|Place of origin||Ancient Greece|
|Main ingredients||Cheese, sugar, pie crust (graham cracker crust, pastry, or sponge cake)|
Cheesecake is a sweet dessert consisting of one or more layers. The main, and thickest, layer consists of a mixture of a soft, fresh cheese (typically cottage cheese, cream cheese or ricotta), eggs, and sugar. If there is a bottom layer, it most often consists of a crust or base made from crushed cookies (or digestive biscuits), graham crackers, pastry, or sometimes sponge cake. Cheesecake may be baked or unbaked (and is usually refrigerated).
Cheesecake is usually sweetened with sugar and may be flavored in different ways. Vanilla, spices, lemon, chocolate, pumpkin, or other flavors may be added to the main cheese layer. Additional flavors and visual appeal may be added by topping the finished dessert with fruit, whipped cream, nuts, cookies, fruit sauce, chocolate syrup, or other ingredients.
Modern cheesecake is not usually classified as an actual "cake", despite the name (compare with Boston cream "pie"). People who classify it as a torte point to the presence of many eggs, which are the sole source of leavening, as a key factor. Others find compelling evidence that it is a custard pie, based on the overall structure, with the separate crust, the soft filling, and the absence of flour. Other sources identify it as a flan, or tart.
An ancient form of cheesecake may have been a popular dish in ancient Greece even prior to Romans' adoption of it with the conquest of Greece. The earliest attested mention of a cheesecake is by the Greek physician Aegimus (5th century BCE), who wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes (πλακουντοποιικόν σύγγραμμα—plakountopoiikon sungramma). The earliest extant cheesecake recipes are found in Cato the Elder's De Agri Cultura, which includes recipes for three cakes for religious uses: libum, savillum and placenta. Of the three, placenta cake is the most like modern cheesecakes: having a crust that is separately prepared and baked.
A more modern version called a sambocade, made with elderflower and rose water, is found in Forme of Cury, an English cookbook from 1390. On this basis, chef Heston Blumenthal has argued that cheesecake is an English invention.
The modern cheesecake
The English name cheesecake has been used only since the 15th century, and the cheesecake did not evolve into its modern form until somewhere around the 18th century. Europeans began removing yeast and adding beaten eggs to the cheesecake instead. With the overpowering yeast flavor gone, the result tasted more like a dessert treat. The early 19th-century cheesecake recipes in A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell are made with cheese curd and fresh butter. One version is thickened with blanched almonds, eggs and cream, and the cakes may have included currants, brandy, raisin wine, nutmeg and orange flower water.
Modern commercial American cream cheese was developed in 1872, when William Lawrence, from Chester, New York, while looking for a way to recreate the soft, French cheese Neufchâtel, accidentally came up with a way of making an "unripened cheese" that is heavier and creamier; other dairymen came up with similar creations independently.
Modern cheesecake comes in two different types. Along with the baked cheesecake, some cheesecakes are made with uncooked cream cheese on a crumbled-cookie or graham cracker base. This type of cheesecake was invented in the United States.
Cheesecakes can be broadly categorized into two basic types: baked and unbaked. Some do not have a crust or base. Cheesecake comes in a variety of styles based on region:
South Africa: South Africa has many different varieties of cheesecake. One popular variant is made with whipped cream, cream cheese, gelatin for the filling, and a buttered digestive biscuit crust. It is not baked, and is sometimes made with Amarula liqueur. This variant is very similar to British cheesecake. This cheesecake is more common in British South African communities.
Asian-style cheesecake flavors include matcha (powdered Japanese green tea), lychee, and mango. Asian-style cheesecakes are also lighter in flavor and are sometimes light and spongy in texture. There is also a higher egg to cream cheese ratio in Asian-style cheesecakes. Compared to its international counterparts, Asian cheesecake is also considerably less sweet.
India: The Indian state of Odisha is known for chhena poda which is a type of cheesecake made by baking a mixture of chhena (a type of cottage cheese), sugar and nuts.
Philippines: The most prominent version of cheesecake in the Philippines is ube cheesecake. It is made with a base of crushed graham crackers and an upper layer of cream cheese and ube halaya (mashed purple yam with milk, sugar, and butter). It can be prepared baked or simply refrigerated. Like other ube desserts in the Philippines, it is characteristically purple in color.
- Soufflé-style (or "cotton") Japanese cheesecake is made with cream cheese, butter, sugar, and eggs, and has a characteristically wobbly, airy texture, similar to chiffon cake. No-bake cheesecakes are known as rare cheesecake (Japanese: レアチーズケーキ).
- The Basque cheesecake has no separate crust but, rather, develops its crust through hard, high temperature baking. It is characterised by a burnt, scorched top which conceals a soft, gooey filling of cream cheese, sugar, eggs and cream which oozes like molten lava when cut.
- Bulgarian-style cheesecake uses cream cheese in a New York–style filling and smetana for a top layer. Ground nuts are often added to the crust mixture.
- French-style cheesecakes are very light, feature gelatin as a binding ingredient, and are typically only 3 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) high. This variety gets its light texture and flavor from Neufchâtel cheese.
|Germany: German-style cheesecake (Käsekuchen, Quarkkuchen, Matzkuchen; Topfenkuchen in Austria) uses quark and a freshly made dough, not Graham crackers. The Käsesahnetorte (cheese cream tart) adds cream and is not baked. This recipe is sometimes translated into English using rennet-based cottage cheese, but a German Quarkkuchen uses quark cheese made from sour milk.|
- In Greece, cheesecake has been made since antiquity and is now traditionally made using mizithra. There are many regional variants of the mizithropita.
- Ancient Roman-style cheesecake uses honey and a ricotta-like cheese along with flour and is traditionally shaped into loaves. Some recipes call for bay leaves, which may have been used as a preservative. Italian-style cheesecake uses ricotta or mascarpone cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, and sometimes barley flakes. This type of cheesecake is typically drier than American styles. Small bits of candied fruit are often added.
- The Netherlands and Belgium
- Dutch/Belgian-style cheesecakes are typically flavored with fruit or melted bittersweet chocolate, are generally made with quark, and are not baked. Belgian cheesecake also includes a speculaas crust (a traditional Dutch-Belgian biscuit).
|Poland: Polish sernik (cheesecake), one of the most popular desserts in Poland, is made primarily using twaróg, Polish quark cheese.|
- The Portuguese confectionery Queijada is closely related to cheesecake, although smaller in size and prepared with Requeijão, a typically Portuguese cheese.
- Russian-style cheesecake (Vatrushka) is in the form of a dough ring and filled with quark or cottage cheese. The tvorozhnaya zapekanka is a crustless baked cheesecake that mixes tvorog (Russian quark), eggs and semolina, and often includes raisins. It is a traditional snack in Russian kindergartens.
|Sweden: Swedish-style cheesecake differs greatly from other cheesecakes. A Swedish cheesecake is not layered and is traditionally produced by adding rennet to milk and letting the casein coagulate. It is then baked in an oven and served warm. Since the process of curdling milk is somewhat complicated, alternative recipes intended for home cooking instead use cottage cheese as a base to simulate the texture of the dessert. Swedish-style cheesecake is traditionally served with jam and whipped cream. There are two different types of Swedish cheesecake from different regions in Sweden. To avoid confusion with other cheesecakes, Swedish cheesecake is usually called ostkaka.|
- United Kingdom and Ireland
- In the United Kingdom and Ireland, cheesecake is typically made with a base of crushed, buttered biscuits and often topped with a fruit compote. The most common commercial varieties are black cherry, blackcurrant, strawberry, passionfruit, raspberry, and lemon curd. The usual filling is a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, and cream and it is not baked, but refrigerated. Gelatine (sometimes in the form of fruit-flavored dessert jelly) may also be mixed in with the cheese/cream mixture to keep the filling firm. Variations are common, and include banoffee (bananas and toffee), coffee, tea, chocolate, Irish cream, white chocolate, and marshmallow flavors. Savory smoked salmon cheesecake is made in Scotland.
- Ukrainian syrnyk (cheesecake), one of the most popular desserts in Ukraine, it is made primarily using syr, Ukrainian quark cheese.
The United States has several different recipes for cheesecake and this usually depends on the region in which the cake was baked, as well as the cultural background of the person baking it. These cheesecakes are typically baked before serving.
New York: New York–style cheesecake uses a cream cheese base, also incorporating heavy cream or sour cream. The typical New York cheesecake is rich and has a dense, smooth, and creamy consistency. Sour cream makes the cheesecake more resilient to freezing and is the method by which most frozen cheesecakes are made. However, a lavish variant uses sour cream as a topping, applied when the cheesecake is cooked. It is mixed with vanilla extract and sugar and replaced in the oven, essentially making the cheesecake twice-baked.
- Chicago–style cheesecake is a baked cream-cheese version which is firm on the outside with a soft and creamy texture on the inside. These cheesecakes are often made in a greased cake pan and are relatively fluffy in texture. The crust used with this style of cheesecake is most commonly made from shortbread which is crushed and mixed with sugar and butter. Some frozen cheesecakes are Chicago-style.
Cheesecakes from around the World
Russian cheesecake (Vatrushka)
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- Bender, David A. (2014-01-23). A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192518422.
cheesecake: A flan or tart filled with curd or cream cheese.
- Dana Bovbjerg, Jeremy Iggers, The Joy of Cheesecake, Barron's Educational Series, 1989
- Callimachus, ap. Athen, xiv. p. 643, e
- Cato the Elder, De Agri Cultura, paragraphs 75 and 76. Available in English on-line at: University of Chicago: Penelope (Note: The "leaves" mentioned in Cato's recipe are bay leaves.)
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- Heston Blumenthal (2013). Historic Heston. Bloomsbury. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4088-0441-4.
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- cheesecake History
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