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!
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.
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.
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 !!!
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!
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
- 9 X 11 metal pan
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.
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.