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Why is it ‘cheeseCAKE’ not ‘cheesePIE’?



This well-loved dessert is causing controversy. Is it a pie, a cake, or a tart?

Desserts are the subject of one of history’s most serious arguments. A cream cheese and graham cracker coated treat, to be exact. People have debated the language and categorization of cheesecake for centuries: is it a pie, cake, or tart?

The popular dish is classed as a pie by FineCooking.com.

“Let’s chat about cheesecakes,” culinary journalist Brian Geiger suggested. “In general, cheesecakes are cylindrical, 4-6 inches tall or more, with a cooked custard core and a crumb crust. With a minor change in appearance, any pastry that is a crumb crust filled with custard and baked, in my mind, is a pie.”

Chefs’ perspectives on the subject differ. On Twitter, celebrity cook Rachel Khoo said the dessert is “probably more of a cake.”

Eater magazine copy editor Emma Alpern (eater.com) said  “In these unsure times, even as anti-intellectualism takes hold in the Western world, we should look toward our institutions for clarity and guidance. “A tart is cheesecake.”

What are we to believe with these three opposing viewpoints? When considering the factual aspects of the argument, answers are simple.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pie is defined as a dessert consisting of a filling (as of fruit or custard) in a pastry shell or topped with pastry or both, whereas the definition of cake is a bread-like food made from a dough or batter that is usually fried or baked in small flat shapes and is often unleavened. A tart is a tiny pie or pastry shell without a top filled with jelly, custard, or fruit.

After careful examination of many different views from world-renowned chefs, numerous articles from opinionated writers, and three thorough dictionary definitions, I have come to the conclusion that cheesecake is a tart. Cheesecake is made out of a pastry crust with a custard-like filling that may or may not include fruit.

Despite the misleading nomenclature, cheesecake is not a cake. Also, since cheesecake isn’t topped with pastry, it cannot be a pie. Cheesecake is and always will be a tart.

Related Questions

  • Why is cheesecake not called cheesepie?

    Although it’s called cheesecake because it’s frequently unleavened and has a crust (whether baked or not), it’s really a kind of pie.

  • What is the difference between cheesecake and cheesecake pie?

    The biggest difference in this situation would be the crust. Pies would have a baked dough crust or crumbs, but keep in mind that this must cover all of the edges. And for cheesecakes, a crumb crust would only cover the base of your springform pan.

  • Is cheesecake technically a pie?

    No. A cheesecake is not a pie, but it also is not a cake. I know what you’re thinking, so please do read on: But it says “cake” right there in the name.

  • Why is cheesecake called cake if it’s a pie?

    Cheesecake is technically a custard prepared with dairy and eggs. There are several custard pies and custard tarts. This one just happens to be called a cake, perhaps because it rises above the bottom crust all on its own, instead of nestling down into a pastry security blanket. The cheesecake stands on its own.