Jul 29, 2011

Sweet Origins: Cheesecake

By: Amy Atlas, in Sweet Origins

Photo credits above:  1) What Katie Ate 2)  Crustybakes 3)  Tartelette

Who doesn’t love cheesecake? A dense, rich, creamy slice of sweet cake, topped with a fresh fruit sauce, chocolate or nuts. If you held a popularity contest for desserts, cheesecake would be the captain of the cheerleading squad– it would win every time. To honor National Cheesecake Day, which is tomorrow, we’re giving you the “Sweet Origins” of one of America’s favorite desserts.

Sorry New Yorkers, but cheesecake was not invented in the Big Apple. The dessert actually dates back to Ancient Greece. Early forms of “cheese cake” were made with flour, wheat, honey and cheese. Cheesecake was served to Olympic athletes, as a source of energy, and at weddings, as a celebratory dessert. After the Romans conquered Greece, cheesecake traveled to Europe, where it developed into a much sweeter dessert with the help of beaten eggs.

Not surprisingly, cheesecake’s primary ingredient is cheese. The most common types used are cream cheese, Neufchatel, cottage cheese and ricotta. America’s contribution to the famous dessert came in 1872, when a New York dairy farmer accidentally invented cream cheese (what a delicious accident!). Just a few years later the cheese was branded as Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which Kraft Foods continues to make to this day.

Back to New York. By the 1900’s, the entire city was in LOVE with cheesecake. While almost every major restaurant in town had its own version at the time, the classic New York-style cheesecake is often credited to Arnold Reuben (who also invented the Reuben sandwich). Famously smooth and unadorned, a New York-style cheesecake is just cake. There is no fruit, chocolate or caramel served on top. The filling gets its signature rich flavor from extra egg yolks beaten into the cream cheese mix.

Whether you like your cheesecake heavy or light, drizzled with chocolate or plain, tomorrow is the day to indulge!  Do you like Cheesecake?  If so, what is your favorite kind?

Fun Fact: Each region of the world has it’s own spin on cheesecake. Italians like ricotta, while Greeks use feta cheese. The Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites, while the Germans enjoy cottage cheese.

1)  Maameemoomoo 2)  My Baking Addiction 3)  Martha Stewart 4)  Good Food 5)  Treats

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