Fig & walnut (friendship) bread

Photographer: Emma
Makes two loaves

A couple of months ago I was at a friend’s house when I noticed a bowl of batter sitting on their kitchen bench and on top, a single white A4 piece of paper titled ‘German Friendship Cake’. I was fascinated – was this the food equivalent of a chain letter?

Now I’ve known people to have starters bubbling away in their kitchens but some seem like more work than looking after a domestic cat. I’ve also heard how unwilling people are to share their starters so I just love that this is a concept where the creator divides and shares their wares on day 10. What says “you are my friend” better than giving someone a cake mixture?!

My friend’s mixture came from his father and so I initially questioned whether it had been passed through generations, whether I had in fact discovered a centuries-old family heirloom? I didn’t but that would have made a great story.

If you do happen to receive a portion of mixture (aka Herman) from a friend, you can follow my recipe on making it into bread. Alternatively you can stick to tradition and follow the recipe – adding apple and cinnamon.

If you’re not gifted a mixture you can make your own from scratch – just search online for ‘German Friendship Cake’.


Day 1
1 portion of friendship cake mixture (Herman)

Days 2-10
Ingredients as per instructions (however day 9 sees a modification – see method)

Day 10
500g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
240ml tepid water
1 portion friendship mixture (Herman)

1 cup walnuts, chopped roughly
1 cup figs, chopped roughly


Day 1
1. Receive a portion of friendship cake mixture (Herman)

Days 2-9
2. Follow the instructions however on day 9 do not add sugar (only flour and milk).
3. Portion into 4.

Day 10
4. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Alternatively you can use a mixer with a dough hook attachment.
5. Mix the water with the friendship cake mixture (Herman) and pour into the centre of the well.
6. Gradually work the ingredients together. Add a little more water if it seems to dry or more flour if too sticky.
7. Add the walnuts and figs, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.
8. Put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for a couple of hours (until doubled in size).
9. Knock back, then shape into two long loaves. Cover again and leave for another couple of hours.
10. Bake at 220ºC for 20 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.
11. Serve fresh with a soft cheese such as brie or camembert.