Israeli Cheesecake for Shavuot

Photo by Christian Guthier https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/

Photo: Christian Guthier

Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is also an agricultural holiday marking the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel. It is traditional to eat dairy products during Shavuot. Israelis celebrate Shavuot with an iconic cheesecake called Ugat Gvina (cheese cake). They can thank the German Templers for introducing the most important ingredient in this cake to Israel.

In 1868, the first group of these German Protestants settled at the foot of Mount Carmel. They established a colony there, followed by Sarona, near Jaffa, and the Valley of Refaim in Jerusalem. They were called “Templers” since they hoped to hasten the coming of the Messiah by facilitating the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Templers (no relation to the medieval Knights Templars) created the Jaffa orange brand and founded the first dairy farm with cows in Ottoman Palestine. Sheep and goats had exclusively provided milk up to this point. The Germans made one of their favorite dairy products at this dairy: quark cheese.

Quark cheese is a soft fresh cheese, traditionally made without rennet. It is popular throughout Northern Europe. Milk that has soured is slowly warmed until it curdles. The mix is strained through a cheesecloth, and then served. Quark cheese is lower fat than cream cheese. It has a lighter, drier, and grainier texture. The Vermont Creamery makes a kosher Quark cheese. This is the essential ingredient that gives Israeli cheesecake its light texture and distinctive flavor.

What I think of as “Israeli cheesecake” is really a German recipe introduced by the Templers.

Photo by kersy83 https://www.flickr.com/photos/kersy83/

Photo: kersy83

Israeli Cheesecake
Adapted from allrecipes

  • 18 oz. Quark cheese
  • 2 1/8 cups milk
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat a 9 inch cake pan with oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, flour, and baking powder.
  4. Press into the bottom and sides of the cake pan.
  5. In a clean bowl, mix the quark cheese, vegetable oil, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla sugar, pudding mix, egg yolks, 1 egg, milk, and lemon juice.
  6. Pour the mixture over the crust.
  7. Bake for 60 minutes.