Extravagant Shavuot Cheesecake

Traditionally on Shavuot, our food focuses on milk products: cheese blintzes, souffles, Italian dishes with cheese like stuffed shells or spinach ricotta lasagna, wine and cheese, and a myriad of deserts made from cheese. But the most treasured treat of Shavuot is cheesecake. It is such a special treat at my house that the cake does not last long, even when there are only two of us at home. Cheesecake is also one of the easiest cakes to make. Here is the recipe that I have used for many years and is always spectacular.

Right: Rabbi Hillel’s 2020 Shavuot Cheesecake.




  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, about 12 whole crackers
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  • 1 ½ lbs cream cheese at room temperature (=3 bars of Philadelphia cream cheese or equivalent)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs


  • 1 pint sour cream (1 ½ to 2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla


  1. Melt the butter and mix it with the cookie crumbs using a fork. Press the mixture firmly over the bottom and a little up the sides of a spring-form cake pan.
  2. With an electric mixer, combine the cheese (room temperature), sugar and vanilla and mix well.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well-combined after each addition.
  4. Turn cheese mixture into the crumb-lined pan bake at 350˚ for 35 minutes or until firm in the center.
  5. Let the cake cool in the oven AFTER turning off the heat. Leave the door open.
  6. While cooling, mix the sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven when cooled.
  8. Preheat the oven to 425˚ after the cooled cake has been removed.
  9. Spread the sour cream mixture over the cooled cake.
  10. Return it to the oven and bake for 5 minutes, NO longer. The sour cream topping congeals when the cake cools.

Water Bath method: Cheesecake tends to crack when it is baked in a dry oven. Therefore it is recommended to bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Here are the instructions on how to bake a cheesecake in a water bath.

  1. The very step is to wrap the pan in a single piece of 18-inch heavy duty aluminum foil. Do not try to piece together smaller pieces of foil, it will not seal the pan properly to cook the cake in a water bath.
  2. Put the crust in the pan
  3. Place the prepared pan with the crust into a larger roasting pan, and pour the cheese mixture over the crust.
  4. Then pour boiling water into the larger roasting pan until it comes to about 1 inch up the side of the cake pan.
  5. Bake until the cake is just set. It will not look liquid but will jiggle a little when the pan is nudged (it will continue to cook as it cools).
  6. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the water bath.


This article was written by Rabbi Vered Hillel. For more from Rabbi Hillel, read her article about Emma Lazarus, American-Jewish Poet, whether Messianic Jews should celebrate Lag B’Omer, or her experience celebrating Pesach in Israel under COVID-19 lockdown.

For more holiday recipes, try our Kosher-for-Passover recipes or Sukkot Harvest Recipes.

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