What Makes a Cheesecake Authentic?

Cheesecake is one of the most popular desserts in American culture—so much so that there’s even an entire restaurant franchise named after it (The Cheesecake Factory). And while there’s a wide range of different cheesecake styles and options out there, there’s an important distinction to be made between imitation cheesecake and authentic cheesecake in Seymour, WI. To understand this difference, we need to go back in time, to the creation of the very first New York style cheesecake.

The year was 1872…

Cheesecake’s roots in the United States go back even before 1872, but it was this year that marked the turning point for what we’ve come to know as “authentic” American cheesecake.

Before the invention of cream cheese in 1872 by a New York dairy farmer, most cheesecake recipes were firmer and richer than we know them to be today. The invention of lighter, fluffier, more workable cream cheese paved the way for a new style of this already popular dessert: New York style cheesecake.

Using cream cheese, dessert makers quickly perfected a new series of recipes for New York style cheesecake. This included extra egg yolks in the cream cheese cake mix, for a truly smooth flavor. Eventually, the personality of the dessert took root and entered the mainstream. Today, you can still head to the Big Apple and enjoy a slice of New York style cheesecake.

The true meaning behind authentic cheesecake

More than just the recipe, authentic cheesecake also comes down to how it’s served. If you’re expecting a true slice of New York style cheesecake, get ready for cheesecake in its plainest sense. There are no fruits, nuts, chocolate or caramel on a New York style cheesecake—not even on the side!

New York isn’t the only place to have its own authentic version of cheesecake. Authentic cheesecake in Italy is made using ricotta cheese. Greek cheesecake—the oldest type of cheesecake recipe in the world—uses feta or mizithra in the mixture. German cheesecake is often made with cottage cheese. The list goes on and on—a testament to the versatility of cheese as an ingredient and cheesecake as a beloved world dessert.

Let’s not forget about toppings, either. While most people might be content to enjoy their cheesecake with fresh fruit (cherries, strawberries) a drizzled sauce (caramel, chocolate) or even a bold accent (lemon curd, mint), there’s virtually no end to the range of “authentic toppings” out there. For example, cinnamon and spicy chilis aren’t unheard of for toppings! But, once again, if you want to enjoy an authentic New York style slice of cheesecake, you’ll be eating it plain.

Authenticity paves the way for innovation

There’s a lot of debate out there about what constitutes “authentic cheesecake.” The best answer is one that observes the traditional hallmarks of the original recipe. That’s why New York style cheesecake is still heavy on the egg yolks and served without toppings. That said, there’s always room for innovation! If you want a new take on an old classic in Seymour, WI, try an authentic-inspired recipe. If you’re a sucker for the original, authentic is the way to go. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong with cheesecake!

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