It’s that time of year again—cheesecake season. It seems like everyone is talking, buying, baking, analyzing, asking, freezing and practically breathing cheesecake. On Friday, half the kids in my neighborhood walked home precariously balancing little foil pans with their no-bake cheesecake creations, and I remember making those myself.
Oh the gleeful joy of breaking graham crackers with our fingers to make “crumbs” (more like chunks), mixing liberal amounts of sugar with globs of cream cheese until “smooth” (yeah, right!) and the big, very serious, do-not-disturb-me-while-I’m-thinking decision of what to put on top. Strawberries? Sprinkles? Chocolate chips? Crushed cookies? Or a fantastically inedible combination of everything available? It was serious stuff.
But one year, we made a concoction unlike any other. It not only looked pretty, it actually tasted good! I don’t remember the grade, nor the teacher, and certainly not the exact measurements (if I ever knew them in the first place!). But, using the same few ingredients—tea biscuits, cream cheese, milk, vanilla pudding and strawberry gelatin—I’ve managed to recreate, and slightly upgrade, that original elementary school recipe.
If you don’t have dairy baking equipment, this is a great alternative to traditional cheesecake. You can make it in a pan—like I did as a kid—but it looks prettier and serves much more neatly in glass bowls or glasses.
Crush tea biscuits in a strong blender or food processor. If you don’t have either of those, try putting the tea biscuits in a bowl. Then stick another bowl on top and crush them like that.
Prepare the cheese and gelatin layers. Mix the cream cheese with milk and instant pudding powder. In a separate bowl, mix the gelatin with boiling water until fully dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Begin layering the crushed tea biscuits and the dairy mixture. Put a layer of crumbs on the bottom of each glass. Gently spoon some cheese mixture on top. If you pour too quickly, the crumbs will come up and mix into the cheese, so it requires a few minutes of careful slowness. Add another layer of crumbs and another layer of cheese, and refrigerate.
The gelatin is the only somewhat tricky part in this recipe. You want it to set about halfway before you add it to each cup. It definitely shouldn’t be warm, but it also shouldn’t be completely firm. Spoon it on gently and return to the fridge until set.
Make lots, because these will go fast—don’t say I didn’t warn you!
- packet tea biscuits (plain)
- 1 packet instant vanilla pudding
- 2 cups full-fat milk (don’t use skim)
- 1 8-oz. container cream cheese (whipped or unwhipped)
- 1 packet kosher instant strawberry gelatin
- Crush tea biscuits.
- Blend the cream cheese, milk and instant pudding powder.
- Prepare the gelatin according to packet instructions, and set aside to cool.
- Place a layer of crumbs on the bottom of each glass/bowl. Spoon a layer of cheese on top. Add a second layer or crumbs and a second layer of cheese. Refrigerate.
- When gelatin is cooled and thick, but not completely set, very gently spoon some on top of each cup.
- Return to refrigerator until fully set.
Are you in a cheesecake frenzy? Have you ever made a good-tasting no-bake cheesecake? What else is on your Shavuot menu? Leave a comment and let me know.