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Why Is Cheesecake Called Cheesecake?

Norah Clark
Raspberry and dark chocolate base cheesecake.

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, Editor of Boyd Hampers! Norah is a seasoned food writer with over a decade of experience in hospitality as a former pastry chef, sous chef, and barista; former chef at the Savoy Hotel, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Plaza Hotel.

Cheesecake is called "cheesecake" because it is typically without yeast, and has a crust. Whether it’s baked or not, cheesecake is really a form of pie, but since cheesecake it has no pastry, it can't be a pie!

Most baked cheesecakes use custard as the base of filling made up of eggs, milk sugar, salt, vanilla or other flavors.

The classic cheesecake recipe is made with the inclusion of cream cheese; however, it allows for different variations in the kind of crust, and flavors, like chocolate, and a variety of toppings ranging from nuts and fruit to sweets.

Another common misconception about cheesecakes is that they are supposed to be a sweet dessert. The famous French quiche is actually a savoury cheesecake. You can find a wide variety of recipes for cheese pies that are savory from all over Europe and across all of the United States.

Why Is Cheesecake Called Cheesecake?

According to anthropologists who discovered cheese molds dating from the same time period, the art of cheesecakes can be traced back to as early as 2200 B.C! However, cheesecake is predicted to have been invented in the early days of Greece.

Interesting facts you might never have known! A cheesecake is thought to have been served to athletes at the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C. to fuel them with energy! Greek brides in the past also prepared and served cheesecakes to guests at their weddings.

In the book “The Oxford Companion to Food,” editor Alan Davidson states that cheesecake was mentioned in Marcus Porcius’ “Cato’s De re Rustica” about 200 BCE. He also notes that Cato explained how he made its cheese libum (cake) with very similar results to the modern cheesecake we recognize and love today. The Romans made cheesecake popular in Greece and right across Europe!

New York Cheesecake Origin

A few centuries later, the cheesecake was introduced in America and was accompanied by a range of regional recipes brought to America by immigrants. When Americans think of cheesecake today it is usually associated with a dessert made from a cream cheese ingredient.

Cream cheese was created back in 1872. An American dairyman invented it called William Lawrence from Chester, New York. He accidentally came across a method of creating cream cheese while trying to replicate the taste of a French cheese known as Neufchatel.

It was in 1880 that Lawrence started distributing the cream cheese wrapped in foil under the supervision of the Empire Cheese Company of South Edmeston, New York, where he created the product. However, you might know it better from the more famous person, Lawrence, who came up with his “not Neufchatel” Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese.

In 1903, the Phoenix Cheese Company bought Lawrence’s business and his Philadelphia trademark. After 1928, the Philadelphia brand was acquired by Kraft Cheese Company. James L. Kraft invented pasteurized cheese in 1912, which led to the creation of the pasteurized Philadelphia Brand cream cheese, today the most well-known and arguably the best cheese used in cheesecake.

Kraft Foods still manages and produces Philadelphia Cream Cheese today.

Traditional Greek Cheesecake

Most traditional and authentic Greek cheesecakes are still made today with ricotta cheese. The best and most authentic Greek cheesecake is unsalted Anthotyros and myzirtha cheeses made with sheep’s or goat’s milk. Greek cheesecakes taste unique and are generally sweetened with honey.

Specific recipes include flour straight into the honey/cheese mix before baking, whereas others use the crust.

Cream Cheese Cheesecake

Picture of a cream cheese cheesecake.
Picture of a cream cheese cheesecake.

The cheesecake that most Americans are accustomed to is made of cream cheese, but there are many substitutes for cream cheese in cheesecakes. The cheesecake base is typically a crust made from crushed Graham crackers, or other types of cookies, Oreos are one of my favorites for chocolate cheesecakes. They are then mixed with melted butter and mixed in a food processor then flattened on the bottom of the mold or baking tin.

Since there are two different types of cream cheese cheesecakes, it can be confusing whether cheesecake contains eggs or why sometimes a cheesecake can become undercooked. Here is a quick and easy way to find out the difference between a baked cheesecake and a no-bake cheesecake:

Baked Cheesecake

Picture of a baked cheesecake.
Picture of a baked cheesecake.

There are plenty of recipes that include custard bases or have eggs included, and they both require the cake to be baked. The traditional New York Cheesecake originates from the restaurant Junior’s located on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is cooked cheesecake.

No-bake Cheesecake

The no-bake cheesecake is a faster and easier way to make a cheesecake that consists of other rich ingredients, such as cream or sour cream, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, or heavy cream, which will be set in the refrigerator to chill and set – hence the name ‘no-bake cheesecake.’


What is the etymology of the name “cheesecake”?

The name “cheesecake” is believed to have originated because the dessert is made primarily with cheese.

What is the main ingredient in cheesecake?

Cream cheese is the main ingredient in traditional cheesecake recipes.

Is cheesecake a tart or a pie?

Cheesecake is not a tart. Cheesecake is a form of pie, but since cheesecake isn’t topped with pastry, it cannot be a pie.

How long has cheesecake been present in history?

Cheesecake has been around for centuries, with evidence of the dessert dating back to ancient Greece.

Which country does cheesecake originate from?

Cheesecake is believed to have originated in ancient Greece.

How has the cheesecake recipe changed over the years?

Cheesecake has evolved over time to include different types of cheese, crusts, and toppings. Today, there are a wide variety of cheesecake flavors and styles available, including traditional, fruit-topped, and chocolate-covered varieties.

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