Little Orphan Herman

Little Orphan Herman

One fine morning, delicious.magazine’s publisher, Adrienne found a little tub on her doorstep with a note:



Always one to take in waifs and strays, Adrienne took little Herman into her family . She followed the instructions and looked after him just as asked. Finally, when it was time, she made him into a cake. 

We’d been hearing all about Herman and were intrigued. A little investigation turned up some lively chatter on foodie internet forums – Herman (often Herman the German) and has been slowly moving around the country. And like Marmite he’s divided the nation – people either like him or they hate him. But who or what is Herman?

Herman is a sourdough starter which you look after for 10 days, then use to make a cake. Before baking, you divide the starter up and pass most of it on to other people – it’s known as a friendship bread. It’s an edible chain letter and those with long memories can probably recall something similar doing the rounds in the 1970s and 80s.


Friendship bread is thought to originate from the early American pioneers and the tradition has been maintained by Amish communities. The starter was used to make a range of sweet, spiced bread and cakes and what was left of the original starter was then passed around the community for others to cook, hence the term ‘friendship bread’.

Luckily, Adrienne did her duty and brought a young Herman into the office for us to try.

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