Why Is It Called Cheesecake – A History Lesson

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If you don’t know what cheesecake is at first, it might sound like a fairly odd dish. Cheese and cake are not two ingredients you would think to put together, but this is exactly what makes cheesecake such an interesting dessert.

You will find a variety of cheesecakes in many different cultures around the world, but it is really interesting to find out exactly where cheesecake originated from, and how it came to be.

Why is it called cheesecake?

Cheesecake is called cheesecake because it is a dessert made with cheese as a main ingredient. Cream cheese is the most common type of cheese used for cheesecake, but other soft, sweetened cheeses can be used, such as mascarpone, cottage cheese, or ricotta can be used.

So, if you are interested to find out more about cheesecake, read on for a quick history lesson!

Where Did Cheesecake Originate?

Cheesecake, or its early form, originated in Ancient Greece. It is believed that the first recorded cheesecake was made on Samos Island.

However, the cheesecake made back then, such as the cheesecakes provided to Olympions in 776 BCE, was quite different from what we know today.

The basic cheesecake recipe back in ancient Greece involved squeezing cheese into a paste-like texture, adding honey to the mixture, and placing this paste mix into a wheat crust.

This cheesecake was then baked in an oven until set, left to cool, and then served.

The first recorded recipe of cheesecake follows this routine and dates back to approximately 230 AD.

The popularity of cheesecake continued to grow, and when Rome conquered Greece, they took on the cheesecake as their own and added eggs and mushy cheese to the mix, and baked it in a crust.

The Modern Day Cheesecake

Cheesecake has obviously come a long way from its original roots in Ancient Greece, and it is one of those dishes that has changed quite a bit over time.

As time went on, cheesecake turned more into a tart and was being made with a pastry bottom rather than a wheat crust. 

Other than the crust changing, the filling for the cheesecake changed as well, being made with sugar, other flavorings, and eggs.

Further on in time, around the 18th century, cheesecake made its way to America, and cheesecake, as we know it now, was just about to be discovered, by a man called William Lawrence.

In his attempt to recreate the French cheese Neufchatel, he made cream cheese instead, which then spread quickly once it was discovered how to pasteurize it, and then it eventually led to cheesecake being made with cream cheese!

Why Is It Called Cheesecake?

Cheesecake is called cheesecake because it is made with cheese, and it loosely resembles a cake. 

The main cheese used to make cheesecake nowadays is cream cheese, but other soft cheeses are popularly used as well, such as cottage cheese or ricotta.

These are usually sweetened, but as they are neutral-tasting, they work well to make the dessert dish.

From when it was first made in Ancient Greece, cheesecake included some type of cheese as the main ingredient, so the name has stuck since.

Is Cheesecake Really A Cake?

You would automatically think that cheesecake is a cake from its name, but there is some debate on what type of dessert cheesecake really is.

For some, cheesecake is in fact a cake because it is a batter that is baked, much like a traditional cake is, and it often resembles a cake too.

However, there is also the debate that cheesecake is actually a pie, as it consists of a crust that has a sweet cheese and sugar filling, similar to how other pies are made.

To top it off, there is also the argument that cheesecake is a tart, as it has a crust that has a filling much like other tarts do, with a creamy, sweet consistency.

So, there is no definitive answer, and you are pretty much free to decide for yourself which type of dessert cheesecake is!

Different Types Of Cheesecakes

Cheesecake has now become quite a broad term for many variations of the original dessert, and many of the cheesecake recipes are area-dependent, with different cultures having their own take on the creamy dessert.

Here are some of the most popular types of cheesecakes you can find around the world:

Baked Cheesecake

This is the traditional type of cheesecake, with a crust made from a ready-made pie crust, graham crackers, pastry or sponge, and a filling made with cream cheese, sugar, and a few additional ingredients.

This cheesecake is baked until firm and can be served both warm or cold.

Baked cheesecakes can also be topped with a variety of toppings, such as berries, salted caramel, or even cookies.

No-Bake Cheesecake

While the original cheesecake recipes all called for baking, no-bake cheesecakes are now some of the most popular across the world.

The cheesecake filling does not contain raw eggs and being made mostly with cream cheese and sugar, there isn’t a need to bake the filling.

Instead, it is left to set in the fridge, and this gives it quite a light texture once set. 

New York Cheesecake

New York cheesecake is one of the most popular cheesecakes around.

This baked cheesecake is made with more cream than cream cheese, and it includes eggs, giving the filling a more cake-like, creamy batter than other types of cheesecakes.

As it includes eggs, the structure of a New York cheesecake is firmer and more rigid than other cheesecakes, but it is still moist and delicious.

Ricotta Cheesecake

A ricotta cheesecake is an Italian version of the cheesecake, and as you might have guessed by the name, it is made with ricotta cheese rather than cream cheese. 

This cheesecake is also made with flour, which means it is slightly drier than other cheesecakes, but it also has a different flavor and texture which many people prefer.

Basque Cheesecake

The Basque cheesecake is a Spanish specialty, and what makes this special is that it has a caramelized crust, which some might consider being burned.

This adds a really delicious, caramelized flavor to the cheesecake, which pairs perfectly with the creamy, smooth filling.

Souffle Cheesecake

Souffle cheesecake is also known as Japanese cheesecake, and it is a wonderfully fluffy cheesecake that is made using whipped eggs. It is baked in a hot water bath and rises very similar to a souffle.

Chicago Cheesecake

Chicago cheesecake definitely has a unique flavor to it, and this is thanks to the inclusion of sour cream and slow-cultured cream cheese.

The outside of Chicago cheesecake firms up, but the inside stays soft and creamy, giving it a great depth of texture with each bite.

Ube Cheesecake

Ube cheesecake features almost all of the same ingredients as a traditional cheesecake, but it includes purple yams, which makes it a stand-out, unique, and delicious cheesecake variation, originating from the Philippines.

Is There Cheese In Cheesecake?

As we mentioned above, cheesecake is called cheesecake because it contains a type of cheese, but before you write it off without trying it, it is important to know that it isn’t typical cheese like cheddar or Swiss, but rather a creamy, neutral flavored cheese.

Modernly, the most popular type of cheese used to make cheesecake is cream cheese. This fresh cheese is very versatile, with a slightly tangy flavor that can be balanced with a sweetener such as sugar.

Another popular cheese used to make cheesecake is ricotta, which is a mild-flavored cheese that is neither sweet nor savory. When a cheesecake is made with ricotta, it tends to be less rich and less rigid.

The next popular cheese used to make cheesecake is mascarpone. Mascarpone is smooth, and it has a slightly sweet flavor. The velvety texture of mascarpone makes it a great cheese to use to make cheesecake.

Related Questions

Does cheesecake always have cream cheese?

Most cheesecakes found in stores, or most recipes online, call for cream cheese, but there are a variety of cheesecakes around the world which do not use cream cheese.

Is mascarpone the same as cream cheese?

Mascarpone is considered a type of cream cheese and is made in a similar way, but it is not necessarily the same thing as cream cheese. It is made with whole cream rather than milk, which is why it is more velvety than cream cheese.

You can substitute cream cheese in place of mascarpone and vice versa in almost all recipes.

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