In Judaism, the big holidays like Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can overshadow the other holidays. Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) is coming up on May 19-21, and I admittedly have never celebrated it before. That’s why I was very excited when 18Doors asked me to develop a recipe for Shavout!
When I started learning more about the holiday (thanks to Tori Avey) I realized how special Shavuot is to converts to Judaism. Shavuot commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people. Traditionally we attend services at our synagogue where special readings are recited, including the Book of Ruth: The story of one woman’s choice to join the Jewish people. Ruth is known as the first convert to Judaism.
Tori says that “Traditional holiday meals on Shavuot center around dairy foods. Milk is considered to be a symbol of the Torah, which nourishes the people directly, as milk does for a baby.” In honor of Ruth and my fellow converts, I’ve created a new take on a traditional Shavuot dish: a Japanese-Style baked cheesecake with the first berries of the season. Growing up with a Japanese mother, my siblings and I were more accustomed to eating fruit or Japanese-style desserts than Western cookies and cakes. I love Japanese cheesecake for its airy consistency and touch of sweetness. Here in California, we’re starting to see the first berries of the season. If you’re in other parts of the country where fresh berries are not available, I recommend topping the cheesecake with a good quality jam. Any will do, but berry and cheesecake is always a great combination!
Japanese-style cheesecake, also known as baked cheesecake or cotton cheesecake (for how light and airy it is) can be incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming to make. This recipe yields similar results, minus the many hours of prep! The crust is a crumbly wheat-free pecan and oat crust that magically maintains its crunch!
Ingredients for 6 servings
9-inch springform cake pan
Small mesh sieve
Large mixing bowl
Cake tester or long toothpick
1-1/2 cup quick rolled oats
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream at room temperature
3 Tbsp. cake flour, sifted
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 carton blueberries, rinsed
1 carton blackberries, rinsed
1 carton raspberries, rinsed
6 small-medium-sized strawberries, sliced in half with green tops on
Handful of edible flowers
1 tsp. powdered sugar, for dusting
Line the bottom and sides of cake pan with parchment paper. For the sides, you will need a 29-inch piece of parchment. This part is a little tricky but really important. The cake is very delicate and the sides will tear in the end if you don’t line the pan.
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all crust ingredients and mix well. Firmly press into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool while you prepare the cheesecake.
Open the oven door to let out a bit of heat and turn down the oven to 340°. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand-held electric mixer (I used a KitchenAid) until soft and whipped.
Add the rest of the cheesecake ingredients, in order. Mix each one carefully in, scraping down the sides of the bowl before adding the next. Mix until thickened. Pour the cheesecake batter into the cake pan on top of the crust.
Bake in the oven for one hour; the top should become slightly golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and let cool.
Once it is cool enough to handle, remove the cake from the pan, discard the lining paper around the sides and let it cool completely.
Top with blueberries first, then blackberries and raspberries. Dust with powdered sugar, sifted on top. Add sliced strawberries and edible flowers. If you’d like, you can add fresh springs of mint or mint leaves around the cake for decoration.
For a light, creamy and smooth cake, serve immediately. For a thicker, richer cake, refrigerate for a few hours or up to one night before (in this case, add berries right before serving).
Kristin Eriko Posner (she/her) is a Japanese American Jew and the founder of Nourish Co., a website that inspires multiethnic people and families to create nourishing new rituals drawn from time-honored wisdom. She does this through her writing, recipe development, and a limited-edition collection of modern heirlooms, all of which explore and celebrate her intersecting identities.