Cheesecake is an iconic dessert, known for its rich and creamy flavors, delicious toppings, and tasty biscuit base. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like cheesecake, as it’s just too irresistible!
But what actually is it? Is cheesecake a cake, as the name suggests? Or can it be called a pie, since it has a crust?
What exactly is a cheesecake, and how is it made? If you want to have all your cheesecake-related questions answered for good, then keep reading as I dive into the question ‘is cheesecake a pie or a cake?’.
The Difference Between Pie and Cake: Let’s Get to the Bottom of it!
What exactly are we eating when we have cheesecake? Is it a cake? A pie? What’s the difference between pie and cake, anyway?
Bare with me as I attempt to break it all down for you.
What is Cheesecake?
The earliest known cheesecakes were created by the ancient Greeks in the fifth century BC. Although there is also some evidence it goes even further to Egyptian times.
These were made from patties of fresh cheese that were pounded smooth. Flour and honey were added, and the whole creation was cooked on an earthenware griddle.
The cheesecake was then made with a pastry base in late medieval Europe. From there, the recipe traveled to Philadelphia in the 1730s, where it was mainly flavored with rosewater, spices, and currants.
Subtler vanilla and lemon flavors became popular in the 19th century. Cheesecakes developed in the 1930s into more of a rich and creamy dessert that we know and love now. Cream cheese in cheesecake was an American addition and helped it rise to popularity.
Americans fell in love with the dessert leading to the creation of renowned places like The Cheesecake Factory.
There are many types of cheesecakes that are from different areas of the world, but the most popular ones are the New York cheesecake, Italian, German, and French. Other variations exist across even America, as well as the globe!
What is a Cake?
A cake is a sweet bakery product that is made primarily from flour, sugar, and eggs. They started as a modified bread that is sweet.
The earliest examples of cake came from the ancient Egyptians, who made cakes in the form of round, flat breads. The word cake is of Norse origin, and is derived from the word ‘kaka’.
The Romans were one of the first to make cakes, which were made the same way as bread – except sweetened.
Early English cakes were made similarly to bread, too, with the major difference being the shape. Cakes were round and flat, while bread retained its tall shape.
Although the difference between cake and bread may seem obvious to us, the actual definition of each is not clear.
Cakes are made by combining dry ingredients, such as flour, baking soda and cocoa powder, with wet ingredients like eggs, butter, and milk to make a batter. The batter is then poured into a pan and baked in the oven until it is firm and spongy.
There are many types of cakes, such as pound cakes, sponge cakes, and layered cakes. Cakes also include cake pops, cupcakes, muffins and Swiss rolls.
Take a look at how to make this delicious chocolate cake!
What is a Pie?
A pie is a sweet or savory filling encased in pastry. The main ingredients consist of a pie shell or pastry sheets and a type of filling.
There are many different types of pies that are defined by how much pastry or crust they have.
There are filled pies, which have pastry lining the bottom of the dish with filling on top that is left bare. A top-crust pie has filling on the bottom of the dish with pastry on top, and a two-crust pie comprises filling completely encased in pastry.
Shortcrust pastry is typically used for pie crusts, but it can change depending on the type of pie (such as biscuit crumbs for a sweet pie).
They’re usually made by assembling the pie in a dish and baking it in an oven until the pastry is cooked through and the filling is hot. The pastry lining the dish can be precooked before adding the filling, to ensure the pastry is thoroughly cooked through.
What as a Tart?
A tart is a baked dish that consists of a pastry base with filling on top. Tarts are usually sweet, but you can also get savory tarts. Shortcrust pastry is usually used to make tart shells.
Although tarts may sound similar to filled pies, tarts are usually free-standing and made from firmer pastry. Pies are usually made with a softer, looser pastry. They both follow similar baking processes so you can see why many would assume they are the same thing.
Tarts are usually fruit-based, paired with custard or syrup. Quiches are also considered tarts (just savory), as they are a filling baked into an open-top pastry base.
How is Cheesecake Made?
Philadelphia or any softened cream cheese is one of the most important ingredients in cheesecake.
Once you have softened the cheese, you then create a crust. The crust is usually out of crushed biscuits mixed in with melted butter and pressed into the cheesecake tin.
The crust is then baked or chilled in the fridge to set the biscuit base before adding the filling.
A mixture of ingredients such as cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and eggs are added, depending on whether you are making a baked cheesecake or a no bake cheesecake
Once the crust has cooled, the mixture is poured over the top. The pan is then placed in a water bath to bake. The water bath helps to evenly distribute heat around the cake pan, cooking evenly and preventing cracks.
The cheesecake is done when the middle is jiggly, but the edges look set. Leave it in a turned-off oven, before cooling it completely on a rack after removing it from the pan.
It’s then refrigerated for at least 4 hours, so it’s completely set and achieves the perfect texture!
After being set, syrups and toppings can be added to give the cheesecake extra flavor and a pretty design.
Cheesecake can Technically be Classified as a Tart
Overall, the closest classification of a cheesecake is a tart.
Tarts have pastry or crust along the bottom of the pan, topped with filling. They are different from pies in that the pastry is sturdy enough to give the tart structure and allow it to stand by itself.
The crust can be just along the bottom of the tart, or it can be on the sides too.
The same goes for cheesecake. The biscuit crumb crust can go up the side as well, although it’s more common for just the bottom to have a crust.
So, technically speaking, cheesecakes can be called tarts!
Can cheesecake be called a pie, then? As a pie can be savory, a cheese pie would make more sense than a cheesecake.
The difference between cheesecake and cheese pie is the connotations between sweet and savory.
Therefore, the name ‘cheesecake’ wins in a cheese pie vs cheesecake battle. Cheesecake is a better description of the dessert – and there’s definitely a big difference between cheesecake and cheese pie!
Why is it Called Cheesecake?
‘Cheese’ and ‘cake’ are two things that should not be paired together. Can you imagine biting into a chocolate cake topped with blue cheese?
However, cheesecake is different.
Since it’s made with a neutral, creamy cheese like cream cheese, mascarpone, or cottage cheese, you don’t get the taste of ‘cheese’, like cheddar cheese. It’s simply a way to get a creamy texture.
These cheeses are then sweetened with sugar, vanilla, and other flavorings, resulting in a rich, creamy, custard-like consistency that is unique. No other dessert is made quite like cheesecake, and its name is indicative of its design.
However, its name could be a deterrent for some people if they don’t know what exactly cheesecake is and what it is made from.
So, is Cheesecake a Cake?
Cheesecake is not a cake per se as its name suggests. However, it’s not a pie either. It can be a tart, although it’s better to describe it as a ‘cheesecake’. Confused, yet?
It has a distinctive name for a reason. The rich history of cheesecake and developments over time have created a special and iconic dessert that is unlike anything else!
As such, cheesecake truly deserves to have its very own category.