A strange sight would have met your eyes, were you to have entered the kitchen of Tea Head Quarters on the morning of the 10th day. I couldn’t get the stamps off the ruined envelopes, so there they sat, limp and discoloured on the draining board to dry while a bowl-full of cake mixture bubbles along contentedly from its prefered spot on the toaster.

We resent the cake again, this time using surgical tape and industrial quantities of string to stop the lids from erupting, while we completed the final stages of the recipe.

Delicious apple cake enjoyed with a cup of tea

After all the excitement of the last few days it’s nice to sit down with a piece of cake and a cup of tea. The end product is delicious, even if the smell has pervaded the entire house for over a week previously.

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At last! Just when we were begining to question how long we could stretch this feature out, the final day is nearly upon us. I get out the address book only to find that I don’t have anyone’s current addresses. Several texts and a ball of string later and here we go:

Herman the german friendship cake ready to dispatch by mail to friends around the country

All wrapped up and ready to go…

I take the packages up on the train with me to London, intending to post them as soon as I can find a box. 4 hours later I’m still carrying them around like a lemon. The security guard at the Tate Modern gives me a token and a very funny look when I go to check them in. I notice a funny smell but put it down to the drains on the South Bank. We’ve still got the blasted things in the bag come the afternoon and we’re in Selfridges when I look down at my coat and notice something sticky. I go to wipe it off but it has the opposite effect. I look down at my shoes and the same sticky residue is evident there too.

Glancing behind me I see a thin trail of slime, stretching out like that of a monsterous snail. People are giving me funny looks and I realise what the smell is. All three mini-Hermans have exploded in their envelopes and are gaily leaking their contents all over the 5th floor.

Cake mixture leaks all over the floor

The 1st attempt did not go well

We managed to talk the management into giving us one of their smart yellow bags, shortly before we are thrown out. We do try to explain that it’s cake mixture but we don’t sound convincing, even to ourselves. We return to THQ with our tails between our now rather sticky legs and rethink our options.

Why you shouldn't send german friendship cakes by post

We repatriate the German friendship cake back into its container and prepare to resend it, this time in rather smudgy, sticky envelopes.

 

Lily takes it to mean 7 or 8 vigorous assaults with a whisk, a fact which I am able to deduce by the spattering of cake mixture all over the boiler, the walls and, remarkably, the ceiling too. Herman is loving all the attention; the bin is not. There is now a sizable dent in the lid from where we’ve been climbing all over it to stir the cake, and there is a bruise the size of a large melon on my left hip.

I’m getting twitchy at this point so while Lily is out in the garden doing whatever she does with old tea leaves I sneakily add some more sugar to rev things up a bit.

Here we are then, Herman is bubbling away in a mixing bowl on top of the toaster, covered in an old tea towel. Still not quit sure what to make of it all.  No-one we speak to appears to have heard of Herman and I ring our friend (who is infact German herself) to make sure this isn’t a joke. She assures me it is not, and I believe her; humour is not her strong point.

There was a dinner party yesterday evening at THQ, to which one of the guests brought the most thoughtful present I can remember. Instead of the usual combination of service station flowers, hand-me-down chocolates or wine from the shop at the end of the road (are we alone here?) she brought…. a small tupperware container of a gloopy, beige-coloured, boozy concoction which she introduced as “Hermann”.

Hermann the German friendship cake on day 1

Introducing Hermann. At this point we still had NO IDEA what it was…

If – as we were – you’re still in the dark then allow me to bring you up to speed with the trend which is apparently sweeping the nation:

Hermann is a live yeast culture which you can start yourself or inherit from friends. The ingredients are basically flour, sugar and yeast and it bubbles away quite happily on you kitchen worktop over the course of 9 days and all you have to do it top it up occasionally with more nutrients and watch it grow. By the 10th day you should have accumulated enough of the mixture to split 4 ways:  3 you are meant to pot up and give to friends of your own, whilst to the fourth you add more sugar and flour, eggs, apples, raisins and cinnamon and bake into a delicious cake.

This is the theory anyway…

Teabacks hung out to dry on a washing line to save money

What lengths will you go to to save money during a recession?

 

One of the best ways to enjoy all the frills of afternoon tea without the expense is DIY. We have been reviewing hotels and tearooms on our website for the last 3 years but still some of our best experiences have been in people’s homes:

Invite a few friends round, either informally over the phone, or make special invitation cards and post them with themed stamps, or tea-stained envelopes.

Dust off your old tea set from the attic or buy a mismatched assortment of pots and cups from a charity shop. Ask around and see if anyone has got three-tiered cake stands, silver sugar tongs, or fancy teapots.

Decorate the table imaginatively – don’t be afraid of the Kitsch, the Naff and the Downright Ridiculous. Gingham, flowers, bunting, silverware, portraits of the Queen. Anything goes.

Ask your friends to make or buy cakes, scones, sandwiches, strawberries, clotted cream, crumpets etc.

For more ideas, and some interesting recipes to try at home have a look at www.noveltea.co.uk.