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Why Is Cheesecake Called Cheesecake?

Norah Clark
Raspberry and dark chocolate base cheesecake.

Cheesecake is called "cheesecake" because does not typically contain yeast, and has a crust. Whether it’s baked or not, cheesecake is really a form of pie with a crust on the bottom.

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

The classic cheesecake recipe includes cream cheese. 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 savory cheesecake. 

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 determined to have been invented in the early days of Greece.

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 his 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 to America by immigrants who introduced a range of regional recipes. When Americans think of cheesecake today it is usually associated with a dessert made from  cream cheese.

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

In 1880, Lawrence started distributing the cream cheese wrapped in foil under the supervision of the Empire Cheese Company of South Edmeston, New York. He came up with the first 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 manages and produces Philadelphia Cream Cheese today.

Traditional Greek Cheesecake

Most traditional and authentic Greek cheesecakes are 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 base is typically a crust made from crushed Graham crackers, or other types of cookies. Oreos are one of my favorites for chocolate cheesecakes. 

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, originating from the restaurant Junior’s located in Brooklyn, is cooked or baked cheesecake.

No-bake Cheesecake

The no-bake cheesecake is a faster and easier way to make it consisting of  cream or sour cream, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and put in the refrigerator to chill and set – hence the name ‘no-bake cheesecake.’

FAQs

What is the etymology of the name “cheesecake”?

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

What is the main ingredient in cheesecake?

Cream cheese is the main ingredient in traditional cheesecake recipes.

How long has cheesecake been around?

Cheesecake dates back to 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.

Profile Image Norah Clark

Norah Clark

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

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