Say cheese (cake)

August 12, 2009

This week the Empress’s Good Living column discusses the only dessert apart from chocolate that I am officially in love with – cheesecake:

stephcheesecakeThink cheesecake and most of us have an image of the high American baked versions, rich with cream cheese, eggs and sugar. Sometimes known as Lindy’s cheesecake, after a now-defunct New York restaurant, it rests on a buttery base of crushed biscuits, flavoured with citrus rind and often topped with fruit compote. Even though there are more cheesecake recipes from the US than anywhere else, other cultures have their own versions using other cream cheeses.

To follow her investigations of the best three cheesecakes in Sydders, check out her column here.


  1. This is very timely – I used to be a cheesecake fiend, but fell out of love after too many dried baked varieties. I want that really tangy cheesecake of my youth. I must add, my grandparents’ house was one street back from Campbell Pde, so I’ve been going to the Gelato Bar since the old days when it did in fact still serve gelato – which they stopped doing years ago, although I think it may have been reinstated now? – and it may well be responsible for that particular and ongoing love-affair. I heartily recommend their cheese and cherry strudel. My favourite used to be just plain cheese strudel, but I haven’t seen it there for years. A tragedy.

    • Yes, Di, they have the gelato back again – though I didn’t try it. Sounds like you’re after one of the set, not baked, varieties and I didn’t review one of those. BUT Charlotte and I did judge a rather good one in the A&U bakeoff. It was a Nigella Lawson recipe and I think it was chocolate and lime. Quite tangy and very good.

  2. Set, not baked, that’s the one! Thanks, Stephanie, and trust me, I’d be prepared to gobble any of those you did review in the pursuit of a higher cheesecake. I’ll see if I can’t find the one you suggest – but does it have to be Nigella?! I always feel incredibly inadequate and flat-chested around her! Good to know they’ve put the gelato back on, because there can never be enough, but a shame in a tiny way because I loved the eccentricity of the gelato-less Gelato Bar. But whatever the state of their ices, they’re an oldie but a goodie, and it was great seeing them here.

  3. Somewhere in my cheesecake future there’s a ricotta cheesecake, lightly baked, with bitter chocolate and snippets of candied clementine, but my cheesecake past is traumatic. Frozen chop mother occasionally created a monstrous gag-inducing wodge of something cold and slimy with oily biscuit crumbs, cream cheese, sugar and gelatine.

  4. I made an never-to-be-repeated set cheesecake, to round off a dinner last year. It was christened the Axis of Evil, as it was a combination of three recipes; there were frightening quantities of 70% chocolate, Pedro Ximenez sherry and crushed hazelnut biscotti, among other things. One friend politely laid down her spoon after one mouthful (I didn’t know her all that well, and she later confessed to a dislike of alcohol, hazelnuts, and a profound hatred of cheesecake – effectively I’d just served up her dietary nemesis). Everyone else plunged in. One of the men had to have his spoon wrestled off him by his girlfriend after he laid his head on the table and sobbed, “I can’t stop! I have to stop! But I can’t!” People were lying on the floor and trying to eat sideways. It’s entered dinner party myth. But I can hear the experts chuntering – I’m not even sure that was cheesecake. More like edible hubris.

  5. Di, I concur about Nigella, as discussed in the cookbooks post … she must have something to offer beyond our prejudices, but it’s hard to see… And Fiona, my poor mother never ventured near cheesecake but she DID make a quite disgusting “ice cream” using – get this – powdered milk and gelatine. I still don’t know what possessed her, but I recall with clear and present revulsion those gristly little lumps of gelatine. Ugh.

    Fugitive Pieces, are you sure you didn’t pop a little teaspoon of mescalin into that cheesecake? It sounds like a party to remember, that’s for sure (and I hope you’re not still friends with the gal with booze/nut/cheesecake aversion? What could one possibly have to talk about with such a person?!!)

    • (Yes. Questions were asked about the cheesecake, and still are. Honestly, it was just a strange experiment in food chemistry, and still no idea what the catalyst was.)
      I am entirely still friends with the gal, and she’s probably my favourite guest. House rule is: I cook and others bring what they want to drink, so she shows up with her own apple juice and usually a present for me. She is endlessly funny and sensitive (I only found out about the aversions, 3 months later, in her blog). She always insists on helping clean up and sends a handwritten thank you note the next day. Honestly, she’s improved my manners no end…I try not to cook things I know she dislikes if she’s going to be there, as she wouldn’t dream of making a fuss about it, and I’d rather she had as good a time as she ensures everyone else does.
      Interestingly, she’s synaesthetic, so I suspect her ‘dislikes’ are highly hardwired – actual disgust, not just mild aversion. For example, she finds it hard to look at the colour red. Of course, my house is bloody full of it, but I just move those cushions and try not to wear red on the night.

  6. Hmm, okay, she sounds nice – and polite! – so howtoshuckanoyster magnaminously allows you to have her as a friend. But still. And how interesting re synaesthesia – I always thought that was one of those kinds of apocryphal conditions that medical soap opera writers love but almost nobody actually gets, like Munchausen’s By Proxy (hello T!).

    Anyhoo – I tell you, cheesecake gets people going. Steph’s column was one of the top 7 read articles in the SMH online yesterday! Let’s see what happens when she does spinach …

    • Why, thank you 😎 and you’re right, I only circumnavigate the aversions this carefully because she’s such good value. Food persnicketiness (as opposed to intolerances or allergies) means a guest is already one strike down with me. Any further crimes against hospitality are beadily noted. No, not really, but I do tend to invite all the vegans to dinner at once…

      Synaesthesia? Well, she’s the third person I’ve known with it, and I don’t lurk round neurologists’ waiting rooms more than I can help. Love those apocryphal TV conditions, though, especially the way you spot them everywhere afterwards: “Ooh, d’you think it’s Korsakov’s, or is it just his third bottle?”

  7. Have you seen this version? Outrageous. http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/08/alexs-choice/
    and follow the link to the peanut-butter cake, I dare you…

  8. […] we’re talking ricotta, cream cheese, goat’s curd – hmm, must add that to the festival of cheesecake from last […]

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