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Herman Coffee Cake

Herman Coffee Cake is an easy to make cake with rich warm flavors. Herman Sourdough starter and apples add lovely tart flavors to this cake while the crunchy topping creates a textural contrast. All in all a winner!

Slice of herman coffee cake
Herman Coffee Cake

If you never had a Herman cake or friendship cake then you are in for a treat. It is lightly sweet with a hint of cinnamon and tart flavors. The refreshing tart flavors come from the sourdough starter and tart apples.

Usually when you get ‘Herman Starter’, or a ‘Friendship Bread Starter’ it will be accompanied by instructions to feed and to distribute. Like a culinary pyramid scheme it multiplies and goes on and on and on. That said don’t despair if no one in your culinary circle is into Herman. Here are the instructions to make Herman from scratch.

Typically, I use the Herman starter to make Herman Milk Bread. It is a light sandwich loaf that is perfect for PBJ sandwiches. Sometimes when my baking plans go awry the extra starter is used to make enriched breads or pancakes. This coffee cake is another option that is a well relished treat in the mornings.

Yeasted Cakes

There is yeast in this cake. Yeasted cakes are a cross between an enriched bread and a cake. These are not as soft and moist as cake, and usually have an airier crumb. Because of this bakers often drench these cakes in syrup to make it more soft and moist.

When yeast is the only or the main leavening agent, the cake batter needs to rise a little before baking, just like yeast breads. In this recipe there are eggs and baking powder in addition to the the yeast starter. In other words, there is no need to let the batter rest and rise before baking.

Herman  Coffee cake  in the cake pan with a slice on a plate
Herman Coffee Cake

Role of Starter

In tis recipe Herman starter has the role of a flavoring agent and not that of a leavening agent. The recipe uses baking powder, not baking soda, as the leavening agent. As a rule, when there is acid in the batter baking soda is the leavening agent, as it can react with the acid to create CO2 that helps the final product rise and achieve the desired texture. In this process the acidity of the baked goods reduces as well.

But here I want to keep the light tart flavors in the final product and not neutralize it. Baking powder has the necessary acidic component in it, making a presence of acid in the batter unnecessary. For this reason, baking powder is chosen as the leavening agent.

You could opt for no leavening at all. In that case, the batter needs to be rest until you notice a slight increase in the bulk.  

If you chose to try this route, keep in mind that the rising time will vary depending on the ambient temperature. It is not a good idea to leave the batter at room temperature for long – 30 minutes might not cause any harm, but longer rest times are better in the refrigerator.

To avoid all this (and to save time) baking powder is added to the batter. Once the batter is mixed, transfer to the baking pan, layer on the topping, and into the oven it goes !!!

Batter for Herman Coffee Cake

How To

You will find that this is an easy cake to make.

  • Mix the wet ingredients,
  • Fold in the dry ingredients.
  • Add the chopped fruits and nuts.
  • Transfer to the pan
  • Sprinkle the topping and bake

That is it!

As long as the wet ingredients are blended together fine and the dry ingredients are moistened – no large flour clumps – you are good to go. Isn’t this perfect for a beginner baker!

Cake batter spread in the pan with crunchy streusel topping, ready for the oven
Herman Coffee Cake

I love the crunchy streusel topping. It adds a lovely textural contrast to the cake. This one has oats, nuts and brown sugar and they brown up nicely as the cake bakes.

All the yum flavors of the cake and the sourdough culture in a tray! Isn’t that a great way to start the day!

Slice of herman coffee cake

Herman Coffee Cake

By Syama
This is a lovely cake is made with Herman starter and tart apples. The natural aroma of the Herman starter complements the flavors of apples and creates a lovely Coffee Cake perfect for breakfast. The apples, nuts and the sugars make it an energy boosting snack as well.
4.86 from 7 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 16 Slices
Calories 380 kcal


  • 9 X 11 metal pan


For Cake

  • 2 C Herman Starter Notes
  • 2 C AP Flour
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 ½ Tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • ¾ C Oil
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla extract
  • 2 Cooking Apples (like Grann)y Smith)
  • ½ C Walnuts/Pecans chopped

Streusel Topping

  • ¼ C Walnuts/Pecans chopped
  • 1/3 C Rolled oats
  • ½ C Brown Sugar
  • ½ Tsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ C Butter


  • Lightly grease a 9 X 11 metal pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Peel, core and chop the apples.

Make the batter

  • In a mixing bowl mix the starter, eggs, and oil well. Mix in vanilla and sugar.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the flour to the wet ingredients in batches. Mix well after each addition, making sure that there are no large lumps. Once all the flour is used up fold in the apples and nuts (no need to dust them in flour).

Streusel Topping

  • Mix nuts (if using), rolled oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Rub in the butter to make a slightly moist coarse mix. (Notes)

Assemble & Bake

  • Transfer the batter to the waiting pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter. Bake in the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes. When baked the top will be light brown and a toothpick inserted to the center of the cake will come out dry. If needed bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool in pan over a cooling rack.


  • Use refreshed, and bubbly starter that is at its peak.
  • All Purpose Flour works well in this recipe – there is no need to use cake flour.
  • Double the  streusel topping  if you like more crunch and sweetness.  The amount used in the  recipe is just enough to melt and form a thin crust over the cake. 


Calories: 380kcal | Carbohydrates: 43.3g | Protein: 6.3g | Fat: 20.6g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 111mg | Potassium: 115mg | Fiber: 1.9g | Sugar: 25g | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 2mg

Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.

Tried this recipe?Mention @Oventales or tag #Oventales on Instagram

Need to see the full video recipe? Check out this video- Herman Coffee Cake Herman is fun to experiment with. If you make your own variations,  I would love to hear about it.

Herman Coffee Cake With Streusel Topping

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Recipe Rating


Friday 2nd of October 2020

Hy, awsome recipe, but can you give the ingredients in grams, please?


Friday 9th of October 2020

Hi, Usually these recipes are written for the US and hence the volume measurements. Here are the rough weight equivalences 200 g Herman Starter 240 g AP Flour 8 g Baking Powder 1 ½ Tsp Cinnamon ½ Tsp Salt 200g Sugar 2 Eggs 175g Oil 1 Tsp Vanilla extract 2 Cooking Apples (like Grann)y Smith) 75g Walnuts/Pecans chopped

For the streusel just make enough to lightly cover the cake. This is a rather forgiving recipe and a few grams more or less should not cause any harm.. Hope it helps. - Syama.

Elizabeth Hibbert

Monday 31st of August 2020

I tried this recipe, but with mixed nuts and in a silicone cake mould. Took longer to cook (did the skewer test, to ensure it was cooked). It was moist and amazing.


Tuesday 1st of September 2020

Yay! It is expected that silicone moulds takes longer to bake. Good call to use the tester before removing from the oven.

Happy baking!

Ronak Mehta

Friday 28th of August 2020

I tried out cake with the above recipe. The cake was very soft and tasty. Thank you.