Israeli cheesecake is light, tangy and airy recipe. It requires no baking and only 10 minutes of work for a fluffy Israeli-style cake. The secret to this incredible cheese cake is one ingredient - but if you can't find "gvina levana" (white cheese), I've got the perfect substitution for you!
I'm in the small, cool kitchen of my parents' old apartment. The sun is beating through the side window, exposing all the dust bunnies that are making their way through the air, heating up the countertops. I walk around in shorts and a tank top, my feet bare across the cold marble floor.
Despite all this, beads of sweat gather at the back of my neck as I pull the Israeli cheesecake out of the fridge, my mind clouding with visions of dropped cakes and spilled disasters. Yet I manage to take it out safely, to rest it on the table undisturbed.
As I take out a knife and cut out a big, tall piece of Israeli cheesecake, my lips curl into an involuntary smile: I can already imagine its tangy, cloud-like taste.
Some of you may think you know cheesecake. You've had it a million times at breakfast buffets, brunches, Sunday dinners. You are used to its baked custard texture, to the soggy bottom, to the heavy, cloying feeling it leaves in your mouth. Some of you may love it, but many of you don't. In most cases, you stay away from it for fear it will go straight to your hips, your thighs, your stomach.
Well, my friends, I'm here to tell you that you don't know jack. And if you know Jack, you sure as hell don't know cheesecake.
The first time I tasted cheesecake in the United States, as a 17-year-old girl on her first trip across the ocean, I thought they had got it wrong. There was no way that heavy syrup-drizzled baked monstrosity was the local version of my favourite confectionary creation. I felt sorry for myself, for having to eat it, and sorry for others, for not knowing what a joy eating a cold piece of chilled Israeli cheesecake could be.
Because Israeli cheesecake is nothing like the cheesecakes of North America. In place of the cream cheese-sugar-egg bricks of your nightmares, Israeli cheesecake is light, tangy and airy, like a dip in a cool pool on a hot summer's day. It involves no baking, just a lengthy rest in a cold fridge, and requires about 10 minutes of active work. And the result - a cake as light as air, with a zesty aftertaste and a buttery crumb topping - is so much more than you could ever want from a cheesecake. It's a dream come true, and delivered to you in the form of a beautiful slice of cake.
Why you're going to love this cake
If there's one thing you make from this blog, I want it to be this cake. For the 10 minutes of work it requires, you will not believe the results. You will want to replicate this taste forever and ever, sear it into your brains and share it with all of your friends and family. Because if you like cheesecake, you sure as hell are going to love Israeli cheesecake.
So once you're done reading this post, I want you to RUN INTO THE KITCHEN and immediately make this cake. And when you bite into it the following day, your fork sinking into the cool batter like a warm knife cutting through butter, every molecule in your body will thank you for the pleasure.
It makes for a gorgeous, easy Shavuot cheesecake or Shavuot dessert recipe, and I make it for the holiday every year!
- Cookies - I love to use French Petit Beurre Biscuits, English tea biscuits or even Graham Crackers, broken into pieces.
- Almonds - optional; if allergic to nuts, sub for more biscuits.
- Butter, melted
- Whipping cream
- Instant vanilla pudding
- High-fat sour cream
- High fat yogurt - the best to use here is Mediterranean style, Balkan style or any yogurt that is around 10% fat. If you can't find it, use ricotta cheese, quark cheese, or 5% Philadelphia cream cheese in a pinch.
- Orange or lemon zest
See recipe card for exact quantities.
Drain the cheese
If using 10% yogurt, ricotta cheese, or quark cheese, drain them in a colander covered with cheesecloth for a few hours or overnight. This step helps remove excess moisture and ensures a firmer texture for the cake.
Prepare the crust
In a food processor, process the cookies along with almonds until they are finely ground. The addition of almonds is optional, and if you have a nut allergy, you can substitute them with an equal amount of additional biscuits.
Transfer the ground biscuits and almonds into a mixing bowl, or continue working in the food processor. Add the melted butter and stir until the mixture is well combined and lumps are formed. It may be easier to gauge the texture by stirring the mixture with clean hands. This crumb mixture will form the base crust of the cheesecake.
Line the crust
To ensure easy removal of the baked cranberry cheesecake, line a springform pan with parchment paper. This will help lift the cheesecake out of the pan without damaging the delicate edges. Any pan with a diameter of 9-inch / 23cm or larger can be used; however, using an 8-inch pan will result in a taller cake.
Press about two-thirds of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the prepared springform pan, creating a firm and even crust layer.
Make the creamy filling
Using either a hand-held blender or a standing blender, whip the whipping cream, sugar, and instant vanilla pudding until a stable cream is formed. This process will incorporate air into the mixture and create a fluffy texture.
Add the high-fat sour cream, drained yogurt (or cheese alternative), and the zest of one orange or one lemon. Continue blending until the mixture is smooth and well combined. The citrus zest will add a refreshing and aromatic note to the filling.
Assemble and chill the cheesecake
Pour the creamy filling mixture into the prepared cake pan, spreading it evenly over the crust layer. The filling should cover the crust entirely.
To complete the baked Israeli cheesecake, sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top of the filling, creating a delicious crumbly topping.
Place the assembled cheesecake in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. This extended chilling time will ensure that the cheesecake sets properly and achieves the desired firmness.
Yes, this cheesecake with crumb topping can be made gluten-free. To do so, you will need to replace the traditional cookie crust with a gluten-free alternative, like your favorite gluten free vanilla cookies. With this one simple substitution, you will be able to enjoy a delicious, gluten-free version of this classic no-bake cheesecake recipe.
Yes, you can definitely make this cheesecake ahead of time! In fact, making your cheesecake ahead of time can actually be beneficial, as it allows the cheesecake to cool and set properly, which can improve the texture and flavor. You can make your cheesecake up to 3-4 days in advance and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve it. To keep the cheesecake fresh, be sure to cover it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
Absolutely. You can freeze the cheesecake for longer storage, which can be a great solution if you're making the cheesecake well in advance. To freeze, wrap the cheesecake in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, and store it in the freezer for up to three months. When you're ready to serve the cheesecake, simply thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then bring it to room temperature before slicing and serving.
You can serve this cheesecake at the end of a dairy meal for a holiday like Shavuot, or for a summer weekend.
Start with Homemade Labaneh Balls or a baked feta dip for a creamy and tangy appetizer. For Mediterranean flavors, try the Copycat Aroma Espresso Bar Fried Halloumi Salad Recipe. Add a refreshing touch with the Endive salad with mozzarella, pecans and pomegranate seeds. For a vegetable option, enjoy Crispy Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts with Feta, Pomegranate and Balsamic. Seafood lovers can savor Fire-grilled Nordic salmon or Cast-iron pan-fried Sockeye salmon. Catering to vegan or gluten-free diets, serve Vegan pasta primavera or Baked feta pasta with blood orange and olives. These dishes will perfectly complement the flavors of the baked cranberry cheesecake, ensuring a memorable and satisfying meal experience.
Tried and loved this recipe? Please leave a 5-star review below! Your reviews mean a lot to me, so if you've got any questions, please let me know in a comment.
Light-as-air Israeli cheesecake with crumb topping
- 200 g vanilla petit beurre biscuits or Graham Crackers broken into pieces
- 100 g almonds optional; if you're allergic to nuts, use another 100 grams of biscuits
- 100 g butter melted
- 500 ml whipping cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 80 g instant vanilla pudding
- 200 ml high-fat sour cream
- 500 grams 10% yogurt Mediterranean style/ ricotta cheese/ quark cheese/ 5% Philadelphia cream cheese
- Zest of one orange or one lemon
- If using 10% yogurt, ricotta cheese or quark cheese, drain them in a colander covered with cheesecloth for a few hours, or even overnight.
- Process biscuits and almonds in a food processor until they are finely ground. Mix in melted butter, and stir until well combined and lumps are formed (I found that stirring with clean hands worked best, and it helps to gauge the texture).
- Line a springform pan with parchment paper for ease of removal (you can use anything 9"/23cm and over; 8" will produce a very tall cake) . Cover the bottom with ⅔ of the crumb batter, making a crust.
- Using a hand-held blender or a standing blender, whip whipping cream, sugar and vanilla pudding until a stable cream is formed. Add sour cream, drained yogurt and citrus zest, and continue blending until stable. Pour mixture into cake form, and top with remaining crumb mixture.
- Cool in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, or ovenight.
This looks delicious! Certainly a nice alternative to the heavy desserts that sometimes are too common! 🙂
Totally agreed. Btw, you'll get a kick out of this: when my mother saw me post this recipe, she emailed me right away, demanding that I make 'her favourite cake' for her when I come visit! Now that I'm in Israel, I guess I am on the hook. Dammit, internet 😉
Hahaha that is so funny! One cannot, but laugh at the ways that the Internet has changed/is changing our day-to-day lives 🙂
Lynn in Tucson says
Thank you! But do you mean a 28" springform pan? I've never seen one so large!
Oh no, sorry for the confusion - 28 centimetres, or 11 inches! A 12-inch pan will do fine if that's all you have. I'm going to tweak the recipe to ensure it's clear.
Sounds delicious. I just tried making something like this, but I had to improvise, because I'm in Israel and don't have sour cream, Philly, etc. It would be great if you could include Israeli equivalents (presumably, the original ingredients!) for those of us who are immigrants HERE and don't have recipes passed on from our families...
Tzvia, excellent point! However, as most of my readers tends to be based outside of Israel, I usually specify ingredients that are easily found here... But I'll try to do this from now on! Here, all you need to substitute the yogurt is gvina levana, while the rest of the ingredients stay the same (whipping cream is 'shamenet metuka', sour cream is 'shamenet hamutza', while instant pudding is instant pudding :)) Good luck!
Hi Ksenia, I am crazy about this cheesecake sold in a famour bakery in Boston. Baker is fr Israel so I think she uses some form of gvena levana. Like yours I dont think it is baked. Since we dont have gvana here in US I want to try your recipe. You say use instant pudding. That is in powder form. Do I cook it first as directed in the box?
Hi Veronica! So glad that this recipe looks like something you would enjoy. The instant pudding is there to just help the cake set, it’s like an easy gelatin replacement. You don’t need to make it according to package instructions, just add the specified amount of powder into the mix. To substitute for gvina levana, I recommend using a thick, Balkan style 10% or 9% fat yogurt. If you cannot find that, use sour cream.! Enjoy and let me know how it goes!
I made this cake for the first time on Friday. It is delicious.
I am so happy, Daisy! It's my go-to cheesecake and I make it ALL THE TIME.