Das ist nicht brot

So, five posts down and I’ve already strayed from bread to write about something else. I’ll justify it by saying that this German ‘friendship’ sourdough cake uses many of the same techniques as a sourdough bread (sort of), and that any cake that tastes this great can be written about anywhere.

The German Friendship Sourdough Cake

A couple of weeks ago I gave a portion of my rye sourdough starter to a colleague who, coincidentally, had brought a tupperware full of German cake starter to work on the same day. Starters exchanged, I spent the next ten days stirring, feeding, watching, and wondering if this cake was going to turn out edible. I generally have mixed success with desserts, and my wife steps in as she is much better at sweets than I; but, I thought, surely a sourdough cake would be as simple as a sourdough loaf, so why not?

Sourdough starter, bubbling away in its fetching green bowl
Sourdough starter, bubbling away in its fetching green bowl

Luckily I was rewarded with an incredibly easy to make and extremely moist, delicious fruit cake, that even I could not manage to burn/undercook/drop on the floor. The point of the German ‘friendship’ cake is to feed up the starter to a point where there is enough to bake your own cake, and give three portions away to friends. Having dutifully forced two containers onto other co-workers, I kept an extra portion to make again, with some slight adjustments to the recipe, which is as follows (the original recipe, including how to make the starter, can be found here):

German ‘friendship’ sourdough cake


  • One ‘portion’ (about 250g) of starter – if you are unable to find someone to inherit the starter from, then you can make your own from scratch and begin harassing your neighbours with the original recipe.
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups warm milk


  • 1 portion of starter, after feeding cycle
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 heaped tsp cinnamon
  • 2 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

The starter feeding cycle

The following assumes that you have been given a portion of starter on ‘Day one’:

  1. Day 1-3: Leave starter in a container at room temperature, with no lid. Stir every day. It should double in size each day until you stir it and knock the air out.
  2. Day 4: Feed with 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm milk, and 1 cup flour. Stir well.
  3. Day 5-8: Stir.
  4. Day 9: Feed with 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm milk, and 1 cup flour. Stir well. Divide into four portions of roughly 250g each. Keep one portion to bake with, and give the other three to unsuspecting friends and family.
  5. Day 10: Bake as follows:

The cake

  1. Line a greased 23cm springform tin with baking paper. Preheat oven to 175°C.
  2. Mix the sourdough starter and the remaining ingredients, folding in the fruit to distribute evenly. The mix should be a fairly wet ‘batter’.
  3. Pour into the lined baking tin and sprinkle the brown sugar and melted butter over the top.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes. Test with a skewer, which should come out clean when the cake is cooked through.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack.
The thick cake batter poured into a greased, lined baking tin before going into the oven
A cake skewer (my wife’s…) inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean when the cake is baked

In the end, quite different from a sourdough bread, but just as flavoursome. Giving the starter a feed with milk and sugar obviously adds a different dimension to the starter than a standard flour and water bread levain. For the 10 days that the start sits in your kitchen, you will notice a sweet, fruity, cider-like smell that you can tell will complement the apple and cinnamon cake. Perhaps one day a portion of this sourdough cake starter will work its way back to me through a friend or a colleague, and I’ll get to make it again. Or perhaps I’ll just make the starter again from scratch next week and have it sooner.

The finished cake