National Cheesecake Day is celebrated today, July 30. The odd holiday offers the spotlight to one of America’s favorite desserts. This smooth dessert is commonly enjoyed when the end of the meal rolls around. While most cakes have a crumb texture, cheesecake is the complete opposite. The creamy, thick pudding-like texture comes from the soft cheese used as the main ingredient.
Depending on the recipe, either cream cheese or cottage cheese is used as the main ingredient. When the chosen cheese is mixed with sugar, eggs and other ingredients, the batter is added to a crust. One of the most common crusts used for the delicious treat is graham cracker. Other options could include a cookie crust, pastry or even sponge cake. However, some cheesecakes are completely crustless. Recipes vary, especially from different eras, and may or may not be baked.
Now the origin history of cheesecake is quite interesting. According to cheesecake.com, “Cheesecake’s story starts on the isle of Samos between the seventh and eighth centuries BCE. It was there that people began pounding cheese into a thick paste, sweetening it with honey and setting it into a crust of wheat. Ah, the first cheesecake. It was baked, cooled and then consumed.”
The website goes on to paint the story, saying, “It is said that during the first Olympic Games, in 776 BCE, cheesecakes were passed out to the sportsmen to supply them with the strength they needed to compete the various tasks at hand. From there, well, cheesecake sort of took off because it was just that good, even back in the day.
“After the Romans occupied Greece, the recipe really caught on. As their empire grew, enveloping the majority of modern-day Europe, Romans spread the recipe for cheesecake. Around 160 BCE, the first cheesecake recipe was jotted down by Marcus Porcius Cato in his book De Agri Cultura. The book is often referred to as a farmer’s manual, as it depicts rural life and the recipes that require farm products. Cheese, being produced on a farm and the backbone of all that is good, was thus a ready ingredient for these farmers, making cheesecake easy to produce and popular in the countryside.
“In 1545, another book was made: the first ever printed cookbook. In it was the recipe for a flour-based cheesecake. This recipe spawned all other sorts of cheesecake concoctions. People began to make it with the ingredients that were native to where they lived. As sugar began to reduce in price and become more readily available, it was eventually used to sweeten the cake instead of honey. But it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that cheesecake began to look like ours after Europeans began using eggs instead of yeast to make cheesecake rise.”
The website concluded by saying, “By then, people had already started making the transatlantic trip to the Americas. And in 1872, something major happened. In Chester, New York, William Lawrence created American cream cheese. Sure, it had been around a few decades prior in France, but no one in America had ever heard of it. William Lawrence was attempting to make a French cheese called Neufchatel, (which tastes like mushrooms) and failed miserably. Lucky for us, his failure created Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which he began selling in foil. By 1912, James Kraft developed a method to pasteurize the cheese, and by the 1920s, it became very popular, especially in New York.
“Restaurants in the Big Apple began putting their own spin on cheesecakes using said cream cheese and as thousands of tourists flocked to the city, it became a national sensation. New York style cheesecake became huge. Trying to top New York, other cities like Philadelphia and Chicago created their own styles, and soon other places did too.
“So, while the ancient Greeks are commended for influencing today’s politics, mathematics and philosophies, they should also be recognized as the culture that created a timeless dessert. For thousands of years, cheesecake has been a staple around the world. Some desserts are so delicious that they have the ability to appeal to everyone, even the healthiest of Olympians, forever. And cheesecake is certainly just that kind of dessert.”
Since its creation, recipes have been experimented with, creating different flavors and styles. When faced with a list of cheesecake flavor, don’t panic. While the options may seem overwhelming, bakers have solved the problem with the ever-popular variety pack. Since cheesecakes come in a wide variety, consider individual preferences. If someone commonly prefers summer fruits and berries, the tropical options is a great choice. For coffee lovers, there is often a wonderful mocha or expresso option. Don’t forget the delicious chocolate and nutty flavors that are often overlooked. Below is a short list of different styles of cheesecakes.
Styles of Cheesecakes:
• New York-style cheesecake
• Pennsylvania Dutch-style cheesecake
• Farmer cheese cheesecake
• Country-style cheesecake
• Lactose-free cheesecake
• Cheesecake Kludys
• Chicago Style cheesecake
• Savory cheesecake
Whether you make one at home or buy one at the store, celebrate National Cheesecake day and enjoy the delicious treat! Post on social media using #NationalCheesecakeDay and share your favorite recipe.
Be sure to watch future editions of The Record Delta to see what other odd holidays have yet to be covered.