Herman Coffee Cake

Slice of herman coffee cake
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Herman Coffee Cake is an easy to make cake with rich warm flavors that is a perfect companion for your morning cup of Joe. Herman Sourdough starter and apples add lovely tart flavors to this cake while the crunchy topping creates a lovely 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. No surprise there though as it is made with a 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 excess starter gets utilized in other enriched breads or pancakes. This coffee cake is another option and 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. More often than not these are served drenched in syrup to make up for the dry crumb.

Some yeasted cake batters are left to rise for a little (breathe) before baking. This usually happens when yeast is the only or the main leavening agent. 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.

A slice of Herman Coffee Cake
Herman Coffee Cake

Role of Starter

Herman starter is used more as a flavoring agent here than as a leavening. If you look at the recipe you will see that baking powder, not baking soda, is used as the leavening. As a rule, when there is an acidic component in the batter baking soda is used as the acid in the ingredients serves to activate it creating the rise in the final product.

But here I want to keep the light tart flavors in the final product and not neutralize it. For this reason, baking powder is used as it contains the necessary acidic component.

You could opt for no leavening at all. In that case, the batter needs to be rested until you notice a slight change 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!

Herman Coffee Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
This cake is made with tart apples. It enhances the natural tartness and aroma of the Herman starter and creates a lovely Coffee Cake perfect for breakfast or a snack.
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12
Calories: 390 kcal
Author: Syama
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
  1. 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
  1. In a mixing bowl mix the starter, eggs, and oil well. Mix in vanilla and sugar.
  2. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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.

  2. Remove from the oven and cool in pan over a cooling rack.

Recipe Notes
  • 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. 

Disclaimer: Calorie count provided is an estimate. The actual values vary depending on the ingredients used and  serving size.

Herman is fun to experiment with. If you make your own variations,  I would love to hear about it.

If you try this recipe, I would  love  to hear  about it ! Leave a COMMENT, RATING , share a photo and TAG me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, OR PINTEREST 

Herman Coffee Cake With Streusel Topping

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