The author, right, put a "Jewpanese" twist on the classic American cheesecake for Shavuot. (Courtesy Carmel Tanaka)

Matcha Cheesecake for Shavuot? Yes, Please

One sliver lining of quarantine has been spending quality time with my Japanese father and Israeli mother.

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, I flew from Vancouver, BC to the Okanagan to visit my parents at SilverStar Ski Resort. I had hoped to squeeze in one last ski weekend before the season ended. Little did I know that by Sunday, my Poparide driver would cancel my ride and there would be no safe way back to the coast for the foreseeable future. Within days, all the international visitors and employees left the mountain, turning this hopping ski resort into a ghost town.

As I write this I’m still on the mountain with my parents in a nearly empty hotel, where we have a family cabin, during shoulder season (which doesn’t scream The Shining AT ALL). Located in the Shuswap Highland of the Monashee Mountains, my favorite mountain is sadly transitioning into summer. It has truly been a blessing for my sanity to snowshoe daily, but the thawing has begun, the snow is melting, and the bears have come out from hibernation. As Into the Wild as this may sound, I am only 22 kilometers (approximately 13 miles) from the nearest town and about a five-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Vancouver, the city which still has all of my clothes and worldly possessions and is waiting ever-so-patiently for my return.

The silver lining in all this has been being able to spend quality time with my aging parents. It hasn’t exactly been easy living in a one-bedroom apartment with the three of us, but we’ve made it work. We spend time cooking—one of my hobbies—and are eating very well. We are so very thankful that groceries can be delivered at this altitude.

For Shavuot, my family always makes Cheesecake à la Ruthi. An old family friend, Ruthi taught my Mom her own family recipe for American-style traditional cheesecake; we’ve been making it ever since. This year, it was a family endeavor. My Israeli Ashkenazi mother brought out a scanned copy of Ruthi’s old school handwritten recipe card and dictated orders to me on how to cook, clean, mix, and make the cake. Meanwhile, my Japanese Canadian father hid in the other room making a stencil of a Magen David (Star of David) so we could properly decorate the cake.

Why add matcha? Earlier this month, one of my dreams came true: organizing and participating in a Zoom call with a dozen “Jewpanese” people from around the world. So to honor this new gathering of Jewpanese, I added matcha to the cream cheese layer of the cake to give it a proper Jewpanese twist so it’d be worthy of serving at our table. Are you Jewpanese and interested in joining our monthly call? If so, please click on my author profile and reach out, as we’d love to have you join us!

From my family to yours,
Betayavon, itadakimasu, and chag sameach!

Matcha Cheesecake à la Ruthi (Marsha, Dalia, and now Carmel)

(Courtesy Carmel Tanaka)

Ingredients

2 cups graham crackers
¼ cup salted butter
5 eggs
½ cup of white sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1½ lbs plain cream cheese (+/-)
½ pint sour cream (+/-)
1 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp matcha (green tea powder)

Recipe

For the crust:

  1. Turn graham crackers into 1½ to 2 cups of crumbs in food processor
  2. Clean food processor for round 2
  3. In a bowl, fold in ¼ cup of salted butter by hand until the crumbs can hold together
  4. Cover bottom of springform pie tin (8”-10”) with crumb mixture and pack in tightly

For the matcha cheesecake filling:

  1. Blend the eggs, two thirds of the amount of sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, cream cheese and matcha until absolutely smooth in food processor
  2. Pour mixture onto crust
  3. Bake at 350º for 35-40 minutes
  4. Clean food processor for round 3
  5. Take out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes (Chef’s Note: The cake may deflate and that’s okay! You will need room for the second layer of the cake anyway.)

For the top layer:

  1. Blend sour cream, last third of the amount of sugar and vanilla in the food processor
  2. Pour onto the now cooled-down matcha cheesecake layer
  3. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes and turn off heat (Chef’s Note: Ruthi says to keep the oven door open during this stage. I trust her, so should you.)

Cool and chill in the fridge, and ONLY THEN remove from springform tin.

Decorate with icing sugar and matcha powder.

Slice with a sharp knife and clean between slices.

(Courtesy Carmel Tanaka)

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