“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.
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.
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)