Why It Shouldn’t Matter If Cheesecake Is a Cake, Tart, or Pie
Let’s not start a useless debate.
We are here to talk about one thing today, and that is cheesecake. Cheesecake, in my thoroughly researched and personal opinion, is the best dessert, ever. End of debate. It’s everything you want—a creamy, not too sweet, sort of tangy treat. It’s softer than pastry, more solid than pudding.
Though cheesecake is in a category of its own (i.e., phenomenal), sometimes people like to group it into a lesser category (e.g., dessert) which makes calling it “the best dessert ever” a “controversial” issue. The reasons? Some don’t like the taste, texture, cream cheese, or joy. There are even fair-weather fans out there who don’t mind it, but when given the choice, will prefer brownie, yellow cake, or even chocolate ice cream.
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Like thermodynamics or waking up early, I do not understand the inner workings of someone who doesn’t like cheesecake. But I do know it has something to do with genes and/or early traumatic experiences with cream cheese. And so, when someone tells me they don’t like cheesecake (like our associate food editor Grace Elkus), I do not argue with them or take it personally. I look shocked or exclaim “WHAT?” at first, but eventually, I can work past it. I take a deep breath, smile, remind myself that they are entitled to their opinion, and forgive them, for they know not what they do.
All this being said, not liking cheesecake is a controversy I can handle. There are even controversies within the cheesecake community I think are valid. For example “What variety is the best?” (Plain, though I don’t mind the occasional cherry topping). “Cream or Neufchâtel?” (Cream cheese, all the way). “What about a sour cream topping?” (Absolutely not.) However, last week, a silly controversy found its way into my inbox.
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If you don’t have a Google Alert for cheesecake (I do,) here’s the rundown: Last week, Eater posted an article with the headline, Sorry, Cheesecake Is Not Cake. Its aim was to shock the American public into realizing that this dessert has been masquerading for years as something it’s not. The next day, the news hit the Today show, where the roundtable of cohosts deemed it “a very important opinion piece,” and debated exactly what the dessert should be classified as. Al Roker and Carson Daly landed on a something between pie and cake, while Matt Lauer created a category of his own, “a little slice of heaven.”
I think this is a silly question. I suspect the rival lemon bar or key lime pie lobbyists posed the question “cake, pie, or tart?” to distract America from enjoying the unique citrus-free tang only its dairy-based rival can provide. This parsing of semantics calls to mind another question all together: Why is “cake” the problem here? Why not “cheese”? If, out of context, someone started describing a cake made out of cheese, I would argue your mind would go straight to a Frankenstein of cheese wheels featuring the likes of cheddar, parmesan, or gruyere. And yes, I know that the “cheese” part comes from Neufchâtel or cream cheese, but here’s my counterpoint: When we’re spreading schmear on a bagel, are we really thinking of eating cheese or something else entirely? Most definitely the latter!
So, I will leave you with this: Cheesecake is as much cake as it is cheese. Don’t get caught up in the talk about whether or not its name is as literal as it should be. Instead, treat yourself to a slice of the good stuff and thank your lucky stars it was invented in the first place.