While those of us in Louisiana are used to American style cheesecakes, there is a wealth of cheesecake varieties across the world with their own cultural significance and fan base. On the international cheesecakes list, three of them are United States concoctions that the world has grown to love, and the battle for the best cheesecake in the United States stirs up controversy regularly. However, what many of us in America do not know, is that the differences between the cheesecakes across the country are subtle and come down to just a few ingredients. What many think of as a New York cheesecake may actually be a Philadelphia cheesecake if you don’t know the difference.
Bakeries in Lafayette, LA know that the difference between New York style cheesecakes and Philadelphia style cheesecakes comes down to a few ingredients that affect the richness and overall texture of the classic dessert. New York style cheesecakes are known for their height, firmness, and richness. They have a graham cracker crust, and the filling is made extra rich with a combination of cream cheese, egg yolks, eggs, sugar, and heavy cream. The New York cheesecake is allegedly the first cheesecake in the world to utilize cream cheese and was invented by a man named Arnold Reuben (if his name sounds familiar, think of the sandwich) who was trying to come up with a delicious cheese pie recipe. He stumbled upon the greatness that is rich cream cheese sweetened with sugar and baked in a crunchy, graham crust. Most bakeries in Lafayette, LA, despite using different ingredients, tend to call most cheesecakes with a graham cracker crust as “New York style” but the Philadelphia cheesecake, while initially seems similar, has subtle differences. The graham cracker crust is still present, but Philadelphia cheesecakes use the brand-name Philadelphia cream cheese, which results in a lighter, creamier texture and a smoother flavor.
The one truly different cheesecake in the United States is the Chicago style cheesecake. This lesser-known cheesecake, invented by Eli Schulman, is being slept on when it should be celebrated by bakeries in Lafayette, LA, and the world over. Many people use sour cream in their cheesecake recipes that they consider to be New York cheesecakes, but the addition of sour cream to the cheesecake custard is actually a Chicago style cheesecake ingredient. The sour cream lends itself to a firm exterior and soft and creamy interior. The biggest difference between the Chicago-style cheesecake in Lafayette, LA and the other two is the use of a shortbread crust.