With a shortbread base, buttery crumbs on top, and an ethereally smooth sweet cheese interior, this is the iconic cheesecake of Israel. Israeli crumb cheesecake is quite different from a New York style American cheesecake: more like mousse, and it must have those delicious crumbs for contrast.
Cheesecake with crumbs is a must for Shavuot, but makes appearances year-round as a favorite creamy dairy dessert. Maybe it's the gvina levana (Israeli white quark cheese) in the sweet cheese layer, but this cake screams Israel to me. Such a nostalgic taste.
The cake itself is easy to make; the shortbread crust gets baked, but the cheese layer itself is no-bake. The problem, outside of Israel, is getting two key Israeli ingredients, the aforementioned white cheese as well as Israeli cream cheese, which is smoother and airier than its American cousin. The truth is, you can't quite get the taste without these two creamy white cheeses. However, you can get very close by substituting sour cream for the white cheese and whipped cream cheese (the kind that comes in a tub) for the Israeli cream cheese.
Making the base and crumb layers
The base for Israeli crumb cheesecake and the crumbs on top are made from the same dough, which comes together quickly in the food processor. About ⅔ of the mixture gets pressed into a cake pan to form the bottom. You'll want to use a springform here for unmolding the cake later (mine is a silicone glass bottomed spingform, which I love a lot). The remaining ⅓ of the crumb mixture gets patted in a thin, even layer onto a baking sheet. They both get baked together.
Making the filling
Making the filling for this cake is just a matter of whipping cream until it's firm, then beating in sugar and instant vanilla pudding mix. Yep, instant vanilla pudding mix is essential here, as here in Israeli sweet cheese blintzes and many a nostalgic Israeli dessert of the old school. It's how the cake keeps its shape. You'll need half a standard packet, or ¼ cup.
The filling is generous in this cake, so be prepared to fill up your pan almost to the top. There will be just enough room for a thick layer of crumbs. To make the crumbs, you'll crumble the baked dough between your fingers, which will make perfect crumbs.
Israeli Crumb Cheesecake
- Springform pan
Crust and crumbs:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour - 210 g
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar - 65 g
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- ¾ cup cold butter - cubed - 150 g or 1 ½ sticks
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 cups cream - 500 ml
- ¾ cup granulated sugar - 150 g
- ¼ cup instant vanilla pudding - 40 g
- 500 g Israeli white cheese, 5% or 9% - 2 containers - you can substitute sour cream
- 250 g Israeli cream cheese - 1 container - you can substitute whipped cream cheese
Make the base and crumbs:
- Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Grease a 9" springform pan and line one baking sheet.
- Using a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the egg yolks and pulse again, until the dough begins to clump together.
- Press ⅔ of the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the 9" springform pan. Pat the remaining ⅓ in an even layer about ¼" / 6mm thick, onto the center of the lined baking sheet.
- Bake both pans for 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Set aside to cool completely.
Prepare the sweet cheese filling:
- Whip the cream until it is stiff. Add in the sugar and vanilla pudding mix and beat until fully combined. Fold in the white cheese and cream cheese. Keep chilled.
Assemble the cake and chill:
- Even spread the cheese filling into the springform pan once it is completely cooled.
- Using your fingers, crumble the baked crumbs from the sheet pan in a thick layer over the cheese.
- Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, then store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.