Original Cheesecake 

Cheesecake from EJC

Marcia Friedman, Author
Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life and

Family-Friendly, Kosher, Vegetarian/Serves 6 to 8

Prep time: 30 minutes / Cook time: 50 minutes, plus 6 hours cooling time

When cream cheese was invented in New York in 1872, Jewish bakers used it on more than just bagels. It made flakier pastry dough and became a substitute (with sour cream) for cottage cheese previously used in cheesecake. Thus, New York–style cheesecake was born. Cheesecake wows crowds year-round, but is especially welcome for dairy-centric holidays like Hanukkah and Shavuot. This super-creamy version pairs beautifully with fruit. 


For the Crust

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) melted butter, divided

1½ cups crushed graham crackers (from about 10 full crackers)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Filling

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups sour cream

1 to 2 pounds strawberries, sliced or quartered (optional)


To Make the Crust

  1. Adjust the rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F. (Do not use convection bake setting). Coat the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper cut to size and brush with ½ tablespoon of butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the graham crackers, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Press evenly into bottom of the springform pan.


To Make the Filling

  1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on low speed just until smooth. Blend in the cornstarch. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating at low speed until just incorporated, then fold in the vanilla extract, salt, and sour cream. 
  2. Pour the mixture into the crust and smooth the top. Tap the pan a few times on the counter to release any air bubbles. Place the pan on a sheet pan.
  3. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the edges are set, but the center 3 inches still wiggle. (An instant-read thermometer should read 155°F when inserted in the center).
  4. Cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate, covered, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days. Remove the springform and serve chilled, garnished with strawberries (if using).


Variation Tip: For a slightly nutty flavor, add ¼ cup chopped pecans and an additional tablespoon of melted butter to the crust before pressing in the pan. 

Excerpt from The Essential Jewish Cookbook, by Marcia A. Friedman, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright © 2021 by Callisto Media, Inc. All rights reserved.