Classic Cheesecake

Paula Shoyer
Recipe by
Paula Shoyer

Cheesecake is the classic Shavuot dessert and is one of my weaknesses. I can resist overeating a lot of desserts, but cheesecake is not one of them!

I had a really fun time making the fruit garland to decorate the cheesecake pictured here. First I washed, dried, and sliced the fruit I wanted to use. Then I designed a garland for the cake on a round dinner plate and moved the fruit to the top of the cheesecake in the same pattern. Decorate the cake right before serving.

The fruit will start to go bad after two days, so either finish the cheesecake by then or remove the fruit from the top before it spoils.

13 graham crackers
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, plus one tablespoon for greasing pan
2 pounds (900g) cream cheese (not whipped), at room temperature for at least 45 minutes
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from one lemon)
1 cup (240g) sour cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
sliced or whole fruit and berries, optional, to decorate

To Prep:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).
  2. You will need a 9 -10-inch (23 to 25-cm) springform pan. Trace the bottom of the pan on parchment paper and cut out the circle. Cover the top of the pan bottom with a 20-inch (50-cm) piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and then wrap the foil under the bottom. Attach the pan sides to the bottom, lock it in place and then unwrap the foil and wrap it up and around the sides of the pan. (This will keep water from seeping into the cheesecake while it’s baking in a water bath.)
  3. Rub 1 tablespoon (14g) of butter around the bottom and sides of the pan.
  4. Press the parchment circle into the bottom of the pan and grease the top of the circle.
  5. Put aside a large roasting pan. The sides should be more than 2” (5cm) high.

To make the crust:

  1. Process the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade until finely ground.
  2. Add the sugar and mix.
  3. Heat the remaining 6 tablespoons (85g) of butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 15 to 25 seconds, until the butter softens.
  4. Add the butter to the food processor bowl and mix it into the crumbs.
  5. Spoon clumps of the mixture into the prepared pan and press it into and cover the bottom of the pan.
  6. Set the pan aside.

To make the filling:

  1. Put the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer or blender and beat on medium-high speed until smooth.
  2. Scrape down the bowl.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape down the bowl each time to make sure all the cream cheese and eggs are thoroughly mixed.
  4. Add 1 ¼ cups (250g) sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest, and mix on medium speed until combined. The mixture should be entirely smooth. 

To make the dish:

  1. Pour the cheesecake filling on top of the crust.
  2. Place the pan into the larger roasting pan and place it on the middle rack of the oven.
  3. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, around the cheesecake pan, until the water reaches one-third to halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.
  4. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  5. Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon.
  6. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour.
  7. Remove the cheesecake pan from the roasting pan and let it cool on a wire rack until the cheesecake is completely cool.
  8. Refrigerate it for five hours or overnight.

To make the topping:

  1. Combine the sour cream and confectioners’ sugar and mix well.
  2. Spread the mixture over the top of the cake and decorate as desired.
  3. Store in the fridge for up to five days or freeze (without the fruit on top) for up to three months.

Reprinted with permission from Holiday Kosher Baker © 2013 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by Michael Bennett Kress

Paula Shoyer, “the kosher baker,” is the author of The Holiday Kosher BakerThe Kosher BakerThe New Passover Menu and The Healthy Jewish Kitchen (November 2017). Paula graduated with a pastry degree from the Ritz Escoffier in Paris, and does cooking and baking demos across the United States and around the world for Jewish organizations, synagogues, Jewish book festivals and more. She is a freelance writer for the Washington PostHadassahJoy of Kosher, and Jewish Food Experience, among other publicationsPaula competed on Food Network's Sweet Genius and appears on TV before every major Jewish holiday – over 26 times. In 2015, Paula was honored by Jewish Women International as a “Woman to Watch” and in 2016 as a “kosher food pioneer” by the kosher food bloggers community. Paula lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and four children.

Additional Notes

Paula Shoyer's Baking Tip

  • Use room temperature cream cheese: Desserts with cream cheese will come out smoother if the cream cheese is at room temperature before you use it.