One of Israel’s best-loved desserts is a no-bake cake made with tea biscuits. You’ve likely seen Israeli tea biscuits in your local grocery store kosher aisle; they typically come in a bright colorful plastic sleeve and inside the packets are golden, flat rectangles with ridged edges and a warm hint of vanilla. They are thin and crumbly, buttery and not too sweet.
Israeli biscuit cake (ugat bisquivitim in Hebrew), is Israel’s version of an icebox cake or tiramisu. It requires zero baking and is designed to be thrown together on a whim, with simple products found in most kitchens. Recipes vary from family to family; aside from tea biscuits, ingredients typically include instant vanilla pudding, heavy cream, and milk. Many recipes call for gvina levana, a white cheese we call quark in the States and Europe. Quark is a fresh dairy product that tastes like a cross between sour cream and Greek yogurt, and adds a delicious tanginess to the filling. Instant vanilla pudding offers its unmistakable flavor and helps the cake set in the fridge. While it’s in the fridge, this cake transforms from a loose creamy consistency into a sliceable layered cake. The biscuits soak up and expand with the custard filling, creating a decadent celebration of dairy from the land of milk and honey.
Note: Kedem brand biscuits are ideal for this recipe as they are thinner and more delicate, Osem brand biscuits may create a drier cake. Dipping the biscuits in coffee adds subtle flavor, but you can use milk instead if desired. If you can’t find quark, full fat 5% Greek yogurt will work as a substitute. Lastly, brands of vanilla pudding mix vary, any packet that is around 2.8-3.1 oz will work, or you can measure out 5 Tbsp from a larger packet of pudding mix.
- 3 sleeves (238 g/9 oz) Kedem vanilla tea biscuits or 2 sleeves Osem petit beurre biscuits
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 (80 g/2.8 oz) packet instant vanilla pudding mix (or 5 Tbsp)
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup (250 g/8 oz) quark or 5% Greek yogurt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold coffee or milk
- chocolate, for garnish (optional)
- In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or whisk, beat together the heavy cream, milk, instant vanilla pudding mix, sugar, and salt until the mixture starts to thicken and the mixer or whisk leaves ribbons in the batter, about 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to overbeat the mixture.
- Add the quark and vanilla extract, and beat until just combined.
- To assemble, dip one tea biscuit at a time into the coffee or milk for 2-3 seconds (if using Osem tea biscuits, dip for a few seconds longer). Line the bottom of a 9”x13” baking pan with the dipped tea biscuits. Cut any biscuits to fit the pan as needed. Top the layer of biscuits with a third of the filling.
- Repeat the process twice until you have three layers of tea biscuits and three of filling.
- To garnish, top with milk or dark chocolate shavings; you can do this with a vegetable peeler and a bar of chocolate. Alternatively, you could also top with cocoa powder or sprinkles.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours. Cut into slices and serve cold.