Ten days ago, a friend uttered a sentence that always makes my blood run cold. ‘You’ll love this! You can write about it on your blog.’
Eeek! I was about to break it to her that one woman’s ideal blog-fodder is another’s super-injunction-shattering libel action (we do get a lot of wild gossip at the school gates) when she explained. ‘I’ve been given a cake to look after. And I’m going to give some of the batter to you, so that you can make one too, then pass it on.’
So, it’s a chain cake? Like one of those letters that you’re supposed to photocopy umpteen times and pass on to everyone you know, or else you’ll die a horrible death? ‘Yup,’ she replied. Except, instead of the horrible death part, you get a delicious cake, she promised, pressing into my hands a tupperware container filled with a thick, cream-coloured paste and scampering off to her car. She turned back just before getting in, ‘Oh, and by the way, the cake’s name is Herman.’
Uh? How can a cake have a name? It’s true, I can get very attached to some teatime treats, chocolate cakes in particular, but so far I have stopped short of Christening them. Once I got Herman home, though, I started to understand that he is, indeed, a living entity.
I decanted him into a bowl, as directed by my sheet of instructions, and stirred him gingerly. Immediately, the cream paste started to bubble, so I covered him up with a teatowel and shoved him in a cupboard. Now this runs directly contrary to my instruction sheet – he is supposed to spend ten days bubbling and maturing on the kitchen counter – but I told myself that I was protecting him from the junior cat, who will eat anything in a spirit of adventure. Potato peelings, baked beans, orange peel – cake would definitely be slurped down, even a cake as bizarre as Herman. It wasn’t that I was creeped out by the restless mixture with its pungent yeasty aroma. Oh no.
Two days on, and I am assailed by the smell of Herman every time I open the cupboard. He’s reminding me strongly of the Rascally Cake made by Mr Scumskins O’Parsley, who couldn’t eat anything unless it was ghastly. But, in the name of friendship, I’m going to carry on with Herman’s routine.
I basically have to stir the batter for four days, then add flour and milk, then stir again, then divide into portions and give it to some lucky friends so they can go through the Herman experience themselves. Apparently, Herman cakes even circulated after the Second World War, though some of the ingredients are based on Amish traditions. I hope my Herman is not too closely related to the 1950s cakes. My girls are fussy enough about sell-by dates as it is.
Must dash – I have to stir Herman. I shall keep you posted about his development and report back soon. Unless he climbs out of the cupboard and gets me first …..