This recipe has been passed down through my family. The recipe, in fact, belongs to a lady called Gertrude Dembowski who was a friend of my grandmother, in Chicago in 1966-7. She was married to Peter Dembowski, whom my Grandpa, as a young research fellow on secondment to Chicago, worked with on group theory.


Gertrude gave my grandmother this classic Jewish cheesecake recipe, which my grandmother always told my mother was the best recipe to use for a baked cheesecake. My mother similarly brought us up, imparting such wisdom.

Growing up, my mother made this many a time. It was always my favourite pudding. Occasionally, she topped it with strawberries, instead of the sour cream Gertrude suggests. She also would sometimes substitute the vanilla with grated lemon zest and add 2 – 3 oz sultanas to the filling mix occasionally.

I’ve subsequently used this recipe numerous times – and one time it even led my friend, Claudia, and me to victory in a bake-off competition in Bethnal Green. That time, we were actually a little fancy and baked it in a bain-marie. But I think the original recipe turns out equally as nice.



5 oz (140g) digestive biscuits (in her recipe ‘Graham crackers’ – US) (This is about 8 – 10 biscuits)

2 oz (60g) butter 


12 oz (340g) cream cheese (full fat – check the brand does not contain rennet)

2 eggs

6 oz (170g) caster sugar

Half a teaspoon of vanilla essence

Topping: (optional – but authentic)

Half a pint of sour cream

2 tablespoons of sugar

Half a teaspoon of vanilla essence

In the photo above, I’ve also added strawberries which works nicely


  1. Line an 8 inch loose based cake tin with buttered baking paper as neatly as poss (or the uncooked mix will run out). Or use a solid based tin but accept you might not be able to lift the cheesecake out to serve. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Crumble biscuits finely (using your fingers if you don’t have a magimix) and mix well with gently melted butter. Press mix firmly into cake tin. Chill the base.
  3. To make the filling, first beat the eggs and then blend well with the other filling ingredients (the cream cheese, caster sugar and vanilla essence).
  4. Pour onto base, using a ‘cat’s tongue’ to get last of the mixture out of the bowl.
  5. Bake uncovered for 25 – 30 mins, until it seems set and is turning golden brown. If it looks pale and runny – give it up to 45 mins. Ovens vary.
  6. Spread the topping over baked cheesecake and bake for a further 8 minutes at top temperature.
  7. Add any additional toppings as desired.

Notes: If you’re interested in trying to bake the cheesecake in a bain-marie, we took our inspiration from Nigella’s London Cheesecake recipe available here. We used Getrude Dembowski’s ingredients, but Nigella’s technique.

© Taste Trail Limited 2015