Friday, February 7, 2014

Using a sourdough cake starter for everything

Since I first recieved my sourdough cake starter "Herman", I have been enjoying experimenting with using it to make cakes, pancakes and biscuits (cookies).  I can adapt just about any recipe to Herman, and he adds a slight sour tang and creates a light fluffy batter.  Here's what I do to adapt a recipe, just use all the same quantities, but combine them in a different order:
  1. Melt the butter in a pot over a low heat.  Stir in the flour, rapadura (sugar), and flavours (cocoa, ginger, spices), and add a slurp of Herman and any other liquids, put on the lid and leave the mixture at room temperature for a few hours (you can start this in the morning and bake in the afternoon, or even put it all in the fridge after a few hours and bake it later the next day, just depends on the outside temperature, in winter you could probably leave it out overnight).
  2. When you're ready to bake, add the egg and a good heaped tablespoon of baking soda (leave out the baking powder).  The baking soda is enough to rise the batter because the fermentation has made the batter acidic and the baking soda is alkaline, when the two mix, they produce carbon dioxide (and water and a salt) which rises the batter (baking powder contains both baking soda and citric acid, and works in the same way, if you add baking powder to water you will see it bubble as the carbon dioxide is released).
Herman is very easy to care for.  I keep Herman in a jar in the fridge, where he lasts for weeks between baking.  Every few weeks I either use some Herman to bake something or I just tip about half of it down the sink (boosting the microbes in our septic tank), and top up the jar with a few spoonfulls of flour, rapadura and some milk.  I give it a good stir, leave it out at room temperature for a day and then put it back in the fridge.

Apple and berry cake
Actually the other week I left him a bit too long and he had a nice layer of blue mould growing on top.  I thought maybe I'd finally killed him, but I decided to try to revive him, so I scraped off the mould, added flour, rapadura and milk and left the jar on the bench, and a few hours later Herman was bubbling away like his old self.  I was intending to throw out the first batch and top him up again, but it smelt fine, so I went ahead and baked a cake instead.  You just have to trust your nose with fermentations!

The advantage of fermenting with Herman before baking is that some of the protein and carbohydrate in the flour and sugar is pre-digested, like with sourdough bread, so its easier to digest.  Also I swear it produces a fluffier cake, without any "creaming" (I don't have a cake mixer, but I suppose its good arm exercise if you have to do it).  And its kind of fun to ferment.

If you want your own Herman, you can try to find someone who will give you some of their's, or you can try to make your own (its not ideal, because is based on commercial yeast rather than wild yeast, but I'm sure you get a bit of everything in there after a while!).


  1. Oh you have got me thinking about making another sour dough starter. I am also wondering if perhaps I didn't accidently kill my last one and it was still alive but I didn't know. In my last sour dough 'phase' we had sour dough chocolate cake and my children commented that it 'felt like they hadn't eaten it ' and it 'isn't still sitting in my stomach'-which is teenage speak for they digested it quickly.Sour dough cultures really do make things easier to digest...which means, I think that we could probably have two pieces of chocolate cake rather than one.

    1. yes, that's what I find too, easier to digest, you can have two pieces, but when the cake is gone you have to start all over again....

  2. I have several portions in my freezer. I just take one out when im in the mood, wait for it to defrost, give it a feed and off i go again stirring and feeding for 10 days. At the end of this time, i usually give portions away or freeze some, making one into a glorious cake of some description. I love Herman.

  3. I've recently started to bake with Herman too.
    I treat mine different to yours though. I don't keep it in the fridge. It sits in a bowl on top of my fridge covered with a tea towel, stirred and fed and then baked on day 10.
    I manage to get 2 large square cakes, 4 loaf cakes or 4 doz muffins from each batch. Certainly enough to get us through the next 10 days.
    Soon I'll start experimenting with scrolls, breads, pancakes and biscuits

    1. you must have more people to feed that I do!

  4. Sourdough, wine and kimchi - both on my blog in the past, and my new thing is fermented grain for the chooks! Might have to do a post on that this week sometime :) I have friends who are gluten or lactose intolerant and yet after fermentation these items change and their bodies are able to process them! Its the best

  5. yes, do post, and share the fermenting fun!

  6. I also have been storing portions of Herman in my freezer, but I LOVE your idea of keeping one in a jar in the fridge, as I store my bread starter. Am taking one of the portions out of the freezer right now & will keep in a jar so I can whip up a cake on the spur of the moment, rather than have to plan a day ahead. After all, when the cake bug bites, I just want to make it that same day. Thanks for another great tip. :)


Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at

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