Cheesecake! That dreamy, creamy confection that melts in your mouth and coats the belly in decadent goodness. The word alone makes me swoon. (I may not be a Golden Girl yet, but I’m pretty close!) Served New York style, smothered in fruit, or mixed with added flavors, it is as versatile as it is delicious. While delicious on its own, there is virtually no limit to the combination of added goodness that brings this dessert from ideal to next-level perfection. Curious to know more about cheesecake? Read on to learn all about how this divine treat earned its place on dessert tables all around the world.
Who Made it First: A Cheesecake History
The ancient Greeks made the earliest known rudimentary cheesecakes (fifth century BC) called plakous meaning “flat mass.” It consisted of patties of fresh cheese pounded smooth with flour and honey, then cooked on an earthenware griddle.
Cheesecake popped up again in late medieval Europe: this time, in tart form with a pastry base. The first English cookbook, The Forme of Cury (c. 1390), included two cheese tarts: “Sambocade,” made with curd cheese, egg whites, rosewater, and elderflowers, and “Tart de Bry” made with a semi-soft autumn cows’ cheese called “ruayn”, egg yolks, and ground ginger. After that, almost every following English cookbook contained at least one recipe.
Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats offered up the recipes for three different cheesecakes as well as a baked “Curd Pudding,” – which is a fancy way of saying a cheesecake without crust – each flavored with rosewater, spices, and currants, and then baked in pastry crusts. Eliza Leslie in Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats (Boston, 1828) also offered up “A Cheesecake” baked with rosewater, spices, and currants. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the subtler flavors of lemon and/or vanilla replaced rosewater and spices as the main flavoring. By the 1930s, the basis of many American cheesecakes dramatically changed from a light, fluffy, slightly coarse texture to a much creamier, more decadent delicacy due to the addition of cream cheese.
In the early 1930s, cream cheese-based versions were all the rage in New York City. The curd used in previous versions tended to break up during baking, resulting in a grainy texture; however, with the 1920s addition of food stabilizers, bakers found cream cheese made for a smoother, richer bite. Thus the “New York cheesecake” was born. Arnold Reuben, a German-Jewish immigrant who owned a chain of Manhattan restaurants, claimed that, after sampling a cheese pie in 1929 at a dinner party, he obtained the recipe from the hostess, then played with the ingredients, substituting cream cheese for curds. When Reuben’s innovative cake was served to upscale clientele at his restaurants in the 1930s, it made big news, and everyone wanted to copy the recipe for their own.
New York, Italian, French, German: The Differences and Our Favorites
Cheesecakes are a simple recipe consisting of soft cheese, eggs, sugar, and a few flavorings baked atop a cookie or pastry crust. However, while the ingredients are similar, the style of the Cheesecake affects the texture and taste. There are four basic types: Italian, German, New York, and French. Similar in style, yet they all have their own special recipes. But who makes it best? We did the research, so read on and find out who brings home the cheesecake crown.
New York Cheesecake
Ask anyone about Cheesecake, and they’ll immediately think of New York one. It’s an American favorite with its creamy texture and decadent flavor. The secret? Cream cheese. New York cheesecake is heavy on the stuff, which is what gives it that dense richness we’ve all come to love. Add in sugar, eggs, and a little lemon zest, on a graham cracker crust, and there you have it. A thick, delicious New York cheesecake that’s sure to please.
Italy does it a little differently. The main difference between a typical New York American and an Italian cheesecake is ricotta. While the secondary ingredients remain the same, the addition of ricotta over cream cheese makes this cake a bit lighter and dryer, a little more cakelike than New York cheesecake.
French desserts are usually lighter and fluffier than regular cheesecakes. Similar to New York recipe, cream cheese is the star of this delectable dessert; however, the French add heavy cream and sour cream for a light, tangy taste. French-style cheesecake may also refer to a version made with uncooked batter. It uses a binder of gelatin or whipped topping instead of eggs to make it set.
Our last stop on the cheesecake tour is Germany. Known as Käsekuchen (literally cheese + cake), this German-style treat is made from quark, a dairy product similar to cottage cheese or yogurt (but you can’t substitute cottage cheese or yogurt for quark if attempting to bake a German-style cake!) Quark is a staple in German baking, but it’s almost impossible to get in North America.
A cheesecake made with this magical ingredient ends up light and fluffy in texture but still extremely creamy. Another difference is the crust. German cheesecakes usually have a simple crust made with butter and flour instead of the traditional graham cracker crust we’ve become accustomed to.
No matter which version wins your heart, I’m sure we can all agree on one simple thing: this cake in all its forms is a delicious treat to share with friends (or, let’s be honest, scarf down all by yourself in front of the TV). So, which is your favorite?
When and When NOT to Send a Cheesecake?
Cheesecake is a popular dessert that works for virtually any celebration or even just because. I for one, would jump for joy to open my door and find a fresh cheesecake sitting on my stoop waiting for me. But there are some things to keep in mind before you hit the checkout.
As cheesecake is a perishable item, it needs to be kept cold. Most companies will freeze it before shipping and then pack it with dry ice to cool in transit. That being said, standard shipping takes much too long for it to arrive in edible condition. Aim for overnight shipping if you can – two-day at the very least. No worries, when you order with Cakes Overseas we automatically send all of our goodies in ideal conditions for optimum freshness.
When sending as a gift, It’s a good idea to let the recipient know that a perishable item is on its way and offer the expected delivery date so that they are available to receive the package.
So, in the age of technology, when some of you may be asking yourself, “Can I order a cheesecake online and have it shipped?” The answer is YES!
Fun Facts About Cheesecake You Might Not Have Known.
- In the 1730s, the “Cheesecake House” tavern was built in Philadelphia.
- Cheesecake appeared more than 100 times during the seven-year run of the popular tv sitcom Golden Girls.
- July 30 is National Cheesecake Day, and April 23 is National Cherry Cheesecake Day.
- The “inventor” of the New York Cheesecake, Arnold Reuben, also claimed to have created the famous Reuben sandwich.
- The Austrian Postal service used to offer cheesecake-flavored postage stamps made by Haagen-Dazs.
- The price of ordering one of each of the Cheesecake Factory’s 33 varieties is almost $400.
- Saks Fifth Avenue sells a $300 cheesecake made from a triple blend of mocha-flavored cheeses and encased in a filigreed chocolate shell that’s stacked like a pile of Christmas presents.
- Cheesecake Lube is actually a thing. According to Cracked, the Blueberry Cheesecake flavor is a little bit like “sucking the life force from the gelatinous eyeball of an Oompa Loompa.” Oy vey.
Fruit, Chocolate, Plain: The Cake With Variety
Cheesecake is likely one of the world’s most versatile desserts. Serve it plain or dress it up with pretty much whatever added flavor you can think of, and it’s sure to be a hit at any gathering. Flavors added to cheesecake develop as fast as inspiration strikes. Whether you are a master in the art of baking, sending cheesecake as a gift, or enjoying one just for the sheer pleasure of it, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your recipient’s face light up when you set a this cake in front of them. New flavors are always on the horizon just waiting for you to discover. Which one will be your new favorite?
Woo-Hoo! You’ve learned all about creamy Cheesecake!
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Toni T. is a writer, mother, amateur makeup artist, and coffee addict — not necessarily in that order! A lover of all things vintage, she’s an encyclopedia of useless 80’s trivia and adores a bold red lip. She is a second-generation Greek American with dreams of traveling abroad to see the land on which her ancestors walked but, for now, she resides in the ‘burbs of New Jersey with her husband and children.