Israeli Cheesecake

photo by Ester Arok

Unlike the American cheesecake, which is dense and loaded with fat, the Israeli cheesecake has a light texture with only 5% fat.  Instead of cream cheese we use what is called in Israel White Cheese (G’vina Levana). It is a European style spreading cheese that is very soft and airy. In the US it was a challenge for me to find something equivalent to the Israeli White Cheese, but eventually I found Quark cheese in some specialty stores. Before that I did try to use sour cream or yogurt in this recipe, with unfortunate sour results. 

I have to credit my my father for this post.  He loves this cake. In Israel it is a custom to make (or buy) a cake on Friday for Shabbat (Saturday), the Jewish holy day of the week.  Last week my father called me to say that he was going to make cheesecake for Shabbat and take some photos for my blog.  When I woke up on Friday morning Pacific Time I had a photo of the cake on my cell (we use WhatsApp for international texting). That was when I realized that I also need a nice close-up photo of a serving piece for the post (a rule I made up). It was already Shabbat in Israel (which is 10 hours ahead of PT) and my father being religious doesn’t answer the phone during this time. So I had to wait for the next day to talk to him, hoping there will still be some cake left. Luckily, my father sent some cake to his girlfriend Ester. So before she had the last piece of the cheesecake with her Sunday morning coffee, she took some pictures for my blog. The instructional close-up photos I use here are photos I took three years ago when my father visited me; we made it together and he helped me to adapt the recipe to the local ingredients. As I said, this post is thanks to him.

My father, Shlomo, making cheesecake in his kitchen in Israel


 Graham crackers
5 eggs
½ cup powdered sugar
1 package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 lemon grated peel (optional)
32oz/900gr. Quark cheese
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean (optional)
5 tbsp cornstarch
½ cup milk (just in case the batter is too thick)

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.

Use 13”X9” pan. Cover base of the pan with Graham crackers.

Separate eggs. Whip egg whites with powdered sugar until you receive white foam.

In a big bowl mix together egg yolks, cornstarch, vanilla pudding mix, cheese, vanilla extract, lemon peel, and the vanilla bean seeds. You should have a thick smooth batter, but if it’s too thick add some milk to dilute it. 

 Add the whipped egg whites to the mixture and fold it gently into the batter until all is mixed.

 Pour the batter on top of the Graham crackers.

Place a big pan on the oven rack and fill it up with 1"/ 3cm of boiling water. Place the cheesecake pan inside the pan with the water. 

Bake for 50 minutes and let rest in the oven for another hour. Do not open the oven during this time. 

Store in the refrigerator.