$5 Friday: German sourdough friendship cake

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This is a friendship cake.  It is meant to be shared.  Not just eaten with friends, but the essential ingredient is designed to be shared as well.  This cake is based on the Herman the German Friendship Cake method and recipe.

German streusel cake with nectarines

Sourdough in breads is now quite common.  But you can make sourdough for cakes as well.  This is based on a traditional German streuselkuchen.  The streusel refers to crumbs – traditionally it is made with crumbs on top although I quite liked the brown sugar and butter mixture I used.  The starter is designed to be shared. Once you get a good starter bubbling, the idea is to share a portion of it with friends and then keep it going.

Plastic container with sourdough starter in it
German sourdough starter
Sourdough starter bubbling and ready to use
Bubble, bubble

My starter was given to me by my friend Amanda.  She gave it to me as a gooey mess in a small container; I forgot to take it home and within a day it had grown and was almost falling out of the container.  Awkward at work.  The starter is a living entity; don’t put it in the fridge, but rather leave it on the benchtop, feed it regularly and stir every day.  It likes a diet of one cup flour, one cup sugar and one cup of milk.

I topped my Herman cake with fruit.  At first, I tried apple and blackcurrant jam, then nectarines and finally (my favourite) foraged cherries.  The cherries are from ornamental cherry trees planted for their flowers and common in Canberra.  The small fruits are sour yet edible; sprinkle on some sugar and leave to macerate (i.e. bring all the juice out) for around half an hour before using.  While tart, they add a lovely contrast to the cake.

Ornamental cherries sprinkled with sugar
Ornamental cherries sprinkled with sugar: tart but a nice contrast in the cake
With cherries on top - ornamental cherries on top of friendship cake mixture
With cherries on top – ornamental cherries on top of friendship cake mixture
The finished cherry cake
And the finished cherry cake

I found this made one generous, large cake.  The second time I made it I split it into two: one cherry cake and a second nectarine slice, made in advance for the Rotary Club of Canberra’s Senior Concert this Sunday.

Apple and blackberry jam friendship cake
Apple and blackberry jam friendship cake

To make the starter:

It is much easier if someone gives you some of their starter mix, in which case you feed it once every four days.  Otherwise, you can start one from scratch:

150g plain flour
225g white sugar
1 packet (usually around 7g) dry yeast
275ml warm milk
55ml lukewarm water

Combine all ingredients. Make sure the milk and water are only lukewarm; too hot and it will kill the yeast.  Place in a bowl or large container and cover with a tea towel or cloth.  Do not put a lid on.  Leave for at last 24 hours, then stir every day for four days. It is then ready to use.



1 cup sugar
2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
200ml cooking oil or melted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups Herman the German sourdough starter
fruit to top
2 teaspoons baking powder

Topping (optional)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar


  1. Combine the sugar, flour, salt and oil.  Stir in the eggs and vanilla, then fold in the sourdough starter.  This is quite a rustic cake – no need to beat or do anything fancy.

    Mixing the cake batter
    Mixing the cake batter
  2. Spoon into one large or two small pans.  Top with fruit and sprinkle with sugar.  If using the topping, melt the butter and brown sugar and drizzle over the top.

    Uncooked friendship cake topped with apple and blackberry jam
    Friendship cake topped with apple and blackberry jam
  3. Bake in a medium hot oven (around 160C) for around thirty minutes or until cooked.
Cherry friendship cake on a polka dot plate
Cherry friendship cake for afternoon tea
Foraged cherry friendship cake
Foraged cherry friendship cake

So how does it taste?  Well, two sets of friends who stopped over for afternoon tea thought it was quite nice.  The texture is interesting: not as sweet or buttery as most cakes, and dense yet light at the same time.  Not quite cake, not quite bread. Unique, and I think I need another slice to decide.

Would you like to bake a friendship cake?  If you are in Canberra let me know and I will share some with you.  It is made for sharing:)

Prices based on ALDI:

Sugar:  20c
plain flour: 20c
salt: 5c
oil:  75c
eggs:  55c
vanilla: 20c

Topping: 40c

Total:  $3.20 or $3.60 with topping


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