything was a ‘cup’ of plain flour, a ‘cup’ of sugar. Marvellous. I was beginning to think that this Herman may yet live to be eaten another day.

Not only that, but you can easily make up a song about Herman, set to the tune of Madness’ Driving In My Car:

Herman’s hiding in his bowl / It's not quite a casserole.

On Herman’s Day of Reckoning, I felt a bit sad. Poor Herman, I thought, giving him a final stir. And then I tasted him (just as the cats default is to clamour, mine is to taste-test ALL cake mixture). Mmm, I thought. There was no denying it. My Herman tasted damn fine. And that was all the impetuous I needed to shove my weird cake pet into the oven.

The friendship part of Herman is that just before you cook him, you divide the mixture into three or four and give some to friends. So the Son of Herman also found his way to an oven (and again, tasted gorgeous.)

Herman Junior, photo from the lovely Kerry Lucy

I am now addicted to Hermans and volunteered to take the grandson of my original Herman home with me. I'm not quite sure where this will end, blogger buddies. I have the feeling Herman may always be found bubbling away under a tea-towel in my kitchen.

Bwhahahahaha! Herman Lives!

Instructions for Herman the German Friendship Cake

My Herman was soya-free - substitute olive oil for vegetable oil, and use apricots instead of raisins. Yum!


Christina Lee said...

HA--love this!!

Al said...

We had a similar thing passing around down here a few years ago (I don't think it was called a "German" friendship cake). The idea was to divide the mix and pass it on to two friends.

Old Kitty said...

I did my Herman last year!! Loved my Herman - didn't come out as nicely as the ones in these pics here though! LOL!! Oh but it was fun looking after him - and he tasted very nice too! LOL!! That sounded so rude!!

Enjoy your Herman! Take care

Christine Rains said...

Hehehe! This made me laugh. I'm curious to try a Herman now.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

It's a lovely idea!

Debbie said...

Wunderbar! Das ist gut.

snafu said...

Sounds good I have printed a copy of the recipe. Liked your description of your cats. Never had any like that but my sisters cat fits your description. LOL

Mimi said...

What a lovely idea!
Glad you were a beneficiary!

Maria Zannini said...

I'd heard of this tradition, but I never knew it had a name.

Loved the story that went with it. :)

KarenG said...

A few years ago someone gave me one of the friendship cakes. I followed the instructions but when I tried passing it along to my neighbors they all refused, saying they didn't have time for it. Hmmph! So I used all the starters myself and made cake after cake, and it kept growing and growing, with cakes filling my kitchen and my freezer. My youngest sons were thrilled beyond words. They invited all their friends over to eat cake. One of my sons named that time "the summer of endless cake."

Out on the prairie said...

My grandma used to make this, the Amish passed it around

floweringmama said...

I've never seen this done as a cake before, yum!

The Golden Eagle said...

I've heard of Hermans before--fun post! :)

Happy Frog and I said...

I was offered 'The Herman' to look after a few months ago and while I loved the cake I did feel concerned that I would 'kill' him before he made the cake stage. So glad it worked out for you.

Maggie May said...

I've heard of this before but have never experienced one! Great idea though.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Betsy Love said...

Looks delicious! I did the whole friendship bread thing once. That was a lot of fun.

Dolly said...

Oh Jayne my dear you have me laughing outloud over this post. It is excellent, how I love the humour in your writing.

Never ever heard of a Herman...maybe they have not crossed the Irish Sea yet ???