fbpx

Celebrating Shavuot: Say Cheesecake

The holiday, which occurs this year from sundown on June 4 through nightfall on June 6, marks seven weeks after the Passover exodus and commemorates the wheat harvest in Israel. Celebrations include festive meals, all-night Torah study and eating dairy.
[additional-authors]
June 2, 2022
Courtesy of Cecily Feng

No matter how you celebrate Shavuot, there’s bound to be cheesecake involved. 

The holiday, which occurs this year from sundown on June 4 through nightfall on June 6, marks seven weeks after the Passover exodus and commemorates the wheat harvest in Israel. Celebrations include festive meals, all-night Torah study and eating dairy.

“I like to celebrate Shavuot by going on a long hike and reconnecting with nature,” Cecily Feng told the Journal. Feng is a Los Angeles-based pastry chef and owner of Little Sparrow, a Chinese dumpling pop-up. “Being a convert myself, I also honor Ruth by reading about her life.”

Cecily Feng. Photo by Marshall Birnbaum

The holiday is a favorite of Feng’s because it celebrates the wonderful spring produce and gives a reason to make delicious dairy recipes. And, since Feng’s birthday is the last week of May, it sometimes coincides with Shavuot.

“During the quarantine, my cousin-in-law Debra dropped off a homemade berry cheesecake at my door,” Feng said. “Some might think there’s no reason to cook for a chef, but it’s actually a treat when someone cooks for you.”

Feng’s favorite type of cheesecake is a Basque cheesecake, as they are crust-less and ultra-creamy.

“It makes a smaller 6-inch cheesecake, which is plenty for two to four people, as it is so rich.” – Cecily Feng

“I have so many reasons why I love this recipe,” Feng said. “It makes a smaller 6-inch cheesecake, which is plenty for two to four people, as it is so rich. On top of that, you make it all in a food processor and the cream cheese does not need to be at room temp. The only downside is you must make it the night before.”

Cecily Feng’s Basque Cheesecake

You will need: 6-inch cake pan, food processor and sheet tray

Ingredients:
2 (8oz) blocks Philadelphia brand cream cheese
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
Zest & juice of 2 limes (optional)

Instructions:
1. Do this first! Preheat oven to 475°F with the rack in the bottom third. Set it to normal bake setting, not convection.
2. Spray the cake pan with non-stick coating such as Pam and arrange two sheets of 8″x16″ parchment like a plus sign to line the pan. You will need to press and fold the parchment so it lays flat. The parchment should extend up the sides of the pan. Spray the parchment and put the cake pan on a sheet tray.
3. In a food processor, add the cream cheese, sugar, yolks and salt, and blend until smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides as needed. Add the crème fraiche or sour cream, optional lime zest and juice, and pulse until smooth again.
4. Pour all the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan on the sheet tray to release any air bubbles.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is dark brown and the center is still very jiggly like a wave. Cool on a rack until the cheesecake is at room temp then refrigerate overnight, uncovered.
6. To serve, lift the parchment to slide the parchment and cheesecake out of the cake pan. Basque cheesecake is often served in the parchment. Just pull it down the sides and cut into slices with a sharp knife. The center of the cheesecake should be very creamy like a soft brie.

Follow @cecilycooks and @littlesparrow on Instagram for more from Chef Feng.


Yael Friedman, owner of Kitch’N Giggles

“I love making Basque Cheesecake,” Yael Friedman, founder of Kitch’N Giggles, told the Journal. “You don’t need to worry about a water bath, or keeping a consistent oven temperature to avoid cracks. I also love serving it because it’s a chance to introduce people to something new, and a little bit surprising.”

To Friedman, Shavuot means two things: “Being inspired by the vast depth of knowledge and wisdom that is in the Torah and getting to eat dairy desserts. I was a pastry chef for a long time, so I am very passionate about butter and cream.” 

Friedman and her family celebrate Shavuot by learning Torah together on Shavuot night and with an annual Shavuot brunch the next day. Her favorite Shavuot memory is from 2020, because it was a memorable time with so much uncertainty and confusion.

“With the kids all home from school, we wanted to figure out a way to create a festive, happy experience for them,” she said. “We got some art supplies and made our own Har Sinai that we decorated in honor of receiving the Torah. We hung it up so we could feel like we were at Har Sinai ourselves.”

Friedman, who started Kitch’N Giggles to teach healthy cooking to young children, loves creating food traditions around the holidays. 

“It’s important to focus on the process, instead of the product,” Friedman said. “Even if the idea of getting your kids involved seems daunting, Shavuot is the perfect time to find a fun kitchen project to jump start the holiday spirit.”

Yael Friedman’s Tips on Making Cheesecake with Your Kids

1. Cheesecake is a wonderful dessert to make with kids. If you’re using a graham cracker crust, you can have your kids break the crackers up in a Ziploc bag and then squish it in their hands to make the crumbs. It’s also a great way to work out some of that pre-chag stress.

2. Always make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature.

3. Also, your eggs need to be at room temp. Your kids can help warm up cold eggs by giving them a “bath” in some warm water.

4. Kids make excellent egg crackers. Set them up for success by giving them a small container to crack into. That way, you can easily pick out any broken shell pieces before they get mixed into your cheesecake.

5. Cheesecake lets you get creative. A plain cheesecake is just a blank canvas for your child to decorate with fruit, caramel sauce or sprinkles. Even a store-bought cheesecake can benefit from some creative plating.

For more inspiration on cooking with your kids, follow @Kitchngiggles on Facebook and Instagram.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Are We Going to Stop for Lunch?

So far, the American Jewish community has been exceptional in its support for Israel. But there is a long road ahead, and the question remains: will we continue with this support?

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.