Knafeh Cheesecake


tabla roll: knafeh cheesecake. your worlds are colliding right now, am i right? two of the greatest desserts: knafeh and New York cheesecake come together to make this beaut. it’s east meets west (and all other orientalized fantasies (what am i becoming?))–a layer of knafeh replaces the graham cracker crust for this New York cheesecake, is topped with more knafeh, tons of pistachios and candied rosewater and orange blossom simple syrup, attar in arabic. it’s the most perfect fusion of flavors.


this recipe uses chantal’s ny cheesecake recipe, which is the best of the best; clicking the link will take you to the original recipe, sans knafeh element. below is my take on the recipe, including tips and modifications.

1/3 lb (1/3 of the package) katayfi shredded phyllo dough, cut up
1 stick of butter
orange food coloring (knafeh food coloring if you can find)
4 (8oz) packages of philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/2 cups of granulated white sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
ground pistachios
2 cups of granulated white sugar
1 cup of water
1 1/2 tsp rose water
1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
1/2 tsp juice of lemon



reheat oven to 350 f and grease a 9 inch springform pan. in a separate bowl, mix katayif (shredded phyllo dough) with butter and food coloring until fully orange. make sure to cut katayif into small pieces (i hand shred usually, but feel free to use scissors or a knife). add 1/2 tsp of each orange blossom water and rose water and mix thoroughly. spread out about 1/4 of this mixture on a baking sheet (to ensure even toasting) and press the rest of the mixture (3/4th) into the greased springform pan. bake until crispy (10 and 15 minutes respectively). remove both pans from the oven and allow to cool down. *(i did not pre-bake the knafeh “crust” layer and it tasted fine, but if you’re more sensitive to the subtle doughy flavor, I would suggest doing so).

make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature before beginning this step. in a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. do not over-stir or you’ll end up with lumpy cheesecake. add milk and eggs into the mixture slowly. add sour cream, vanilla extract and flour and mix on low until the cheesecake filling is smooth. pour cheesecake filling into springform pan, on top of toasted knafeh base. put the springform pan in a 1 inch hot water bath and bake in preheated oven for one hour. turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar to allow the cheesecake to cool for 1-2 hours (this cuts down the original recipe’s suggested 5-6 hour cooling time). make sure not to move the cheesecake or bang the oven door, because this may cause cracking or flopping (at this point, the cheesecake looks like it has a jello-like texture, which is normal and why it needs to set). after the cheesecake has cooled down, gently take a knife and loosen the sides (not necessary because cheesecake shrinks, but helpful).

to make the simple syrup, or attar, add 2 cups of sugar to one cup of water and bring to a boil. add 1/2 tsp of lemon and 1 tsp each of orange blossom water and rosewater and continue to boil until attar is thickened (i allowed mine to thicken to a candy-like texture so it coats the top of the cheesecake and only slightly drip off to the sides). add about 4 tbsp of the attar to the top of the cheesecake and reserve the rest for your guest with a sweet tooth. add about 3-4 tbsp to reserved knafeh layer for topping and mix thoroughly. i added this to the center in a flattened circular shape, but this is up to your discretion. garnish with ground pistachio and refrigerate till ready to serve.





i’m incredibly in awe at how many people have shared/enjoyed this recipe–so far it’s received 15K+ Facebook shares and quite a few fabulous people have tried out the recipe (looks great)! if you do try it out, please send me a picture and share your experience with me! I’d love to see how everything turned out and hope all goes well! if not through social media or as a comment, feel free to email me at

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42 thoughts on “Knafeh Cheesecake

  1. This looks amazing! I noticed you mentioned sour cream in your directions but you don’t have it listed in the ingredients. Can you tell how much sour cream to use? 😕


  2. Hello! This really looks delicious! I’m a little confused about the 1 inch water part.. “put the spring form pan in a 1 inch hot water bath and bake in preheated oven for one hour”

    Do you put the pan with the cheese filling and knafe at the bottom in a bowl of hot water and place that whole thing in the oven? Or place it, remove it and then put it in the oven?

    Also, you mentioned baking the extra dough on a baking sheet in a 1/4″ thick layer.. Is that only for the top of the cake?

    I’m sorry if my questions sounds silly.. =/ But I’d appreciate your response, I want to make this ASAP! =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sorry, i’ll clarify, still getting used to writing out recipes. you would do the former of the two examples you give. so the idea is that after the knafeh “crust” and cheesecake layer are in the springform pan and ready to be baked, you will place the springform pan in a shallow pan or tray and fill the pan/tray with hot water around the springform pan (do not get the hot water onto the cheesecake). you will bake the cheesecake in the hot water bath for the duration of the hour! this step keeps the cheesecake moist and helps it not crack.

      for the extra katayif dough, you can definitely make more if you want, you can pile high or just sprinkle a bit on top, or even omit this step at all. arrange the katayif dough on a baking sheet, spread it out and bake until crisp (make sure not to burn, so check occasionally) this step is just for the top of the knafeh cheesecake! it gives a great texture to the cake.

      and your questions are not at all silly! they’re helpful for me and i’ll rephrase those sections to make them clear, thank you! good luck and hope you enjoy! feel free to ask anymore questions if needed!


    1. Sheila, the aluminum foil around the pan ensures that water (from the water bath that the springform pan) doesn’t seep in. It’s just an extra precaution, basically! Good luck and hope you and yours enjoy! I’d love to see pictures and hear your feedback if you do try it out! 🙂


    1. That’s great! I wouldn’t say so, I’m not a sweet person and this was completely fine for me! You can control the sweetness level with how much 2attar you put (and do offer it on the side for those that do like it more sweet!)


  3. look’s delicoux, but is it really so that this goodie contains 3 and a half cup of sugar? can somebody try to make vegggie alternative? Oatmilk og soymilk cream, less sugar (cane sugar) etc? A proposal from a yogi-minded.


    1. If you use all of the attar (simple syrup) yes, but you can omit or reduce that if you prefer. In regards to veggie/non dairy options, maybe consider a vegan or raw cheesecake? However, never made one so I don’t have a specific recipe to recommend.


  4. WOW! I have been seeing this everywhere on Facebook and Instagram! Shatila Lebanese Sweets shared a picture of this knafeh cheesecake recently and it looks just like yours! Great job and thank you so much for sharing the recipe! I hope to make it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i’m sure it would! that’s a good idea. just make sure whoever’s eating it likes rosewater—a lot of people tend to have strong feelings on rosewater


  5. Would you try doing two of these at once or would it cause uneven baking? I’m an awful baker, so I don’t want to mess this up!


    1. I think that depends on the temperature of your oven. I have baked two at a time and just put the heat up slightly and let it bake about 10 minutes longer. Sorry for the late response!


  6. hello sweetie thanks to all for your reviews, very helpful. What can I use instead of the sour cream. Where I live it’s very hard to get, Thank you once again


    1. I have heard of people using greek yogurt in place of sour cream, but I would not be able to verify this.

      As an alternative, you could definitely use a different cheesecake recipe that does not include sour cream. Just follow all other steps in this recipe!

      Good luck and let me know how it turns out!


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