The weekend before last, some of my Sydney posse made the trip south for a girls' night. Over lychee martinis and sparkling wine, we cooked and we chatted and we ate, oh, we ate. Amidst all the excitement, one of the ladies - a fellow knitting-baking type - poured a beige substance from a plastic container into a bowl, covered it with a tea towel and set it on the sideboard, muttering something about feeding schedules and fridge avoidance. I didn't think much of it. We were already heavily into the gyoza and peking duck pancakes.
The next day I came across the bowl and the printed instructions beside it. It didn't take me long to realise this was the cake equivalent of a chain letter, or those emails that you have to send to 10 friends within 30 seconds lest your head explode. Only this chain letter had an element of suspense and the very real prospect of a tasty reward at the end.
It was a weighty responsibility. For 10 days I attended to Herman. I stirred him daily and fed him when the instructions told me to. He fermented and bubbled away with an air of nonchalance. At one point a couple of days ago, I noticed an unusual aroma and wondered if someone might have left an open beer bottle lying around. And today, day 10, I got to turn him (or a quarter of him, at least) into a cake - a sourdough German Friendship Cake.
Dense, dark and chewy, filled to the brim with apple and walnuts and cinnamon, Herman was every bit the fresh-baked delight I had hoped for. I am so smitten that instead of giving away the three remaining portions of the sourdough to friends today, as instructed, I kept one for myself to tend to for another 10 days. And the two friends I chose to pass on the
duty bounty today, both keen bakers, took on the challenge with some bemusement, but mostly a good old-fashioned muck-in attitude, aware of the responsibility they were being given and keen to take it on.
I often bake cakes for friends, on special occasions or just because. And I'm getting good at handing out wedges of cake to people when I've got too much at home, due to a recipe or photo commission. That's what I think of when I think of friendship cake. But this - this is entirely different. "Here, friend, take this tub of bubbling ferment, my gift to you. You need to look after it, don't let it die whatever you do. And guess what - in 10 days it will be a cake...except you have to bake it yourself. Enjoy!"
And enjoy I did. Thank you, lovely Beth, for the experience. I'm wondering if this might have been the trial run I needed to finally get a start on my own sourdough bread.
Have you heard of the German Friendship Cake? Has it passed through your town? Have you made it before?