Bubbe Lottie loved to entertain. At least once a week she would have
friends in for coffee and cake. Sometimes it would be neighbors, other
times it would be “the girls” from her synagogue. They loved to share recipes
of all sorts, but the most favorite were desserts. One day, someone
presented Bubbe Lottie with a coffee cake and a bowl full of batter.
“This is Herman,” she said. “It’s a friendship cake that I got from
my neighbor. It’s a responsibility. You have to take care of him and
feed and water him and pass him on.”
“Now, wait just a minute,” answered Bubbe Lottie. “It’s enough that I
have to take care of Lester. Who wants to take care of a cake?”
“Taste it,” answered her friend. Bubbe Lottie tasted the cake. It
“Well,” she said. “I’ll give it a try.” And she did for quite
a while, until she and Lester went away on vacation and Herman came to an
untimely end when the refrigerator died while they were gone.
Bubbe Lottie wasn’t sure how she felt about Herman’s demise. It was
true the cake was absolutely delicious and she enjoyed periodically passing
out the recipe along with plastic containers of batter to her many friends,
and yet it was nice to be relieved of the responsibility for his care. She
went on to simpler cakes, but always spoke fondly of Herman, like you talk
about a relative who comes to visit and thankfully leaves before you get
too tired of him.
Herman is a delicious coffee cake that begins with a sourdough starter. The
legend is that it got that name when a little girl, watching her mother “feed”
the starter, decided that since it was a living thing, it needed a name. For
some reason, she chose the name “Herman.” And, as her mother shared the starter
with friends, she also shared the story of its naming.
2 cups flour
3 T sugar
1 envelope dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
Mix with a whisk until smooth. Cover with a towel and set in a warm
place. Stir 2 or 3 times a day for 3 days until bubbly. Refrigerate. Begin
rest of process.
Keep refrigerated. On 1st and 5th day feed
with ½ cup sugar, 1cup flour and 1 cup milk. Stir every day. Mixture
will be lumpy at first. On 10th day, stir and take out 2
cups of mixture—one to keep and one to give to a friend. Bake the remainder
2/3 cup salad oil
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup raisins
Sift dry ingredients together and add after eggs and oil. Beat to
blend. Add nuts and raisins. Pour into greased and floured 9 x
13 pan or two loaf pans. Sprinkle with topping:
1 T flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
- all mixed together with a fork. Bake at 325º for 35 – 45 minutes.
Cool in pan. Freezes beautifully. When “feeding” Herman it is wise to
transfer him to a larger bowl, as he will grow a little each day.