Celebrate Shavuot with a Classic Israeli Cheesecake

Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, is a lesser-known holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah to the assembly gathered at Mount Sinai. The countdown to Shavuot begins on the second day of Passover and lasts seven weeks. Shavuot is also connected to grain harvest, beginning with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ending with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. Interestingly, however, modern day Jews do not celebrate Shavuot with barley and wheat, but rather with dairy products. One possible explanation is that the Torah was given to the Jews after their long exodus to the land of milk and honey. This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but really, how would you rather celebrate — with whole wheat toast, or cheesecake?
I went with cheesecake. Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food, claims that no Shavuot celebration would be complete without cheesecake. And who am I to argue? Gur offers a simple and sinful recipe for Israeli cheesecake. This recipe is not for the faint hearted, both figuratively and literally, since it contains nearly three sticks of butter. In all my time baking, I do not believe I have ever baked with so much fat. The result is a decadent, pudding-like, dessert that is as easy to make as it is to enjoy.
Gur’s recipe calls for using gvina levana, a white soft cheese common in Israel. Since I was not lucky enough to be baking in Israel this week, I used low fat cream cheese, which worked just fine. L’Shana haba bi’Yerushalayim.


Israeli Cheesecake (slightly tweaked from Janna Gur)
(use 8X11 inch baking dish)

  • 1 2/3 cups crumbled petit beurre cookies
  • 4 oz melted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar


  • 7 oz butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 9 oz gvina levana or cream cheese
  • 7 oz sour cream

Combine the crumbled cookies with sugar and melted butter. Press two thirds of mixture onto bottom of pan, keep the rest for topping. Freeze for 15 minutes.
Beat the butter with the sugar, egg and egg yolk in a mixture for 10 minutes until creamy and fluffy. Add cream cheese and continue mixing a few minutes. Gently fold in sour cream and pour filling onto prepared crust. Coat with remaining cookie crumble mixture and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving.