Everything Cheesecake

Shavuot is known for many things: the celebration of the beginning of the wheat harvest, Torah study and, perhaps most notably, eating dairy.
June 6, 2024
Mini Cheesecakes Photo by Faith Kramer

Shavuot is known for many things: the celebration of the beginning of the wheat harvest, Torah study and, perhaps most notably, eating dairy. This year, Shavuot begins at sundown on Tuesday, June 11, and goes through sundown Thursday, June 13. Why not try a new recipe this year!

Faith Kramer’s strawberry rhubarb mini cheesecakes makes a lovely presentation for celebrating the giving of the Torah. 

Faith Kramer’s strawberry rhubarb mini cheesecakes makes a lovely presentation for celebrating the giving of the Torah.

“The dessert is inspired by my friend Marcia’s late mom, Helena,” Kramer, author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen,” told The Journal. “Her signature dish for potlucks and celebrations was her cheesecake cupcakes also topped at the last minute with fresh fruit.” 

Kramer said she was honored Helena gave her the recipe and entrusted her to keep this delicious tradition going. “Add sugar to taste while cooking the fruit If your strawberries are not very sweet or you would like a sweeter topping,” Kramer said. “The mini cheesecakes and topping can be made ahead and the desserts assembled just before serving.” 

She added, “For best results, the cream cheese should be as soft as possible.”

Mini Cheesecakes with Rhubarb and Strawberries

Makes 12

TOPPING: Have this ready at room temperature before preparing cheesecake
3 1/2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb or 12 oz. frozen, chopped rhubarb (do not defrost)
2 Tbsp water or as needed
2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 tsp vanilla

Place rhubarb in a medium saucepan with water (do not use water if frozen) over medium heat. Cover. Cook until very soft (about 7-10 minutes), stirring often, adding just enough water if needed, so rhubarb does not stick to the pan or burn. Uncover the pan, and stir in strawberries and vanilla. Continue to cook covered until the berries are just soft. Stir. Let any liquid evaporate. 

Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Puree with a hand or regular blender. Cool completely before using in the recipe. Can be made up to three days ahead and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using. Use any extra topping on ice cream or other desserts.


Heat oven to 375°F.
Line a 12-hole cupcake or muffin tin with liners (or set 12 foil cupcake liners on a sturdy baking sheet). 

6 (3 1/4 oz.) whole graham crackers
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
24 oz. brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup sour cream
12 thin slices of strawberry
Chopped mint leaves, optional

Put graham crackers in food processor and turn into fine crumbs (well crushed but not powdery). Or put cookies in a sealed plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Place in a medium bowl. Stir in melted butter and two tablespoons of sugar. Press crumbs into the bottom of the cupcake liners.

Cut the cream cheese into 1-inch chunks. In a large bowl combine sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and salt. Beat with an electric hand or stand mixer on medium high until light and lemony in color (two minutes). Add cream cheese chunks in batches, beating on medium high until incorporated before adding the next batch. Once all the cream cheese is incorporated, add 1/2 cup of sour cream. Beat again on medium high until mixture is very smooth (3-4 minutes). Divide cheesecake batter between the 12 liners.

Place 1/2 tablespoon of rhubarb and strawberry topping on top of each cheesecake. (Return remaining topping to the refrigerator until needed.) Use a dinner knife to swirl the topping through the batter. 

Bake 20-25 minutes until the centers of the cheesecakes are a bit loose and jiggly and the tops are puffed up. They will still be pale. (Timing varies.) 

Turn off the oven, open the oven door and leave cheesecakes inside for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until completely cool. Refrigerate four hours or overnight. (Can be made up to four days in advance and kept refrigerated and, if frozen, several weeks. If freezing, defrost in the refrigerator before serving.) 

Serve chilled or remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving. Remove liners if desired. The tops of each will have fallen, making an indent. Fill each indent with 1 tsp. of rhubarb and strawberry topping and 1 tsp. sour cream. Add a strawberry slice. Garnish with mint.

Baked Labneh Cheesecake

Chef Shimi Aaron’s baked labneh cheesecake is his mom’s favorite recipe.“Shavuot is also her birthday, so it makes it even more special,” Aaron told The Journal. “What I specifically love about this one is the fact I replaced soft cheese from my mom’s original recipe with labneh.”

Since Aaron is not a big fan of sweet/sugary desserts, for him, this is the ultimate cheesecake. Plus, it has the added benefit of orange zest. 

“I am so well known for my babka,” Aaron said. “One of the reasons my fans love it so much is because of the orange peel I use in it and how beautifully it contrasts with sugar without being too overpowering.”

Baked Labneh Cheesecake


185g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
50g (3 1/3 Tbsp ) softened (not melted) butter
3 egg yolks
75g (6 Tbsp) granulated sugar
50ml (3 1/4 Tbsp) sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder

6 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar

1 kg (4 1/2 cups) labneh cheese
3 yolks
1 tsp vanilla
½ lemon or orange zest
2 full Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp powdered sugar


Kosher marshmallow spread, kosher mini marshmallows and slivered almonds

Make the dough:

Place all dry ingredients in a mixer with a paddle attachment. 

On a medium speed start adding the soft butter, the yolks, sour cream and vanilla extract. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the fridge while making the cheese filling. 

Place six egg whites in a clean and dry mixer bowl, add sugar and, with the whisk attachment, start whisking it at the highest speed for exactly 10 minutes.

While the egg whites are being whisked, use a large clean bowl and a hand whisk to mix all the filling ingredients together (no specific order).

After the egg whites are ready, add it to the large bowl with the cheese mix and, using a silicone spatula, start folding it in until it’s all mixed. Don’t whisk it. Leave in the fridge until you finish assembling the dough. 

Assemble the cake:

Take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into two parts.

Use one part to create the base. Using your hands, flatten it into a 26cm/10 inch-wide, nonstick springform round baking pan. Make sure that you go a bit higher all around to make sure that the filling won’t spill out while baking it.

Pour the cheese filling onto the base you created in the pan.

Use the other half of the dough to create a lattice:

On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, as long as it’s 12″ in diameter. Cut dough into 12 strips. Start using the strips on the cake. Long ones in the center of the cake and short ones on the ends. Start weaving it until you begin to see the beautiful woven pattern. Keep going until you put 6 strips in each direction. Fold the excess dough that lays over the edges into the cake with a knife.

Heat your oven to 340°F (170°C) and bake the cake for one hour. After one hour, turn off your oven and leave the cake inside with the door open for another 45 minutes. Then, take it out and let it cool down for at least an hour and a half before slicing it. No need to keep it in the fridge. 

The cake lasts for five days outside the fridge.

Although Shavuot is the dairy holiday, there are options for those who are lactose intolerant, vegan or simply prefer something different.

Nosh with Micah’s Micah Siva’s vegan cashew halvah cheesecake is perfect for sweetening up your celebration or anytime of year.

“It has a waffle-y crust and cashew filling, making a lusciously rich dessert that’s decadent and creamy,” Siva, author of “Nosh,” said. “It’s a cross between halvah and cheesecake, and it’s so easy to make.’

Photo courtesy noshwithmicah.com

Vegan Cashew Halvah Cheesecake

Serves: 8 – 10



2 cups waffle cones crushed into crumbs

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ cup coconut oil, melted


1 ½ cups cashews, soaked overnight, drained

1 lemon, juiced

¼ coconut oil, melted

2 tbsp tahini + 1 tbsp to top

⅔  cup coconut milk (canned)

½ cup vanilla halvah, crumbled  + ⅓ cup to garnish

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt


Line a 9-inch springform pan with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, combine waffle cone crumbs, cinnamon and coconut oil. Press into the springform pan. Place in the fridge to set.

Meanwhile, combine cashews, lemon juice, coconut oil, 2 tbsp tahini, coconut milk, ½ cup halvah, maple syrup, vanilla and sea salt in a blender until smooth.

Pour over the crust. Top with remaining ⅓ cup halvah.

Refrigerate for 6 hours or until set.

Slice and enjoy!

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