Question: In which situations should one bless or not bless on cakes served at the end of the meal?
Summary of the Halachot Learned Thus Far
In previous Halachot we have explained that any foods eaten during a bread meal that is eaten as part of the meal, such as fish, meat, or salads, would not require a blessing before eating them during the meal since the bread is the main part of the meal and the rest of the foods eaten during the meal are exempt with the blessing of “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz”.
We have also explained that this only applies to foods eaten with the bread, however, anything served as a dessert, for instance sweets, assorted nuts, or fruits, requires its appropriate blessing before eating it. (Nevertheless, no blessing is recited after eating the dessert item).
Similarly, in previous Halachot we have discussed what items require the blessing of “Borei Minei Mezonot”. We explained that the Gemara rules that “Kisnin” bread requires a “Mezonot” blessing. The Rishonim disagree as to what this “Kisnin” bread is: Some say this refers to bread baked as filled pockets (like an apple cobbler) while others say that it is bread that is sweet like cake. Others say that this refers to crunchy bread, such as crackers.
Since we are concerned about each one of these opinions, we therefore recite a “Mezonot” blessing on any bread which has any one of the above conditions. This is because we are unsure as to what really constitutes “Kisnin” bread and we have a rule that, “When in doubt, do not bless”, thus, we may not be stringent and recite Birkat HaMazon on something about which we are unsure if it is truly bread or not. Thus, if any one of the above criteria is present, this item requires the “Borei Minei Mezonot” blessing.
All this has already been discussed in previous Halachot. We will now deal with the issue of whether or not to recite a blessing on cakes, cookies, and the like served at the end of the meal.
The Blessing on Sweet Cake at the End of the Meal
Regarding cake that is sweet but is not made like a “filled pocket” or crunchy, the Poskim disagree whether its blessing is “Hamotzi” or “Mezonot”. Thus, one should not recite a blessing on it during the meal at all for we must be concerned about the opinions that its blessing is in fact “Hamotzi” and because of the rule of not blessing when in doubt one would not recite a blessing on such a cake since it has already possibly been exempt with the “Hamotzi” blessing at the beginning of the meal.
The same law would apply for anything about which there is a dispute if its correct blessing is “Hamotzi” or “Mezonot”, which is usually the case with most baked goods, because we are in doubt a “Mezonot” must be recited. However, regarding eating such an item at the end of the meal just the opposite is true, that because of this same doubt one would not recite any blessing at all, lest he already have exempted this item with the “Hamotzi” blessing at the beginning of the meal.
Thus, if a variety of cakes were served at the end of the meal, some of which are sweet, some of which are filled pockets, and others which are crunchy, one would not recite a blessing on any of them, since some say that they have already been exempt with the blessing of “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” at the beginning of the meal since they are also considered bread.
Baklava Served at the End of the Meal
We must thus contemplate a situation where a baked good in which all three conditions (meaning it is sweet, filled, and crunchy [i.e. made with crunchy dough]) are present, such as Baklava, Ma’mool, and the like, is served. It would seem that since this cake is “Mezonot” according to all opinions it should require a “Mezonot” blessing even during the meal for it is being served as a dessert and it surely has not been exempted with the “Hamotzi” blessing on the bread at the beginning of the meal.
The Opinion of the Rashba Regarding Cakes Served at the End of the Meal
The reality of the matter is, however, that even on this kind of cake one would not recite a blessing unless one more condition is present. The reason for this is because of the opinion of the Rashba who writes that if one eats a large enough amount of this kind of cake (in which all three conditions are present) that is tantamount to an “establishment of a meal” (approximately 216 grams) he would recite “Hamotzi” on it; if so there are situation where the blessing of “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz” is applicable to this kind of cake as well. Thus, in any case one has already exempted this cake with the “Hamotzi” blessing on the bread. However, the Mishnah Berura writes that the Rashba’s opinion is isolated in this issue and the Halacha does not follow his opinion. This has been the accepted ruling until recently that when cake in which all three of the above conditions are present is served at the end of the meal, a “Mezonot” blessing must be recited on it. We have also ruled this way in the past.
However, we have been questioned about this based on what Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a writes in his Sefer Chazon Ovadia on the laws of Berachot (published several years ago) that the Rashba is not alone in his opinion as the Ra’ah and the Ritva as well as several other Rishonim, whose Sefarim have not been published until recently, also hold that one may not under any circumstances recite a blessing on any kind of cake during the meal unless the tablecloth was removed from the table, in which case if cake which has all three of the aforementioned conditions, i.e. that it is sweet, filled, and crunchy, is served, one would recite “Borei Minei Mezonot” on it. However, if the tablecloth was not yet removed from the table, one should not recite any blessing even on this kind of cake.
Since many hold this way, we must be concerned about this opinion, thus, one must not recite a blessing on any kind of cake (or baked good) served for dessert, unless the tablecloth was removed, as mentioned above. It is preferable though not to serve any cakes until after Birkat HaMazon has been recited so as not to entangle one’s self in any unnecessary doubts.
Summary: One should not recite any blessing at all on cakes served at the end of the meal. If the cake, however, contains all three conditions in that its dough is sweet, it is crunchy, and it is filled (like Ma’mool and Baklava), only if the tablecloth was removed and only then was this kind of cake served will one recite the blessing of “Borei Minei Mezonot” on it. If even this kind of cake was served without first removing the tablecloth, one does not recite any blessing. It is preferable, however, not to serve any cakes before Birkat HaMazon is recited.