Cake Anyone?

by Sarah on December 15, 2010

easy cake

“Would you like some cake?” inquired my future mother-in-law.

“No thank you” I said.  That was the wrong answer.

I was expected to be served a nice slice of cake, but instead I had to watch my boyfriend devour a ganache covered, nut studded, multi -layered masterpiece.

When I tell this story to friends, some say “but you said you didn’t want any!”

 I thought was being extra polite by refusing the offer and had no idea that I would be taken seriously.  How could I? From my experience, mainly through my family, things worked a little differently. For example if I went to visit my grandmother she would invariably ask me if I wanted to eat about five seconds after walking in. It was a redundant question since whatever I said, she always gave me a steaming bowl of delicious food.

That, for me, illustrates the difference between Ashkenazi Jews, those originating mainly from Eastern Europe and Russia and Mizrahi Jews who immigrated from the Middle East and North Africa. The food culture of Mizrahi Jews (also known as Sephardic) is one of great generosity, making all others look stingy in comparison. The Ashkenazi might be just as hospitable but for them their offers should be taken at face value. I repeat, you will not be given a slice of cake if you say you don’t want any (this may seem more than obvious to some). Since then I have learned my lesson and have eaten a countless number of delicious cakes made by my wonderful mother-in-law.

Of course, in many families these cultures have merged over time to create a middle ground,  one that reflects both the Eastern and Western food cultures.

easy cake

Easiest, Fastest and Best Coffee Cake Ever

Here is an easy recipe to make whenever you are expecting guests and are press for time. It is also perfect for Israel’s ongoing butter shortage since it uses only heavy cream. This recipe, with modifications, comes from Carine Goren’s Sweet Secret dessert book which I highly recommend.

4 eggs

2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream (38% fat) 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups (280 grams) self-rise flour

For the topping

200 grams slivered almonds

3 teaspoons honey

Turn the oven on to 170°C. Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ones in another (eggs, vanilla, cream). Mix the contents of each bowl, separately. Pour the cream mixture into the flour and mix well with a whisk (no stand mixer needed). Pour the batter evenly between three English cake pans or one 26 cm diameter baking pan. Scatter a handful of almonds over the top and drizzle a spoonful of honey. C’est tout. Serve with tea or coffee and give some to your guests (whether they want it or not)

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin from Israel December 15, 2010 at 1:47 pm

That does look like a good recipe for the arsenal.

An Irish friend of mine tells the story of going to the US for the first time and being offered a cup of tea. He said no thank you, and was shocked that he then did not receive tea – in his culture you’re expected to refuse the first few offers, until the host starts saying things like “oh, it’s no trouble, I was just going to make one for myself”. He couldn’t understand why he didn’t get any tea LOL.

My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!


Sarah December 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I’d get along with the Irish then :-)


Yael December 15, 2010 at 2:05 pm

It’s the same with Japanese culture, there you must refuse or you’ll appear an impolite pig. I laughed since I’m familiar with Yudith’s cakes and how much she’s proud of them.


Sarah December 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm

sometimes it might be good to risk being rude to make sure you get the cake! (especially if it’s a multilayer fudge affair) ;-)


Sharon December 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm

What do you mean that Ashkenazim don’t force feed? My great-aunt would badger you and empty out the contents of her refrigerator onto the kitchen talbe until you ate something. And she wasn’t a good cook. The recipe looks lovely.


Sarah December 15, 2010 at 9:57 pm

maybe she’s sephardic in disguise? In general though, from what I have read and my own personal experience there is a culture difference. Of course there’s always lots of overlapping


OneHungryHusband December 16, 2010 at 9:24 am

My wife couldn’t find almonds, so she used butter beans instead. They look the same. Is that OK?


Sarah December 16, 2010 at 9:42 am

it might work, you can also try Egyptian brown beans (also known as ful), no need to cook them, sprinkle them on top for a crispy crunch (and they look just like milk chocolate! the kids will love it) ;-)


wife of hallachic traveller December 16, 2010 at 11:27 am

in the past, i didn’t really read blogs, but over a year ago someone said ‘have you seen sarah’s blog?’ and since then i go in every so often when i have a free moment. lately i’ve had more free moments and i’ve been going into your blog to more frequently to:
1) see your breathtakingly beautiful photo’s – cos they’re amazing
2) read your stories – which almost always bring a smile to my face
3) ignore your recipes – cos, no offence, cookings not my thing

i am one of those ashkenazi’s…. and if someone says ‘no thank you’, then fine by me, it’s a ‘no’. and it has taken me a while to understand that other people don’t understand that my ‘no thank you’, actually means ‘NO! thank you’.

i am also english. and when you wrote that this was the easiest, fastest and best coffee cake ever that needed an english cake pan – i thought that after all this time drooling over your food photo’s – now was the time to take a leap of faith and follow one of your recipes.

i want you to know that it was delicious. really and truly. and my kids LOVED it.

but sarah, i’m sooooo embarassed.
i obviously did something wrong because once in the oven – it took on a life of it’s own and exploded out of my very english cake pan.

my husband was hovering over me (i blame him of course…) and was far too amused for my liking. he said, some people are born to be great in the kitchen – and others – well, we must develop other talents :-)

you once offered to come to my house and show me how to cook…. is that offer still open?


Sarah December 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Thank you Wife of HT,
My boys would have loved your exploding cake, much more exciting than the plain variety.
2nd, you are an amazing cook, don’t forget I tried your lasagna. And you are right, I should write a post about things that haven’t succeeded. Like the homemade noodles that I made last week that stuck to the surface of the kitchen counter like superglue.


Yael the Finn December 16, 2010 at 12:44 pm

What a lovely story:-)

And your cake looks delicious! The butter problem has been going on too long already……


honeybeecooksjackfruit December 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Entertaining story, and gorgeous pictures! Wow. I would love a slice of that decadent cake.


Katie December 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

This post brought back some awkward memories! My in-laws take everything at face value unless it’s from me. They know by now I can’t help but say no a few times. They do tend to push food at everyone though — the first meal I ate with my mother in law involved her all but forcing me to eat too much while simultaneously reminding me that I would get fat.


Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger) December 19, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Wonderful story, lovely photos. As an Ashkenazic Jew and avid cook/baker, I laughed aloud as I read this! Absolutely true: if you say you don’t want to try a dish, I assume you don’t want to try it! Otherwise, wouldn’t you ask for a piece of cake / bowl of soup / slice of challah? Thanks for an entertaining post!


April December 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Terrific looking recipe – I am planning on making this coffee cake soon, but would like to know how long to bake it for; say…. 20-25 minutes? Thanks!

Lovely blog!


Sarah December 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

thanks April, until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35-40 mins in my oven, a bit more for a 26 cm cake pan. Remember that the cake expands in the oven so make sure the cake pan is high enough.


April December 22, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Great! Thanks for the quick reply. I’m off to give this a whirl. Blessings to you. :0)


Cindy December 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm


I would really love to try making it. Can you let me know the approximate time to bake it for in the 26cm cake pan?



April December 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Ok, I made the cake today! This is BY FAR the best coffee cake! The texture and taste were so AMAZING, and it’s the easiest recipe to throw together!!! Thank you, Sarah, for posting this. I now have a coffee cake with wow factor. :0)


Sarah December 22, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Thank you for getting back to me! So happy it worked out well for you and it didn’t explode like it did for one reader (I was told her second cake came out well)


Cindy Conrad December 24, 2010 at 12:20 am

Great! Thanks for the quick reply. I’m off to give this a whirl. Blessings to you. :0)


OysterCulture December 29, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I loved this story, as I grew up with the no means no and now am learning about the no means maybe…yes. Its an interesting transition and I appreciate the explanations about some of the different cultures. I love the looks of this coffee cake, and reading through some of the comments, it sounds like its a bonus if you get an explosion. =) As always the photos are stunning and I feel like I cracked open one of my favorite food magazines.


Sarah December 29, 2010 at 11:22 pm

thanks oysterculture!


Zoe January 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

This looks delicious! I can’t wait to try!

Although, I gotta say, I’m an Ashkenazic Jew and I know my mother will insist on giving you food no matter what. Although, she discourages the practice of asking someone if they want any- she just gives it because *of course* they are hungry! But if she does ask and you say no she’ll keep praising the food and insisting that you *must* be hungry until you relent and (not so reluctantly) take the third helping of brisket!

My family may be Ashkenazic but my mom loves Sephardic food so this looks like it’ll be a hit at Shabbos lunch tomorrow.


Sarah January 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I would love to eat at your mother’s house one day, she sounds exactly like my grandmother! (except the brisket of course)


Marilyn January 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I have tried this recipe twice, first time with the whisk and that failed terribly, the whole cake did not rise and the second time i used the standmixer and it did rise but the cake kinda fell but just on the sides….i really dont know what i did wrong here. I really like the concept of this cake, quick and easy but it just does not agree with me, unfortunately :(


Sarah January 16, 2011 at 7:35 am

sorry it didn’t come out, I also have trouble with recipes made for American kitchens. Strange that for some it rose too much and for you it didn’t rise at all. Did you use self-rise flour?


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