An Israeli apricot cake with an Austro-Hungarian soul
Shared by Anat Abramov
Recipe Roots: Chernivtsi, Austro Hungarian Empire > Haifa, Israel > Tel Aviv, Israel
Though Yaacov and Betty Abramov were from the same hometown of Chernivtsi, in a part of present-day Ukraine that was once the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the couple-to-be didn’t know each other in the old country. They were even members of the same Zionist youth movement, but Yaacov and Betty only met after immigrating to Israel—his family came in the 1920s, hers in 1933.
After they married, the pair settled in a German-speaking community on Mount Carmel, in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. “They spoke German with friends and Hebrew with their children, and German when they didn’t want the kids to understand,” recalls their granddaughter Anat Abramov, who lived in Jerusalem but grew up visiting their home.
Betty had acquired a reputation as a consummate host and an excellent cook, and most of her specialties reflected her Austro-Hungarian roots. She was also hailed as the family’s best baker (though her two sisters might have disagreed). The Abramovs weren’t religious, but Betty was a true balaboosta, especially in preparation for Shabbat. She would get up early every Friday morning to make yeast dough, which she’d spin into a variety of pastries. Add to that her chocolate cakes and seasonal desserts, and you’d have the makings of the lavish afternoon teas that Betty was known for. There were always people in the house, and Betty was always entertaining. (This is the power of cake.)
From the age of 4, Anat was at her grandmother’s side while she baked, standing on a small ladder while executing tasks that Grandma Betty would give her—scattering raisins on yeast dough, cutting circles in the dough with a glass. One of the special privileges of being Betty’s granddaughter was having a cake of one’s own, so to speak. The dessert in Betty’s repertoire that Anat loved most, “her” cake, was a spiced creation scented with rum and studded with apricot halves that grew tender as they baked. Grandma Betty made the cake every apricot season in June, and would swap in plums later in the year.
Anat was just 15 years old when her grandmother passed away, but Betty made an indelible mark on her life. She keeps her memory, and her recipes, close to her.