After many days of feeding and stirring good old Herman II it was time to mix him up into a sourdough frenzy. After halving the original starter and sharing the other half I was at the correct level of Herman to pretend that I had been given a starter by a friend and follow the instructions to create the cake…
Place Herman in a big bowl, leave him somewhere warm wearing a tea towel (check)
Day 1 – Stir Herman (I used a wooden spoon as I’m sure I read that its bad to mix sourdough with metal but I may have dreamt this.)
Day 2 – Stir Herman
Day 3 – Stir Herman
Day 4 – Feed Herman (I found I had to use a hand whisk to mix in 1 cup of warm milk, 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sugar and stir well)
Day 5 – Stir Herman (you get the picture…)
Day 6 – Stir Herman
Day 7 – Feed Herman (same as before)
Day 8 – Stir Herman
Day 9 – Stir Herman
Day 10 – Divide Herman into quarters (about 1 cup per quarter) keep one for yourself. Share the other 3 with your friends . (You probably want to give them the instructions too otherwise they might think you don’t like them very much, giving them the gift of smelly fermenting goop)
Now I can’t lie and pretend that I followed these instructions exactly as I forgot to stir him somedays, which I don’t think he was very happy about, as he became a bit solid and lumpy, in a sourdough huff I reckon. Nevertheless I don’t think it did him any real harm.
I did keep him near the radiator which perfumed the kitchen with a hint of brewery. (Lovely if you like beer?) I’m sure this will be the next big thing in parfum from Paris.
I did worry that I killed him (again) as he looked a little flat and bubbless one day. I thought perhaps sugar would help? (It always helps me when I’m feeling a bit flat) I think it did the trick to revive him somewhat. Then following his first feed he perked up no end! All froth and bubbles. Apparently yeast needs flour to eat so it saved HermanII from a sink funeral.
Then for the cake building! This seemed pretty straight forward. The recipe simply lists the ingredients and says mix it altogether. In reality this produces a tough scrambled egg bowl of sourdough cement.
I had thought “Ooh wonderful I’m going to be all traditional and use a Amish recipe and no electrical gadgets. Just me my bowl and a wooden spoon.” Wrong. I had to resort to the electric whisk to beat the lumps out of the mix. I probably shouldn’t have dumped all the flour in at once!
This is the most scientific yet vague recipe I’ve tried to follow. I do enjoy using my Russian doll measuring cups wherever possible but can’t help but feel that its not very precise. How much is 2/3 of a cup of melted butter? Do you measure it out solid or melted? Am I supposed to squash a solid pat of butter into the cup to measure it out? I’m confused, therefore I guess.
Once I worked out the lumps of flour and managed to combine the oil, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and baking powder into my cup of Herman starter I could chop up the 2 apples into bits (definitely the technical term) and stir it in along with a cup of sultanas.
Again the recipe was beautifully non specific. “Pour the mixture into a LARGE greased and lined tin” What shape? I hear you cry? (someone already stumbled across my blog having looked unsuccessfully, I’m sure cos I don’t have the answer, for ‘how big a tin do I need to bake Herman cake?’) I selected my second from biggest round tin merely because I’ve used the biggest one before and it doesn’t fit inside my cake box. See that planning ahead? Excellent logic. It maybe about 20cms in diameter. (But then again I am guessing.)
Now I’ve never poured 2 thirds of a cup of melted butter on top of a raw cake before. It felt a bit wrong. But hey that could be because I guessed how much butter to melt, I just chopped a chunk off and melted it in the microwave. Then sprinkled on some golden caster sugar.
Then for the baking. The recipe says 45mins at 180 degrees C. I reckon this varies quite a bit on what size tin you use as mine took at least 30 mins more until the skewers came out clean and made the kitchen smell all lovely and cinnamony. Very Christmassy just in time for the February snow.
It seems like Herman has been a long time in the making and has taken on a personality of his own. After potting up the mini Hermans and they sat looking at me in a row I started to feel like I was in The Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour feeding Audrey II only to discover at the end he’s multiplied and lurking in the garden, waiting for the next unsuspecting human to feed him…
I don’t want to burden my lovely friends with a Herman. He’s no Audrey II that’s for sure, just a harmless sourdough! I do have 3 Hermans looking for a good home but I’m also quite tempted to keep one to experiment with, perhaps a chocolate chip Herman or Herman sourdough bread?
What’s not to love about a cake called Herman? A cake with a story! A cake with a real history! A cake with heart and steeped in tradition. Sure it might seem a bit weird taking that first bite of Herman. But he actually tastes really good! There’s a slightly sour initial taste, which makes sense and then a lovely apple and cinnamon sponge. It’s really moist yet crumbly on the top. I will never doubt pouring butter on the top of a cake again! Very good served with ice cream or just with a cup of tea! If someone loves you enough to offer you a share of their Herman take it with both hands and pass it on to generations to come!
It has been a bit of a commitment tending to a cake over the past 20 days (counting the creation of the starter, killing it and starting again). But what a life! Devoting himself to pleasing others. That’s my kind of cake. It feels like I’ve been writing The Herman Diaries and soon there will be a film with Johnny Deep as Herman… yet I digress once more. If you’re given the chance of a Herman give it a go! What have you got to lose?! Embrace the Herman. You know you want to.
Things that I used…
1 cup (quarter) of the original Herman Starter
2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup raisins
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
50g butter (melted)
a generous sprinkling of golden caster sugar for the top
1 “Large” round cake tin (9 inch)
1 hour 15 baking time at 180 degrees C